Blue Horses, Mary Oliver’s newest poetry collection, is officially in stores today. Oliver is one of my favorite poets of all time. I was first introduced to her poetry in the early 2000’s in grad school and found a kindred spirit in her writing. I actually got to meet Mary Oliver when she received an honorary doctorate a little while back. That was a moment in time I treasure!
When I saw the title “Blue Horses” for the new collection, I was really surprised. It holds a lot of meaning for me. In fact, it is a sort of living poetry just seeing it. I found out where the choice of her title comes from. Her Facebook page posted a week or two ago that the source was Franz Marc who created a painting “The Tower of Blue Horses” in 1913. I was glad to learn the history of how the Nazis rejected and scorned the painting, as it was something I didn’t specifically know about, though I was aware of the Nazi relationship to books and art in general.
Blue horses have kept coming up in my life.
It started when I was very small. I was with my parents, before bed, and they would use their fingers to make a galloping sound on the wall and exclaim, “Oh! There goes the blue horse!!” And I would jump up and look and look for it with glee. I could hear it. But I could never find it. I would look at them and ask where it had gone. They each were grinning at my vim and vigor for this game, but would shrug and say they did not know. This went on and on for a time. It was great fun and my imagination had hold of this tiny blue horse that could run across my bedroom wall as agile as a nuthatch.
Imagination is sacred. It is a doorway to deeper knowing.
Later, when I was eight years old, my father had been rightfully and thankfully estranged from me and my family for about a year (and ever after). My mother sat by me as I lay in bed about to go to sleep. Randomly, she began galloping her fingers on the wall and mentioned the blue horse. At first I smiled. But then I frowned. Then I got mad and told her to stop. I suddenly felt furious at the elusive nature of the blue horse. My mother didn’t stop with the blue horse-play right away, and like a kettle going from quiet to full steam, I began a full throttle sob. I sobbed all of the things I could never express or explain or totally know. I sobbed 7 years of entanglement of what is good with what is forfeit and corrupt. Something good that my parents had done for me (blue horse) was brought back by my loving mother, and at 8, I didn’t know how to handle all those raw emotions mixed together so tragically in the moment. All at once, she spoke words I could not, comforting me and holding me, acknowledging a needed release. The blue horse came through, with my mother, lancing an emotional abscess.
Visiting my grandmother in Colorado when I was a teenager, I saw that she had 7 or more miniature blue porcelain horses. I was mesmerized when I saw them. There was a visual I had longed for! Even if they weren’t alive. After a casual questioning I found that grandmother seemed to have no specific connection to them other than, she just liked them.
Then, in my twenties, I attended a Sundance ceremony in South Dakota, with my mother, sister and niece. I had gone to the center of the sacred circle, escorted by one of the dancers, to attach my specially dedicated prayer to the cottonwood tree of the Sundance. It was an unusual and special opportunity for those who wished for a powerful call for healing for self and others. That I was there at all was a miracle and gift. Afterwards, I walked out from the arbor and up the little hill where an Oglala Lakota woman was standing.
She told me that her last name was Bluehorse.
I looked at her with wonder. She stood and spoke to me with gentle passion and kindness. She told me that an eagle had been above me while I was at the center of the circle. She spoke to me about being a part of this land and how it is honored which was a direct connection to miracles of healing. It was a short conversation with concentrated power and effect. I felt, as I walked away from her to our tent, that I was in a dream that had become real. I found Blue Horse again, this time living and visible in the shape of this First Nation woman who stood as witness to my journey to the center of her sacred circle. Upon returning home I painted a blue horse on canvas with a medicine wheel around it to honor this time.
More recently, a couple of years ago, when I was 39, I was talking to a dear friend about wounds that heal but that can also be activated at times in life, even though they are healed. She shared with me a beautiful visioning process she uses of looking at it as if it is a beautiful fabric in an upstairs attic chest, to look at, honor, appreciate and then fold and put away. I thought that was brilliant. It inspired me to write the poem, entitled, “A Wound That is Healed”. Here are a couple passages from that poem,
Like a beautiful gown….
and dance onward.
Ride it like a blue horse….
Yes, a blue horse rode into the poem! Yes, blue horse, I see you! I feel you! I know you! You are a dear old friend, peeking at me at different passages of my life’s time, bringing me to wholeness!
There are others who have written poetry about blue horses….google poetry and blue horse and you will find plenty of it. Joy Harjo, another amazing poetess, wrote a beautiful poem entitled “Promise of Blue Horses”.
Which leads me to a couple months ago. Two months ago I was taking a tele-class called “Dreaming the Soul Back Home”, lead by Robert Moss and hosted by The Shift Network, where we explored our dreams and practiced active dreaming, re-entering dreamscapes to gain more insight, healing and useful information for our lives. In one such session, a blue horse came to me. I was surprised and happy, but hadn’t made all the connections yet that I have made here in this article. After the quick visioning, Robert had some of us share a quick summary of our journey with a title. To my surprise, others also mentioned a blue horse. In his feedback on titles, Robert mentioned blue being connected to spirituality and the Divine, among other things. And that a blue horse is a spirit or wind horse…an ally to the soul and the soul’s journey.
This led to the most recent blue horse encounter, the announcement on the Mary Oliver Facebook page, of her pending release of Blue Horses. My mouth gaped for a moment, I am sure, as I saw it. Needless to say, I cannot wait to read it! And it’s presentation to the world was noted both by me and my mother with an undertoned note of depth in the meaning.
The thread of blue horse in my life leaves me with a feeling of connectedness with all life. It also has me feeling that Love finds a way to speak to us beyond the shadows and fissures of being human. And the speaking is of hope, solidarity and compassion. It is accessed through the courage of the sacred imagination. It comes with wings (visible or not) to fly. This power of a blue horse takes me also to the nakedness of soul and heart, flesh and spirit. This is a place of vulnerability, truth-telling and hope.
Life can be poetry when we listen closely enough. Sometimes it takes the kind of listening that lasts throughout all our years.
Chandra Sherin 2014©