It was a beautiful day this past July when we drove up to Mill Valley from the Bay Area in order to visit Muir National Monument, aka Muir woods, where some of the ancient redwoods have been protected as a National Park by Sierra Club founder, John Muir, since 1908.
We were enthralled with the forest that is home to countless ancient trees (the oldest in these woods is at least 1200 years old, and redwoods can live well over 2000 years old) as well as so many groves of baby redwoods. The tallest redwoods in this forest are almost 300 feet tall. Further north they get to be closer to 400 feet tall. We spent over four hours simply hiking the trails there, from top to bottom, and all around. While there wasn’t overwhelming evidence of wildlife, the further we got from the crowds of people below on the walking trail, we did encounter tiny birds, a curious chipmunk, and ravens flying silently above us.
Being among the tallest and oldest trees I have ever seen, for a short while, was a beautiful experience. I experienced it as an atmosphere of complete goodness, as if the ancient rootedness exudes an aura of deep peace, and contentment ripples outward.
The ground cover, amazingly, was mostly a bigger than usual kind of clover. I would say that it is 3- times bigger than the clover leaves I am accustomed to. Since Wild Clover is my brand name, I have to say, it meant a lot and surprised me to see the clover there. No one talks about the giant clover dressing the ground around the ancient giants in northern California, and I completely understand why that detail would be lost. As I spoke about this with a fellow writer and friend, it pleased our humor when I mentioned that perhaps the average wild clover would be inspired to become giant among such companions towering above. My friend suggested that perhaps they are, in fact, aspirational clover. This made us laugh happily. Brilliant!
After coming back to the Midwest’s Driftless area, the trees here who stand the tallest and oldest now look like children to us, because of the tree world scale we now know. It is a strange and welcome awareness.
Most of all, I come away from Muir woods with, first, a deep sense of gratitude for National and State parks and beaches. Second, and just as deeply, I am thankful that the redwoods and other ancient and giant beings still exist in this world. At times, all the destruction being waged against many things — including health, biodiversity, and nature — overwhelms.
My first encounter with these giants has left me with a sense that some great natural magic of this world is and has been protected.
From that deep gratitude, I say to you and all: may we arise from the current attacks by hatred and corruption upon many fronts — stronger, wiser, and with greater measures of caution, restoration, and protection for all that is precious, naturally magical, and irreplaceable in this world and life.
This is not quite the conclusion of the California Vacation photography series! Stay tuned next week for the conclusion. 🙂
It reminds me of what happens when we let go of illusion, yet maintain the magic in life, while also taking responsibility for ourselves. It can be beautiful…in the midst of everything, a rising up, and a rooted stance is taken. And the glow from the resulting blossom inspires, simply by existing.
The blossom opens each day to the world, and closes each night to dream.
Looking out my home office window today, the sun is shining, despite a thin blanket of clouds. Little buds have started on the old lilac bush, and in the distance, above a neighbor’s roof, there are distinct blossoms forming on tall upward tree branches. I peer down at the ground, slightly astonished, despite knowing better, to see the ground again. We had a severe stretch of winter weather that bogged us down well into March. There were, not only mounds of snow, but inches-thick layers of the most unruly, bumpy ice underneath it. It had been impossible to have a decent walk for weeks because of the treacherous ice being everywhere, unmanageable to snow plows even. The melting process from that extended period has resulted in flooding in some areas, and loads of dangerous potholes — more than can be remembered from recent years.
With the slow progression of Spring beginning now, the most heartening days are the ones filled with sunshine, bird song, and enough warmth to facilitate a lengthy walk — either at the lunch-hour, in the evening, or both. Yet, not all is sunshine and warmth…oh well.
Astrologically, the influence of the Pisces season and the Neptunian Mercury retrograde are at a close. How was your mystic, mythic journey this March? Having gone through it now, I would say there have been opportunities for confusion, misunderstanding, illusion, and the possibility of becoming stuck down a proverbial rabbit hole. There were also plenty of possibilities for snags, delays, and untended wounds that want to heal — interrupting and disturbing the already emotionally flooded scene. The trick to the Neptunian-type journey may be to apply the medicine of other perspectives, creativity, and a spirituality that centers — along with the healing detachment of meditating — and critical thinking, as balance. Equally important: to seek and ask for support, help, and wise counsel .
Best case scenario, during the course of March, we took the rose-colored glasses off — or they were taken off for us — and a somewhat painful realization came to light…maybe about how we’ve been fooling and short-changing ourselves in some way. And, how others have been fooling us as well….but not anymore. This opportunity may be coated in emotional pain, and an ebb and flow of confusion. This is partly due to ignoring our own emotional and spiritual needs, perhaps in an attempt to preserve or “save” something that is no longer working. This cycle has been calling for us to move on, and adjust with new wisdom.
It is important that we face our own part in glossing over serious issues (related to loss, self-respect, health, boundaries, responsibility, and inappropriate choices) in a desperate attempt to abate natural, needed change. It is important that we face the painful realization(s), like we may have been betraying or kidding ourselves on some level, and/or allowing others to do so. Once we do, then we can begin to address things more honestly. That will make room for us to process some of the more difficult feelings that accompany new understanding, which we may have been hiding from.
When darker, painful, and less popular emotions emerge, it can be overwhelming. Hopefully we can find expression for them consciously, carefully, and responsibly. It may be good to treat it like an infection that must be cared for daily. Also, it will help to mindfully, gingerly channel the visceral, raw energy of adrenaline, which may be released when facing and feeling the harder emotions.
Constructive, cathartic, and practical activities work best. For me, this often means: cleaning, editing, organizing, writing, drawing, dancing, and/or a bit of exercise. Notice, those are all concrete actions — this is important. A physical aspect needs to be incorporated when channeling formerly exiled and recently emerged emotions.
A Piscean lesson within March’s Mercury retrograde is to remember our boundaries and our lessons learned. Whether this is when we are in service to others, via creative expression and exploration, or with ritual and spirituality — knowing what is us, and what is someone or something else — is super essential to operating day-to-day, and remaining healthy and honest. This awareness of boundaries for health, benefits others, and gives us important information about the nature of the various wounds we may experience and encounter each day, and how to respond to or refrain from responding.
Truly knowing our limits is part of what defines healthy boundaries and allows us to discern at an essential level of reality and experience. This helps us to answer more quickly and accurately: Who does this feeling, thought belong to? What do I need right now? Where is my voice in this? Is this my real need or my wound speaking? Is this fear mine or someone else’s? Is this thought distorted, or accurate? Is this expectation mine or someone else’s? Is this real or an assumption?
I release needless fear and replace it with trust and knowing — with my breath, words, and actions.
I release other people’s needs and judgements and replace it with my true self, honoring my needs, and trusting who I am.
~ CS Sherin, WildClover.org
Lastly, we overrule hasty impulses and stubborn delays by trusting our own inner timing and intuition. That is the compass of trust we need to implement now. Then, we can begin to re-harmonize, uplift, re-balance, spring clean, and re-direct our own path forward — more effectively and truer to self — now that the rose-colored glasses are off, and responsibility for our selves is in motion. Dreaming, creating, and diving into a mythical and/or mystic journey (like March potentially was) can result in concrete, realistic new conclusions that can propel positive actions aimed in a more accurate direction, for each of us.
Since yesterday and through April 4th, the Neptunian thought and emotion waves of lessons decrease. We will arrive, then, in a cycle of concrete action and wiser seeds to be planted. We will need to tend them accordingly, so that they can grow into honest, consistent, and inspired forms of self-expression, action, and being.
By April Fool’s Day, Mercury will be moving forward again. On April 5th, the New Moon is in Aries. This is where the concrete actions, wiser lessons-learned, and the inner wound’s ongoing healing are all seeds planted and to tend come into play.
The energy of Aries on a New Moon translates into the following key words: independence, self-expression, action, childlike enthusiasm, unique way of being, physical activity and exercise, creation, novelty, willpower, fire, and new beginnings.
Two people whom I like to think of, when envisioning Aries energy, are: Jonathan Van Ness and Conan O’Brien. They are both Sun in Aries, and express the Aries energy in dynamic, unique, and entrancing ways. Their individuality and Aries-type expression is far from the possible war-like, aggressive side of Aries and its ruler, Mars.
Of course, most people are not totally representative of their Sun sign, because many other signs collaborate to form a layered and complex personality. I can never recommend limiting anyone to their Sun sign. However, it is helpful to look for certain Sun sign characteristics, in self and others, in order to understand the influence and the dynamics within it for all of us. We all have Aries somewhere in our chart. For me, I have Mars in Aries, so that Aries energy is strong in my life and being, despite it not being via my Sun, Moon or Rising sign. This is something important to keep in mind.
So, with that all in context, both Jonathan and Conan could be considered aggressive in a certain way via enthusiasm and raw willpower, yet it is really a harmless, creative aggression, which is a part of their charm. Both can be blunt, but again, the pure joy of witnessing each of them being so transparently honest in who they are — it comes off as real, funny, and a part of the true-to-life, yet larger-than-life package of who they are as individuals.
Sure, if you don’t have your humor, or if you are feeling a need for rigid control, this type of energy will burn you up, with its free-wheeling wildness, irreverence, dominating interjections, and innocent child-like truth-telling.Both Jonathan and Conan seem to have deep self-awareness and self-knowing. They both appear to be fearless when it comes to being who they are, and acting on it. That can be pure magic, for sure!
This is because they have done the hard work, or it seems they have. This means, they know their weaknesses like: being impulsive, hasty, impatient, pushy, and blunt. And they know how those weaknesses can be wielded as their strengths as well. In order to do that, it has to be faced and made conscious. That is the inner work done. It is ongoing work.
So, JVN and Conan are two great muses for you to ponder and observe this New Moon, and for Aries season. For more Aries Sun-type energy inspiration, you may also want to look to: Emma Watson, Diana Ross, Jackie Chan, Eddie Murphy, and Maya Angelou.
Dreams speak to us in many ways. Sometimes dreams bring to our awareness meaning and messages via symbols and archetypes. Other times, the dreams we have can be an actual journey of consciousness and spirit. At times, dreams are layers and mixtures of many things. Paying attention to and responding to our dreams is beneficial and deeply nourishing, and quite evident over time. Dreams mostly seek to help us to process, heal, and grow. They are a key to greater fulfillment.
I have been deeply invested in paying attention to, recording, and responding to my own dreams for the last 30+ years. I have found that the other part of our lives, spent in dream states, is just as meaningful and important as the wakeful state. Not only that, the one constant within both states is that the journey of our consciousness is present in both — something that anchors us beyond death and our current bodies, and on into new and different life and/or lives. Deepening our present moment consciousness via dream work (and meditation) is a priceless practice that supports and enhances the mundane, yet also goes far beyond it.
I am going to provide you with a concrete example of a dream from the past that I have worked with, which was profound and pivotal for my evolving spiritual and emotional development, at that time, through and beyond wounds and personality weaknesses. The following dream is from work I did back in the Spring of 2011:
Title: She Is Monumental
I am in a house we have just purchased. We are happy with it. Until someone who used to live here comes to the door. She comes in with a key she kept, and wants something. I am exasperated, and a bit angry at the intrusion. She leaves quickly though. I am near the door. I see an impossibly tall woman who is led around the house by an angel-type-being. I feel fear when I see this impossibly tall woman. With great effort, I look up at her face — way, way up. She has no mouth. I feel fear, which fades into compassion instead. I reach out my hand to her in friendship as she passes.
CS Sherin, Dream Journal Entry, “She Is Monumental”, May 2011
After so many decades of keeping dream journals, I have learned what most of my personal dream symbols represent. This is one of many important reasons for committing to a dream journal. Dreams really are cheated and mistreated when we use dream dictionaries, accept the general definition, and leave it at that. Tracking dreams and our own personal messages via journals reveals context, meaning, and timing that no dream dictionary can ever reveal. Just like a dictionary definition for a cat or dog could never come close to defining and expressing the who, what, why, where, and how of your specific animal companion. Dreams have life of their own, and some of it is indefinable.
PLEASE NOTE: While you may have an interpretation in mind when you hear someone else’s dream, the only person who can reveal the true meaning of a dream is the person who had the dream. Any meaning or interpretation that comes to your mind while listening to someone else’s dream can most accurately and respectfully be expressed as: what the dream would mean if it were your dream. This delineation and practice is essential.
I will translate this dream. Translation is the best word for it, as my dream is in the language of my unconscious mind and my consciousness/soul. It is personal and specific. As I provide a translation for my dream, keep in mind that my translation and definitions for things in the dream are not in any way static. This is my official translation for this very specific dream. This specific dream is, indeed, a symbolic dream, yet, not all dreams are. For other dreams, these symbols may carry completely different meanings, or may not be symbols at all!
For me, in this particular dream, a new house is a new way of being. The new way of being is good. The previous owner intruding briefly represents some unwelcome old habits coming back into my new way of being. But, they only intrude briefly and are gone, let go. The woman who is being guided through the house by an angel-type-being is tall — taller than tall. She is graceful and silent. Her presence is like a walking monument. She is monumental. My fear turns to compassion as I see her missing mouth as a disability. This monumental “she” is the divine self linked to soul or authentic being. It took me “great effort” to become conscious of the alarming symbol of the missing mouth. The missing mouth is symbolic of my ego’s distorted belief of separation from divine love that took shape in the personality by age three. The missing mouth is ongoing silence, separation, even disability related to relationship and listening to/hearing the authentic self — who has never been separated from the sacred.
CS Sherin, May 2011, dream entry translation for “She Is Monumental”
As a child and young adult I was so busy tracking everyone else’s feelings, needs, and expectations that I had no idea what my own were most of the time. The pain of the separation-illusion from my own being surfaced in other dreams in my youth — via dreams of being blind, which had morphed in recent years into being mute. These dreams were telling me that my distorted ego beliefs and fears had created some serious fall-out for my inner being.
A myth re-told in a new way for healing effects, is what came to mind as possible medicine for me, relating to this dream. Our culture enforces the belief of valuing the external over the internal (and the visible over the unseen) with glaring manic force, in advertising, news, via experts, and in storytelling. When the movie Shrek came out, I deeply appreciated the radical re-telling of old fairy tale stories that had before accentuated external and unrealistic importance. Shrek transformed that distortion in our culture, thankfully. The ugly, disgusting ogres possess inner beauty, truth, and authenticity, and are hero and heroine. The old external-value archetypes of the past are seen with human flaws and distortions laid bare. The deeper inner being is valued.
C. J. Jung believed that seeing archetypes revealed in a story (like Shrek), even if we are not consciously aware of the deeper meaning, helps bring healing to the personal and collective unconscious. Knowing that, Shrek was a deeply needed re-telling for the personal and the collective. Part of my dream work response to this dream, back in 2011, was to re-watch Shrek.
In this dream, I know that as I overcame fear and reached out in compassion to connect with the monumental self — I initiated a vital change of pattern, which released personality/ego-based distortion about relationship to my inner core/being. This was an important dream, a turning point for healing and consciousness.
My dream also reminded me that a lot of the younger ages of my life were spent neglecting my own needs and voice. The dream told me that there is much yet to learn and connect to that is real and monumental, really. This is what I wrote about back in 2011, in conclusion:
That bright, silent, tall being of my dream may seek to be a voice for the voiceless, my poetry, and my compass. I know she has much to say and show. I know she has a mouth and a voice. My awareness and compassion for myself is the doorway to deepening that relationship, and it has already begun. It has already come to the point that even this personality and ego of mine have learned enough to yearn, and yearn again, for her voice, leadership, and presence. This is a reward for walking through all the pain so far and doing the work. The ego wishes to serve the soul…and joy, abundance, and love begin to overflow.
CS Sherin, May 2011, reflection on dream entry, “She Is Monumental” (above)
I wrote the narrative below, Give Up, at the end of September in 2014. It is about a dark night I went through that I will never forget. It wasn’t the first hard time I have faced, but it was a pivotal one, different from other times.
It was August 11th, 2014. I experienced a deep depression that washed over me quite suddenly. I was to find out the next day, that it was the same day that Robin Williams died. He was someone who had been a bright light for me in a rough childhood — him and The Muppets. Finding out the next day about his death, I realized I had probably felt a “disturbance in the force,” so to speak, that had affected me. Robin was such a great presence on Earth, dear to many, and missed. I am sure his death was a real energetic part of what I felt that night. But there were personal dynamics at work too.
Before that night, I had already gone through some devastating loss. My oldest sister had died four months earlier, after a long battle with a cancer that had turned quite brutal. A few months before that, our elderly dog had also gotten a brutal cancer, and had to be euthanized suddenly. Simultaneously, I had come to a point in my self-employment where I knew I had to make a change. I had been doing holistic spiritual care for over a decade, and didn’t quite know where I was headed, if I were to stop and change.
The story you are about to read is about facing inevitable change, loss, past traumas revisited, and grief. It is also about the life-giving transformations we are able to experience while in relationship with other beings, for instance, a cat. Reciprocal positive relationship with animals, and other beings, can be profound and important in so many ways, if we are open to it. I recommend being open to it.
Perhaps one of the reasons that humanity finds itself facing so many crises and ongoing-history-repeating-itself serious problems is because, we are not in active, consistent, real relationships with the countless other living beings we share this planet with — not in a way that is ongoing, respectful and more selfless than self-serving.
The trees, plants, aquatic life of all kinds, rocks/crystals, land animals, creatures of the air, and below ground all have knowing of various kinds in their being. An openness to cultivating conscious, caring relationships with any of those — choosing to be present for it — could be the transformative change we need at this time. It is important to note that any committed relationship within or between other species needs to contain: consistent presence, kindness, honesty, consideration, and mutual respect.
The following story is evidence of the deep, long-resonating, lasting rewards that come from: a balance of giving and receiving, helping and receiving help, listening and sharing, asking and telling – true friendship. I have Boris, the valiant cat, to thank for the real presence and wisdom won during that dark, hard night on August 11, 2014:
There is an escalating pressure mounting around and within me tonight. It presses upon me like an ominous darkness of massive storm clouds, which contain a sharp cold front set against the air — stagnant, oppressive heat, humidity and no wind. A violent storm is looming.
Am I wearing rose-colored glasses, not facing reality? Not usually. I do love being practical and realistic, as much as positive and dreamy. Am I the eternal optimist made of ideals? Yes, that is true. There is a tireless, sleepless affinity in me for honesty and ethics…awake in my heart and mind like an atomic clock.
On my bed this day and evening, a powerful depression intrudes, and disrupts my true nature. I cannot continue. I want to give up, for real.
It is painful, blind, anguish.
It feels like that sucker punch in my solar plexus, from the mean boy in 4th grade. I was taken by surprise, robbed of breath and air, with that sudden punch of pain, that dropped me to my knees — sucking tears out of me without permission. He had walked away without a word.
This swell of sadness tonight is too dark, and overwhelms me beyond reason.
Boris, the cat, is by me now. He is the one who always comes running to see how he can help when it sounds, from somewhere in our house, like someone could be hurt, in trouble, or sick. If he were human, he would be a First Responder, a nurse, counselor, and/or healer. I tell him quietly and despondently that I am giving up. At first I am not sure if I mean my life. The darkness was so overwhelming. I ask myself, and feel deeply: No, not my life. My purpose and work — like a spiritual death, it seems. Boris tells me a surprising thing — with his wise eyes and being, Boris says, “Good. Give up.”
Startled into a sudden alert surprised awareness, that breaks the dark spell, I ask, “What?! Why? Don’t you care? You always care. Why don’t you care, Boris?” He answered with nonchalance, “Give up. I gave up once. After I gave up, good people found me, helped me, and then you found me. And now look at me.” He is beaming strength and love, smiling, eyes happy.
Astonished and awakened, I remembered what he meant. I thought of Boris’s story. Boris had been abandoned by a previous family, along a freeway, that had a tall fence separating it from the countryside. When he was found, the shelter workers told us, he was dirty. The kind of dirty, they said, that only happens when a cat gives up. A cat giving up is a starkly tragic thing. Cats take pride in their self-care and stealthy ability to survive. He had been brought low by the trauma of being abandoned and then trapped near a highway, with bad weather/storms, and no food. He suffered PTSD for a while after we adopted him. He needed antidepressants for a few months, to remember what normal feels like, the vet said. And he did, he got better after those 3-4 months of medication. (Actually, his example back then with needing medication for a while, helped me to address my own needs during a health crisis, not long after his.) It took us a few years after adopting Boris, to fully earn his trust and full affection. In his elder years now, after 11 years with us so far, he is well and happy, fully loved and loving. We know he is no younger than 17 and could be as old as 19.
I paused, and took this moment in.
Maybe the thought to give up wasn’t as bad as it felt at first. It is simply hard to let go of work that I have given all my heart and effort to, along with sitting with the layers of grief. I am loyal. I am a hard worker. Yet, I need to let go of some big things, and adjust to a changing reality and changing needs. Boris is right. I looked over at him in awe. The four-legged, hairy, mahogany-red with white, tall, thin, elder fellow is right. I didn’t expect that from you just now, Boris. Thank you!
King Boris, or Chewy Bill, as we sometimes call him, gave me a jolt of understanding that allowed me to release the fear and illusion of failure. Boris helped me to boldly take up courage, and be okay with letting go — even if it feels like dropping off a ledge on a tall building with no net or cushion below. Boris has an intimate, expert knowledge of major endings that are like deaths, and how rebirth is on the other side of it, waiting for us — something much better, and really right. A really wise cat, that Boris. What a gorgeous guide! I scratched his cheeks and massaged his head and chest in thanks. He smiled his open-mouthed smile with twinkling eyes, that reminds my husband of Don Knotts. That makes me chuckle. What I see is a cat who blazes and shimmers, a noble being, who commands his new life with joy — a new life, that found him. He knows — he gained all of it after he had given up.
Back to 2019. What I didn’t know yet, when I wrote that story, was that we would yet have to face the death of our elder cats, first Abigail, and then Boris in the following year. Living with, and processing all that grief, led me to shift and channel it, and the love, into practical, tangible work for healthy sustainable living (toxin-free) via Recipe For A Green Life, which took up nearly three years of my life, from start to finish. It was a big leap, and a big risk. It certainly didn’t pay well. Yet, it is and has been important, honors what and how I love, and speaks of our collective, interrelated, priceless connection to all life in totality.
Boris was such a strong presence in our lives — a magnanimous, extraordinary spirit, even for a cat. He always knew that humans are too often so slow to catch on to what animals know, and try to communicate. He was always persistent, and maddeningly so. I actually gained so much respect for his persistence — it can be an endearing, admirable quality. He never gave up on trying to communicate with us; helping us to understand what he needed or wanted, in quite obvious, when his subtle gestures were missed by us.
Pawing At My Heart
For a time before he died, he kept pawing at my upper chest, like he wanted to climb inside my heart. He did it so often. In my distracted, clueless, human way, I thought it was cute, yet strange that he kept doing it. Then, I found out that he was terminally ill. After a while of processing the two things, I finally understood what he was saying to me. He was saying,
“Keep me in your heart.
Don’t forget me.
I love you.
I will always be there.”
When I finally realized what he was saying, it loosed my tears, along with the enormous love grown through a positive, loving relationship with another being over so many years. It still loosens my tears of love, years later.
I picked him up, hugged and assured him that I finally understood. I told him that I would, always. He never did it again, so I know that he knew the message was received. I am so thankful that I was able to drop my human distractions for long enough to truly hear him before he had to leave us.
We are convinced Boris was a mighty spirit that took on cat form for a time, someone we were lucky to know and love. I could tell many stories about Boris’s ways. Like the Easter morning that he jauntily brought in a baby rabbit for me to cook for the holiday. Or, the nap we took beside each other, and the dream that we had — where he taught me to make healing balls of light (it was hard — he was really good at it). Or, how he always came to everyone’s rescue, never once afraid. And, how he wanted a dog so badly, and how he fell in love with her, when we did finally adopt a dog. And, how he had a soul mate, little Abigail (ginger cat) — and how they had an actual impromptu wedding ceremony in our back yard one Spring.
Yet, for today, what I will say is this: The time, love, and presence of Boris, that strong bright being, lives on and is in my heart always. That alone, gives me courage and the warm action of love for this life — no matter what.C
Please Note: The article below was originally written and posted on a former version of this site. This article from 2012 has been edited and re-published in honor of Dr. Mary Oliver, who died earlier today.
Before you read the following article that I wrote after meeting Mary Oliver back in 2012, I would like to say a couple of things about her now, for today. Some of her childhood consisted of neglect, sexual abuse, and loneliness. Her life as a poet was the truest self she could be in this life, and the best. When young and throughout life, she found comfort, life, and what is sacred out in nature and with animals. She was a contemplative poet, with a naturalist’s passion for nature and simplicity. Every part of that encapsulation of her has given me hope and saved, affirmed, and encouraged me—as a survivor, poet, human, and naturalist soul. I send her well wishes on her soul journeys that begin today, and so much love and gratitude for all she shared with us. Shine on, dear Mary Oliver, holy voice for this earth—and what is so precious in this life.
Nov. 13th, 2012
Did you happen to feel a big bliss vibe yesterday? It could have been from me. I got to meet my favorite poet of our time, an inspirational goddess of poetry–Mary Oliver–yesterday. Because of this, I have residual Mary Oliver bliss that I know must be radiating out into the rest of this place. *big smile* Read on to learn what it was like to: see her, listen to her read her own poetry, get writing advice from her via the Q & A, how it was to meet her, and what it all meant to me.
I went to Marquette University with some of the best poetry loving friends, in order to witness Mary Oliver receive an honorary doctorate there. Mary Oliver’s smile, in reaction to the donning of the Doctorate robe, was such a revelation to me! In general she has a serious and drawn face. And quite suddenly, it burst open like a shimmering flower of tropical sunshine. It was a jolt–an amazing joy to behold. We then listened to Dr. Oliver read her poetry to us. It was an hour, which passed like a few minutes. After, there was a Q & A, and then a line formed for book signing. My best poetry buddy, Marci, and I got to speak with her briefly together, when our turn approached for signing—more on that later.
The main and briefly summarized impression I had from the poetry reading itself was of: Mary Oliver’s affinity and compassion for nature, her dog, and for the real connections of this life that she expresses in ways that soothe, affirm, and stir my soul. This is why she is beloved–her poetry is transpersonal and deep, yet accessible. The whole experience was holy.
In person, Mary Oliver is small, and she is older now, so she has a cane and white hair. She was very much like a fairy-godmother presence, especially while delighting in choosing which poems to read to us. She seemed to me to be mostly: witty, cute, wild, rebellious, tender, open-hearted, bold, wise and magical. Also, Mary Oliver’s heart and mind seem to have beams of focused energy, clear and strong, that are able to shine out upon the world–wherever she may be sitting, standing, or speaking in the moment. There is an air of serious concentration about her. And, it is clear, she adores the natural world, and has a passion for it beyond simple observation—she is in deep relationship. It is also clear, she deeply cares about people, no matter how humble, shy, and introverted she is. She made a tremendous effort to transmit her love and appreciation to us with grace, humor and oomph.
During the Q & A, a fiery passion came forth as she responded to a question, giving advice about how to be a successful poet. I can’t quote her word for word, but it was something I can paraphrase as this:
Forget about being successful! Spend every day caring about your writing. In this economy, forget about the nice car and nice apartment. Focus on doing the best you can, writing every day!
She did answer my question, which was something like, “Does poetry flow from you in the same way it did 10-20 years ago?” She revealed, in not these exact words, that inspiration doesn’t hit as hard as it did once; that things have slowed. And yet, there was a new book in front of her and she mentioned another was on the way. She told us that she never had trouble with writer’s block. That if there was a little of it, she knew the answer was always connecting with the earth and being grateful, and it would come back, and flow. She also mentioned that, if anything, she wrote too much. I could tell that having inspiration leave her would be like an athlete suddenly becoming immobile with no hope of future mobility. It would be devastating. But I don’t really think that will happen. Her very being has become poetry, just as Whitman had described.
Her eyes are full beams of mystical presence…they struck me as powerful, yet gentle–a concentrated energy that I really haven’t ever seen in someone before. Her eyes are full, with presence–that is it—fiery, grounded, watery, elemental. Her life has been a discipline of not only presence, but deep relationship with all presence.
Speaking of those poetic goddess-like eyes, I had a chance to look right into them, across a table, at the book signing. I was feeling extremely shy and in awe, but I managed to say awkwardly, but honestly, “Thank you Dr. Oliver. I love you.” There was a significantly silent pause as she looked down at the book I had given her, before she wrote in my copy of Swan, then she said quite slowly and deliberately, “Well…I don’t know you, but…I love you too.” Then, she looked up and gave me the gift of presence, looking intently into my eyes–really looking. All I could do was smile at her with love and gratitude. It. was. awesome.
What I have always known, since I was 12 years old—was presented to me in the flesh yesterday, as pure and utter gift: A great poet speaks for and to the soul, as much as to the person. She is voice for the soul, for presence. She is also the medicine.
”For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ~ Mary Oliver
Those words of Mary Oliver’s came to me as we all listened raptly to her, reading her poetry to us.
I felt, indeed, that I was hungry and cold, and maybe even a bit lost, and that she was feeding me (us) and my deeper self–like a mother bird feeds her babies. Yes, I felt that yesterday with Dr. Mary Oliver, and it was bliss.