My friend Andrea Nachtigall recently took me to see Mary Oliver at City Arts and Lectures in SF. There was a wonderful anticipatory hush before the poet came on stage, as if we were going to hear a really wonderful orchestra. Magic was hanging in the air, just waiting to be evoked. Mary Oliver read her poems, interspersed with talking to us about writing. Some of it was her way of writing, some of it was advice, some admonition. She had the whole auditorium completely mesmerized. I thought I’d share a few of her words of wisdom. Here are a few quotes and paraphrases:
· * I am very disciplined about working. You don’t accomplish anything without discipline. I write every day. It is an invitational.
T * The creative part of your mind is always there. You’ve got to keep a schedule. If you say to it “let’s meet at seven a.m.,” it will be there. You will struggle less.
· * I go to the woods. They are my primary sources.
· * I always carry a notebook. One needs to capture an idea as soon as it occurs.
· * Silence is the door into the temple. If you ever go into the woods with me, I must love you very much. (Adored this one. I only go into the woods with people I dearly love as well.)
And here, a poem by Mary Oliver.
Sleeping in the Forest
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
© Mary Oliver
May your pockets always be full of lichens and seeds and, of course, a notebook.