Reflections on Hearing Mary Oliver Read

I go down to the shore in the morning

and depending on the hour the waves

are rolling in or moving out, 

and I say, oh, I am miserable, what shall–

what should I do: And the sea says 

in its lovely voice:

Excuse me, I have work to do.

Mary Oliver

Yeah, I love this little poem, titled I Go Down to the Shore in the Morning.  It’s not unlike William Carlos Williams classic, The Red Wheelbarrow:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Both of these poems are easy to travel in–you can put yourself in that place, anywhere,anytime.  You can instantly imagine the sea, the sea’s voice, the white chickens, the rain.  You remember them always.
Mary Oliver read her poem last month in an ark-shaped church on Sanibel Island.  Dressed in black, she appeared unassuming, a friend you might like to talk to as your dogs play. Her new book of poetry is titled A Thousand Mornings. I recommend it.  She read several poems from it and her other books and confided, with humor,  about the trials of traveling, organizing papers and books to take to readings, and forgetting the order she wanted to read them in.  She answered questions at the end honestly and carefully. At one point she congratulated the huge crowd, some outside watching on a big screen, on not coughing. (Everyone was coughing where she came from, she disclosed.) She also took the time to sign “Mary Oliver” on our books.  I would think it would be difficult for anyone to keep signing and signing, all for strangers, but she did, and graciously.

Mary Oliver doesn’t give many readings, and I could almost feel her unspoken pain, her unwillingness to break her routine, which is getting up at dawn and walking, observing and reveling in the natural world, writing and taking joy in her close friends, her dog and the wonder of  what’s outside and inside us all.
She reminded the assembly that the  world doesn’t have to be beautiful to work, but it is.
And the sea has work to do.



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Retired journalist, writer, editor and teacher. Our lives were lived in the Washington DC area, but I was born in upstate New York. Love nature, birding and reading. Volunteer at Ding Darling NWR . Proud mom of two, married to a wildlife photographer.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Hearing Mary Oliver Read”

  1. I wondered what she was like once I read A Thousand Mornings because she seemed so solitary, but not lonely. I really enjoyed reading your post. : )

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