A New Voice Which You Slowly Recognized As Your Own

Mary Oliver early in life. A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own

The poetry world is celebrating the life and mourning the loss of Mary Oliver, who died on Thursday, January 17 at the age of 83. Detailed obituaries have appeared in many places, including the New York Times and the Boston Globe.

A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own

A field of sunflowers. A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own.
Step 329 of 365 of Steps to Knowledge, “I am free to love the world today.” In the poem “Messenger,” Mary Oliver wrote “My work is loving the world.”

Minnesota poet Robert Bly introduced me to Mary Oliver sometime in the 00’s. He included some of her poems in the anthology “The Soul Is Here For Its Own Joy.” “Maybe” is one of those poems. I have shared other poems by her in this space. Enjoying her appreciation, her astonishment of nature is for me like drinking clean spring water. Even when she was unhappy, as in the poem “Extending the Airport Runway,” there wasn’t a trace of bitterness or smartassery.

Flatiron Mountains, Boulder, Colorado. A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own
Part of the text of Chapter 5 of Greater Community Spirituality, “What is Human Purpose?”

A person who took the journey.

Steps to Knowledge is the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God. A fellow student of Steps to Knowledge shared the following Mary Oliver poem with me as a description of the Steps to Knowledge experience. This poem is called “The Journey.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save

Young girl meditating under an artwork. A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own
Step 75 of Steps to Knowledge, “Today I will listen to myself.”

She wrote of the journey. She took the journey.

“The Journey” is one of the relatively few Mary Oliver poems where audio of her reciting the poem is available.

Video of Mary Oliver reciting her poem “The Journey”

Did she accomplish her mission?

Mary Oliver near the end of her life. A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own
Mary Oliver near the end of her wild, precious life

I don’t know. Maybe she had an entirely different mission than loving the world. But I’m glad she loved the world. Maybe she had an entirely different mission than being married to amazement. But I say it was a fruitful marriage. She wrote of a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own. I say she heard that voice.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Maybe by Mary Oliver

I love this poem for multiple reasons.

I love this poem because I believe Mary Oliver captured the emotions of the disciples after Jesus rebuked the wind of a deadly storm, and caused the waves to be still.  The gospel of Mark reports “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'” (Mark 4:41, New International Version)

I love this poem for the phrase “something different crossing the threshold.”  Jesus was someone different crossing the threshold, someone putting everything that had gone before into a new context.  Mary Oliver points out that people have a hard time with something different crossing the threshold.

I love this poem because I’m waiting for an opportunity to use the phrase “like a tremor of pure sunlight”

I love this poem because it describes things I feel about my study of Steps to Knowledge.  If it really is something different crossing the threshold, I would find that much scarier than if it were just another self-development program.

Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
stood up in the boat
and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry,
So everybody was saved
that night.
But you know how it is

when something
different crosses
the threshold — the uncles
mutter together,

the women walk away,
the young brother begins
to sharpen his knife.
Nobody knows what the soul is.

It comes and goes
like the wind over the water —
sometimes, for days,
you don’t think of it.

Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
one or two of them felt
the soul slip forth

like a tremor of pure sunlight
before exhaustion,
that wants to swallow everything,
gripped their bones and left them

miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
how the wind tore at the sails
before he rose and talked to it —

tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was —
a thousand times more frightening
than the killer sea.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.