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My Thank You to Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver was a great North American mystic. She called herself a ” praise poet,” but she did not come to her sense of praise easily for she had been sexually abused by her father as a child. The day she graduated from high school she left home and never returned. She says it took her years to get her life back. “For years and years I struggled just to love my life.”

She was a profound creation centered mystic who awakens us all to the healing powers of nature. Below are a few of my favorite lines from her poetry including of course her poem “At the river Clarion” which names so wonderfully the Cosmic Christ and which I reproduce in my latest book on Hildegard of Bingen. Her naming of the Cosmic Christ is simply that while sitting on a stone the water, the moss under the water and the stone “are also part of holiness.”

I was present at a book reading by her in San Francisco two years ago where she filled an auditorium and held us all in her presence for a rich two hours. Her last words were addressed “to the young people here” to whom she wanted to leave “everything I have learned about life after 83 years.” Three things: 1. Pay attention. 2. Be astonished. 3. Share your astonishment. “That’s all,” she exclaimed. The rest is all details.

Thank you, Mary Oliver!

“Glory to the world, that great teacher”

“There is only one question: how to love the world”

” I want to be in partnership with the universe.”

” let me keep company with those who say ‘look!’ And laugh in astonishment and bow their heads.”

“Still, what I want in my life
Is to be willing
to be dazzled–
To cast aside the weight of facts.”

Mary Oliver drank deeply from the wells of the via positiva as well as the via negativa–she talks of “the black river of loss” and of how” nature has many mysteries–some of them severe.” She urges us to do the same.

~ Matthew Fox

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