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“can you imagine?” by mary oliver

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Can you imagine?

For example, what the trees do
not only in lightning storms
or the watery dark of a summer’s night
or under the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now – whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade – surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in its own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

Oliver, M. (2004). Long life: essays and other writings. Da Capo Press, p. 14. image: what’s a Madonna statue doing in a Jizo garden at a Zen monastery? Carried there on the wings of a hummingbird?


4 responses »

  1. Wonderful of you to bring up this state of serenity and contentment prevailing in nature which we humans often overlook or better yet, deliberately ignore. In all honesty, I felt how this serenity and contentment is like for trees, and I can’t help but envy them. I wish I was like them: Content with just being me.

  2. Buddhist (certainly Zen) teaching encourages us to look past duality … accordingly you ARE what the trees are, all one energetic field. no need to envious either: what they have, you have.

    may you be serene.

  3. Ah, Mary Oliver, my favourite poet, such affinity with the natural world, such wisdom…thankyou, I have not seen this poem before and I love it. May I find in myself such patience and happiness as ‘ the dark rings of the years slowly and without a sound thicken…’

    And the Madonna in the picture… perhaps she is there for hope and solace…
    in searching I find that Jizo is the guardian of children, particularly children who died before their parents and offers consolation to anyone who has lost a child… I think she is in the right place… : )

  4. … the young monk went to see Abbot Isaac to ask about a matter of discernment…

    What is the difference between Tolerance and Patience?

    “Hospitality” replied Abbot Isaac. “…and hospitality without Love is merely
    etiquette… and a monk without Love is not a monk. He is simply anti-social.”

    The trees danced…
    sit down
    at home

    would you like some tea?


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