Living a Life Filled With Awe and Amazement

On January 18, 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author Mary Oliver passed away at the age of 83. I have been a fan of her poetry for many years, drawn to the simplicity of her poems and her use of images from the natural world to speak of the experiences of human life. I did not realize, however, how many of my friends and colleagues were also drawn to her works. Facebook was filled with posts commenting on her passing and reflecting upon her life and its impact on the lives of so many others. Many posts shared their favorite Oliver poem or quotation.

One of my favorites is The Journey, published in 1986 in her collection of poems Dream Work. It speaks to me of listening to your inner voice and discovering your particular life calling.

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.


Mary Oliver was more of a mystic than a theologian. However, her observations of the most intimate and minute details of the natural world speak to a world longing for simplicity and connectivity with human community. Her words speak of living a life filled with awe and amazement. It is a message we so desperately need to hear today.



Pastor Kelly

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