Mary Oliver*

Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver and her dog

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver1935 – 2019

Wild Geese


Oliver, who cited Walt Whitman as an influence, is best known for her awe-filled, often hopeful, reflections on and observations of nature. “Mary Oliver’s poetry is an excellent antidote for the excesses of civilization,” wrote one reviewer for the Harvard Review, “for too much flurry and inattention, and the baroque conventions of our social and professional lives. She is a poet of wisdom and generosity whose vision allows us to look intimately at a world not of our making.”

Her honors include an American Academy of Arts & Letters Award, a Lannan Literary Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize and Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Oliver held the Catharine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Bennington College until 2001. She lived for over forty years in Provincetown, Massachusetts, with her partner Molly Malone Cook, a photographer and gallery owner. After Cook’s death in 2005, Oliver later moved to the southeastern coast of Florida. Oliver died of cancer at the age of eighty-three in Hobe Sound, Florida, on January 17, 2019.

*This contents of this post come from

Mary Oliver reminds me to look to nature whenever I feel humans are letting the world down. Rejoice in the strength of the trees and the persistent bloom of flowers.





Bliss of Solitude

Pitcher doodle


Nature teaches us how to be quiet and calm.


*from William Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”

My favorite lines are the last three:

Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


No Mud, No Lotus


“Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.”


Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to say that we are so afraid of facing our suffering (worrying, anger, despair, fears, loneliness) that we go look for something to eat, or drink or watch TV. And many people do all of those at the same time. Even if there is nothing interesting or satisfying to watch, we are afraid to turn the television off, because then we will be left to face our suffering.

But it is necessary to face it.

It makes you stronger.

It makes you lighter.

It leads to happiness and nothing else will.

Discipline + Solitude


It’s a busy world. Now, more than ever, we have “noise”: news, videos, people in cafes talking, television, the Internet, etc.

I’m  a teacher and my work is noisy. When I visit my husband at his corporate job, I’m always struck by the quiet in his office. It’s so quiet! Sometimes, I am envious.

I love my job with children, my life as mother to two daughters and I love getting together with friends.

But I always crave solitude. I want to be alone to read, write and just feel calmness.

Fortunately, I am married to a man who will help me out. He will take the girls to violin lessons without me if I need some seclusion.

Seclusion. Solitude. Loneliness. Some people like to be alone. I do. I think this is a good thing. It means you like yourself!

Demand some privacy. Detach yourself from social media and people.  It’s OK. In fact, I’d argue that you NEED it, you need to know yourself, your self. Make it a priority.











Self-pity. You can be there in a matter of seconds. Grieving is feeling sorry for yourself, because your dog is no longer around to show you unfiltered, undiluted affection. You still expect her to come running to you when you return home from work…shopping….a night out at a restaurant.  You miss her quiet presence next to you while you type on your computer or read in bed.

Your dog is fine, she is no longer in pain. The cancerous tumor growing under her tongue and in her gums, pushing her tongue out the right side of her mouth can no longer hurt her. But you, you are left with loneliness and guilt. Why didn’t you stay home with her more? You should have walked her more often. You never took her to the dog park. Remember, you didn’t want her to catch any diseases, that’s why. Maggie was always the Beta dog. Cats were Alpha dogs compared to her. She quickly acquiesced to others. She hung her head low, shoulders cowered. She never harmed a thing. She could have been attacked at the dog park. You meant well.

When the kids were 3 months and 19 months old you took them and the dog for a walk to the post office on Mission Street. It was a daring undertaking with the infant in the Baby Bjorn, the toddler in the stroller and the frisky pup on a busy street, but you were going stir crazy with the diapers, the fog, and the boredom. You tied the puppy to a street sign post with a cement base. Just a few minutes in line and someone yelled, “There’s a dog running down the street with a post attached to her leash!” You looked outside and your dog was gone. You rushed home with two girls, not three. You cringe, expecting to hear screeching tires, screams. But they never come. You fight back the tears. You can’t lose her. When you get home, she is there, she took a different route, but somehow found your house. You are relieved and furious.

You miss her so much. The white snout, those sad eyes, even the stench of her infection. You miss those silky ears, the low growl of contentment she gave when you rubbed them. She jumped a foot off the ground when you came home. When you were recovering from your radical mastectomy, she napped next to you, choosing you over the rest of the family. Somehow, she knew you needed to rest. And while you worried about recurrent cancer, hers grew silently.

She loved bulgoki. Tennis balls. Hikes in the desert. She hated water. She would fetch when the mood fit. She was infinitely patient with children and other dogs. She was awesome.

You knew the end was near when she couldn’t eat. She loved to eat. And then she couldn’t drink water. Blood oozed from her infection, the antibiotics didn’t seem to have any effect. She drooled a thick, bloody mucous and you wiped her gently, frequently, sadly. How do you know when the time has come?

She was on the table, injected with a sedative. She looked so peaceful, striking her usual pose with one paw over the other, her eyes getting sleepy. You were grateful to see her comfortable. You told her you love her over and over again. Her eyes never left you. You bawled. The lethal injection worked quickly. You heard your husband say, “It’s OK, Maggie, you can go.”

And she’s gone.