All the Feels

it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
- Mary Oliver, Invitation


We’ve passed the 1000th day mark of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and as we begin to navigate year four of this experience as a community, the temptation to distance ourselves from grief, from pain, from loss, and from fear can be overwhelming. While going into crisis mode during a crisis is understandable and sometimes necessary, people can’t live in crisis mode long term. It’s not healthy or sustainable, and there comes a point where we must lower our defenses just a little and let some emotion creep back out and beauty back in.

When it comes to feeling alive in the ordinary every day of the world, there’s really one voice that rises above the rest like a wild goose soaring through a clear blue sky, and that is Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver was born in 1935 in Ohio, the daughter of a teacher, and she started writing poems at age 14, and had her first collection of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, published at 28. In 1984, Oliver won the Pulitzer for her fourth collection, American Primitive, and won the National Book Award in 1992 for New and Selected Poems. The accolades could go on, but it’s safe to say Oliver was well recognized for her work and was worthy of the prizes.

Oliver died in 2019, but her work remains ever current, almost more so now than ever before. While her writing style was simple and accessible, she had a way of speaking directly to the core of a person. Of seeing the world as a kaleidoscope of basic, but beautiful elements and evoking intense emotions out of seemingly ordinary things.

It’s, of course, important to see the larger picture when it comes to the pandemic, to the way it changed the fabric of our society. It upset our routines, it disrupted our education, it made grief counselors of us all. But for today, for right now, let’s let Mary Oliver be our guide in admiring nature, beauty, hope, love, devotion, community, companionship, and all the small building blocks of life that offer us a change to glimpse something amazing and exhilarating on what could have been an ordinary day.

Arguably, Oliver’s most beloved poem is The Summer Day where she asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” or perhaps it’s Wild Geese where she sends out the plea, “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” But for today, we’ll end with Don’t Hesitate. It’s a great little poem for when you start to lower your defenses just a little, for when you’re ready to let the world back in. Not all at once, but piece by piece.

What better thing to let in first than unexpected Joy?

Don’t Hesitate - Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Don't forget to also sign up for the Winter Reading Challenge. From January 1 - 31, you are encouraged to read and log 600 minutes during the challenge. Earn emoji badges, enjoy emotion themed booklists, and write fervent, enthusiastic, dramatic, or stirring book reviews.