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Lately I’ve been reflecting on good poems to learn by heart, and “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver has caught my attention. I think this piece is applicable to both life’s challenges and quieter plateaus, so I’d say it fits my unwritten requirements for memorised verse.
I know that the following lines will help me with grief and loss when it comes, and help me get back to what’s really important when things are hectic:
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.
There’s something I find calming and quite freeing about reading this over. As if the pressure is taken off for a moment. Mary Oliver neatly summarises something I often forget – that letting go is always possible in some sense. It also parallels the simple wisdom in I Am Pilgrim that “if you want to be free, all you have to do is let go”.
Whatever it is we’re letting go of, and however we’re going to go about doing it, I think Mary Oliver can be a great mentor for the process.
You can read the full poem of “In Blackwater Woods” here, or you can find it in the American Primitive anthology. You can also read my article on waking up early with the help of Mary Oliver.
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