Mary Oliver is one of the most prolific writers of our time. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner and recognized as an acclaimed poet. She recently passed away, but her legacy will never be forgotten. To celebrate her life, here are our favorite lines from her poetry—her little nuggets of wisdom—to help you navigate through life, whatever you may be going through now.
On making the most of one lifetime
1. “Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled— to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.”
2. “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
3. “It is a serious thing // just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world.”
4. “And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money, I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.”
5. “Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life?”
On dealing with grief
1.“Someone I loved once gave me / a box full of darkness// It took me years to understand / that this, too, was a gift.”
2. 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 go, to let it go.
3. “Maybe death isn’t darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us–”
4. “It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.”
5. “Therefore, dark past, I’m about to do it. I’m about to forgive you for everything.”
We are so sad to hear that #MaryOliver has died. Born in Cleveland, Mary was a prolific poet who has inspired us for decades with her lyrical words on nature & life. Mary won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, & many Ohioana Book Awards. She was 83. pic.twitter.com/KYtjlcYhTW
1. “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”
2. “It is a serious thing / just to be alive / on this fresh morning / in this broken world.”
3. “So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which was you.”
4. “But I also say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive. ”
5. “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it…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.”
On following your path and pursuing your dreams
1. “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
2. “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.”
3. “Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.”
4. “You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting./ You only have to let the soft animal of your body/ love what it loves.”
5. “It’s not a competition, it’s a doorway.”
On embracing your individuality
1. “You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.
2. “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”
3. “As long as you’re dancing, you can break the rules. / Sometimes breaking the rules is just extending the rules. Sometimes there are no rules.”
4. “So come to the pond, or the river of your imagination, or the harbor of your longing, and put your lips to the world. And live your life.”
5. “I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. / I want to be light and frolicsome. / I want to be improbable, beautiful and afraid of nothing, / as though I had wings.”
There is another line I would like to quote from the great Mary Oliver, from her poem “When Death Comes”:
When it’s over, I want to say: All my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
Rest in peace, Mary Oliver, and thank you for touching many people’s lives. We know that, true to your art, you have truly lived a life worth living. And without a doubt, you make a handsome bridegroom to this broken yet beautiful world.
Art by Marian Hukom
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