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.

-Mary Oliver

LONG BEACH, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Poet Mary Oliver speaks during California first lady Maria Shriver's annual Women's Conference 2010 on October 26, 2010 at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California. Attendees to the conference include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and candidates for California Governor Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown.


Today I put in the peas.  It’s a St. Patrick’s Day tradition.  Shamrocks, leprechaun hats and green crepe paper ribbons remind me to make soda bread and work the ground.


 Carouby de Mausanne

Photo credit:  Leslie Land

Being in the garden reminds me of Mary Oliver’s poem, Why I Wake Early.  She knows how to pay attention, be idle, stroll through fields, kneel in the grass.  She says she doesn’t know exactly what a prayer is.  I think it’s her poem.


Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.


Mary Oliver writes what she likes to call ‘Praise Poetry’. Her poems comfort and amuse me. She  focuses on the good and the hopeful and doesn’t mess around with what makes her unhappy when she’s writing.  (In the March issue of O is Maria Shriver’s conversation with Mary Oliver at age 75. Go behind the scenes~

Mary Oliver has used up a lot of pencils.  And experienced crushing loss. But she considers her life an amazing gift. Her poems were read on the radio (on The Writers’ Almanac), lots of them, for years.  Now, there’s a daily podcast. Garrison Keillor reads them to you while you’re otherwise engaged in buttering toast or shooing squirrels.

They ( the poems, not the toast) have welcome stickiness.  You hear one and a day later it’s still with you, still there in the brainpan, delivering some good thing of use. It’s what a literary critic calls ” a bearshit-on-the-trail” poem~ a true and clear picture of the familiar that starts in the today and ends in the infinite.

I’m going to have a friend in this world as long as Mary Oliver keeps on living her One, Wild and Precious Life.



by Mary Oliver

I wish I was twenty and in love with life
and still full of beans.
Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
the roses are blooming and finding their labor
no adversity to the spirit.
Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea
shining like a song, like a body
I want to touch
though I’m not twenty
and won’t be again but ah! seventy. And still
in love with life. And still
full of beans.


Mary Oliver and Maria Shriver

The full interview is here~    Don’t miss it.


My pea seed will root, sprout, branch out, and bud –  and make of its life a breathing palace of leaves.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Toni 3/17/11