Evening Poetry, December 1

Mysteries, Yes

by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous

to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds will

never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

You can find this poem in Evidence.

Evening Poetry, November 14

I know this is Mary Oliver’s most loved, widely quoted, and repeated poem, but these are words that live with me. Especially during dark days when depression or despair weigh so heavy my heart can hardly bear it. In my head, I hear her saying, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting…” and it gives me courage to continue. To work through the painful things, to wonder at what cannot be explained, to remember that I have–as we all do– a “place in the family of things”.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

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.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

You can find this poem in Owls and Other Fantasies.

Evening Poetry, November 2

After Her Death

by Mary Oliver

I am trying to find the lesson

for tomorrow. Matthew something.

Which lectionary? I have not

forgotten the Way, but, a little,

the way to the Way. The trees keep whispering

peace, peace, and the birds

in the shallows are full of the

bodies of small fish and are

content. They open their wings

so easily, and fly. So. It is still

possible.

I open the book

which the strange, difficult, beautiful church

has given me. To Matthew. Anywhere.

You can find this poem in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, October 24

Dreams

by Mary Oliver

All night

the dark buds of dreams

open

richly.

In the center

of every petal

is a letter,

and you imagine

if you could only remember

and string them all together

they would spell the answer.

It is a long night,

and not an easy one–

you have so many branches,

and there are diversions–

birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down

to sleep beneath you,

the moon staring

with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent

all the energy you can

and you drag from the ground

the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake

with two or three syllables

like water in your mouth

and a sense

of loss–a memory

not yet of a word,

certainly not yet the answer–

only how it feels

when deep in the tree

all the locks click open,

and the fire surges through the wood,

and the blossoms blossom.

You can find this poem in Dream Work.

Evening Poetry, October 12

Goldenrod, Late Fall

by Mary Oliver

This morning the goldenrod are all wearing

their golden shirts

fresh from heaven’s soft wash in the chill night.

So it must be a celebration.

And here comes the wind, so many swinging wings!

Has he been invited, or is he the intruder?

Invited, whisper the golden pebbles of the weeds,

as they begin to fall

over the ground. Well, you would think the little murmurs

of the broken blossoms would have said

otherwise, but no. So I sit down among them to

think about it while all around me the crumbling

goes on. The weeds let down their seedy faces

cheerfully, which is the part I like best, and certainly

it is as good as a book for learning from. You would think

they were just going for a small sleep. You would think

they couldn’t wait, it was going to be

that snug and even, as all their lives were, full of

excitation. You would think

it was a voyage just beginning, and no darkness anywhere,

but tinged with all necessary instruction, and light,

and all were shriven, as all the round world is,

and so it wasn’t anything but easy to fall, to whisper

Good Night.

You can find this poem in Why I Wake Early.

Evening Poetry, October 9

The Old Poets of China

by Mary Oliver

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.

It offers me its busyness. It does not believe

that I do not want it. Now I understand

why the old poets of China went so far and high

into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.

You can find this poem in Why I Wake Early.

Evening Poetry, October 7

Sunrise

by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it–
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
brilliantly,
letting
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,

and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.

You can find this poem in Dream Work.

Evening Poetry, September 26

Thirst

by Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst

for the goodness I do not have. I walk

out to the pond and all the way God has

given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,

I was never a quick scholar but sulked

and hunched over my books past the

hour and bell; grant me, in your

mercy, a little more time. Love for the

earth and love for you are having such a

long conversation in my heart. Who

knows what will finally happen or

where I will be sent, yet already I have

given a great many things away, expect-

ing to be told to pack nothing, except the

prayers which, with this thirst, I am

slowly learning.

You can find this in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, September 23

The Fist

by Mary Oliver

There are days

when the sun goes down

like a fist,

though of course

if you see anything

in the heavens

in this way

you had better get

your eyes checked

or, better still,

your diminished spirit.

The heavens

have no fist,

or wouldn’t they have been

shaking it

for a thousand years now,

and even

longer than that,

at the dull, brutish

ways of mankind–

heaven’s own

creation?

Instead: such patience!

Such willingness

to let us continue!

To hear,

little by little,

the voices–

only, so far, in

pockets of the world–

suggesting

the possibilities

of peace?

Keep looking.

Behold, how the fist opens

with invitation.

You can find this poem in Thirst.

Courage, Dear Heart (Wellness Wednesday)

We were getting ready to drive to a music gig near Keuka Lake, filling water bottles, ironing clothes, and packing snacks when I spotted the mail basket. I rifled through the pile and came across a letter addressed to me from the U.S. District Court. Oh no!!! (Oh, yes.) It was a jury summons–but this was worse than usual: for a period of at least a year, several times per month, an hour and a half drive each way.

At the moment I felt like freaking out, but we had a three-hour performance that afternoon, so I read it over once and set my freak-out aside until after our show. By the evening, my chest felt tight, by the end of the next day, I had a sore throat and my shoulders and neck were sore with tension.

I filled in the online questionnaire and gave a valid excuse why I couldn’t serve (my business can’t survive without me), but I have to wait three weeks to find out if I still have to go.

So, now I have a choice to make: I can live each moment until then in fear, worry, upset, dread, and panic, or I can find ways to act and think differently–with positivity, joy, and courage.

Gretchen Rubin’s Third Commandment from her Happiness Project is “Act the way you want to feel”. Does that seem too much like “Fake it till you make it”? But think about it: Where will those good feelings come from if we don’t take the energy we have and transform it into something better?

If you don’t happen to wake up happy and positive each day, do you just let that dark cloud of gloom hanging over you ruin your whole day? I’ve absolutely been guilty of this. I’ve also had days where I wake up super negative but do the things I know will propel me out of my funk.

The first scenario is a passive one: I just go with whatever happens, just feel whatever feelings I feel and act however I feel. The second scenario is active: I take what I have and make something better out of it. Do you know these are both decisions?

You and I can either decide that we will let our feelings run us OR we can decide that we will run our feelings. You are more powerful that you realize! You have the power to make or break your day!

But what about if you’re already an anxious person (like I am) and you happen to be in an extremely anxious season? The Fall seems to heighten anxiety for me and I know I’m not alone. We don’t have to take it! (Does this remind you of a certain Twisted Sister song?)

I wanted to share a list of things that help me calm down. Some of these I am learning in Ayurveda School, some of them I’ve learned in the HSP class I’ve been taking, some I’ve learned as an aromatherapist, and some I’ve discovered on my own. They all help, but there’s just one catch: We have to actually do the things!

Get up before the sunrise.

Practice meditation/pray.

Journal and write your manifestations. (Listen to Rachel Hollis in this podcast episode on why.)

Visualize how you want your day to go, walk through any known difficulties and decide how you will handle them. (Thanks, Brendon Burchard, for your awesome High Performance Planner!)

Develop a daily yoga practice. It could be 5 minutes or 90 minutes, but practice. There is nothing else like it for calming the mind, connecting the mind and body, and grounding you.

Drink herbal tea/coffee substitute. You know what? I don’t love most herbal teas, but I drink it because it calms me down. Lemon balm has been daily go-to. However, I just found a new caffeine free gluten free herbal tea that satisfies my coffee craving without the jitters. If you’re a coffee nut like I wish I could still be, you gotta try it: Teeccino Dandelion Coconut Roasted Herbal Tea.

Go for a walk outside. I always feel refreshed and my nervous system feels soothed when I do.

Eat lots of plants.

Have a gratitude practice. This could be in your journal in the morning or at night.

Keep a positives journal. This is new to me, but the teacher of the HSP class said sensitive people focus on the negative too much and need positive things to keep them grounded. Make notes of what good things happen in a day, things you love, moments of happiness, and then read through these when you’re feeling anxious.

Read poetry. YES!!! If you think you don’t like poetry, start with children’s poems and approachable poets like Mary Oliver and David Whyte. Poetry speaks to and nourishes the soul, the emotions I would say that if you’re a sensitive person, like I am, you may not be able to read some poetry that tends to be chaotic, angry, and violent. I tend to gravitate toward poems that express reverence for nature and that speak to the inner life of a person. These are a good place to begin:

Devotions by Mary Oliver

The House of Belonging by David Whyte

Favorite Poems Old and New by various

Get enough sleep.

Get a massage whenever you can and do self-massage daily. Even if you don’t get to a full body self-massage every day, which I highly recommend, at least do a foot massage right before bed. Some warm sesame oil and a drop or two of Lavender essential oil massaged into your feet will send you into blissful slumber.

Practice positivity. Focus your thoughts and speech on “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” This is found in Philippians 4:8.

Spend time processing your day: thinking about and journaling about it. According to my HSP teacher, sensitive people need about two hours of alone time each day.

Take one day off per week. Does this sound impossible? I know, it’s pretty difficult for me as well. When I do it, my life is better. We all need adequate rest and time for recreational pursuits. Work on this one and I will too!

Use an aromatherapy diffuser near your desk while you work and in your bedroom at night. Turning it on for an hour or two at a time is a wonderful way to calm down your mind, emotions, and your whole body. Calming essential oils like Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Black Spruce, Cypress, and Mandarin are a few to try, either individually or blend a few together.

That’s my list. I hope you find some useful tools to help you handle bouts of anxiety. I would love to hear about what things help you when you are feeling anxious.

And, finally, here is an aromatherapy blend to use in your aromatherapy diffuser.

Calming Blend For Anxiety

1 drop Vetiver

2 drops Black Spruce

2 drops Red Mandarin

3 drops Lavender

PS: Today’s title was taken from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: “But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”