Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What is There Beyond Knowing

It's been wonderful weather for walking.
I snapped this photo the other day on my afternoon constitutional.
That would be Sebastopol in the distance if it were visible.

It brings to mind this poem by Mary Oliver:

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can’t

turn in any direction
but it’s there. I don’t mean

the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that’s always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same—what shall I say—

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass and the weeds.


Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

She gives voice to unspoken longings, knowings, glimmers from within. I think her words could sustain me through very troubled times. Thank you for permitting me to read one of my favorite poets as an ending to my day of "standing in the middle of the world, breathing in and out".

steven said...

wow dan, timely exquisite writing from mary oliver. there is so much in the fragments of the whole that we experience and then there is the whole of everything that connects all of that. it's like a hologram. lovely post and a picture like a painting!!! have a magic evening!!! steven

Delwyn said...

Hi Dan

this poem is one I have marked as a favourite when reading M.O. poetry books I recently received.

breathing in and out
in the temple of the grass and the weeds

just perfect

Don't you love the way she envelopes so much emotion in so few simple words.

I should hav

Happy days

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you, Bonnie. I'm glad to have shared Mary Oliver with you. She is good company at the end of the day. I loved your post on your granddaughters today.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Steven,

Your post about the moon (and Mars winking in the photo) reminds me of these words from the poem:

"heaven’s slowly turning theater of light"

Your post about Stewart Brand was provocative. I've followed his thinking since 1968 (I grew up in Palo Alto, right in his neighborhood in those days) and after more than 40 years have grown to distrust his views.

Dan Gurney said...

Delwyn, Mary Oliver is able to capture the human experience so fully. Emotion and... thinking, body sensation, mood, exact observation, sensory experience, everything. She's so skillful I can't do much more than blather on unintelligibly about her skills.

Delwyn said...


I see I lost the end of my comment - ah well must have been unnecessary...

Happy days

Anonymous said...

oh Dan, what gift she has! And your photo enhances the feeling of the poem. Thank you for that. I live in South Africa, and got a call this morning from my daughter, who lives in CA, and she read this poem to me. Of course I love actually SEEING the words too. And here I am, happily landed on your blog!
Bless you! Anna-Mart

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Anna-Mart,

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks for leaving a comment.