The Journey by Mary Oliver

Lately I’ve been contemplating Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, which I rediscovered while reading the latest Oprah Winfrey magazine – an issue delightedly devoted to poetry.

Poetry is best read aloud – so take a moment and a breath and send the words out into the world.  Feel them as they rumble through your soul and vibrate back in through your ears, your skin, your body.  Take the time to let them settle into the swamp of your being.

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,


though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations –
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough,  and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
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.

A good place for contemplation 🙂

As I swim back into the sea of poetry I’m making a long overdue promise to myself to incorporate a daily poem reading/contemplation practice into my routine.  I wish I had done this when my children were younger – carried on reading poetry aloud long past the nursery rhyme ages.  Mother Goose was long a favourite story-time book, I now ask myself why I didn’t see Frost, Walden, Cummings, Yeats, Oliver as obvious carry-on choices.

However, it’s never too late!  My children may all be in their twenties and no longer all living at home, but what a wonderful way to connect and begin a new tradition.  Once a week I will post a poem that speaks to me and invite them to let it percolate through their bodies.  And so, my children, what do these words stir inside of you?  And what of you, dear reader?


Filed under Contemplating Poetry

2 responses to “The Journey by Mary Oliver

  1. Mary Oliver describes beautifully the difficult journey so many of us must make if we want to step out of the currents and forces that would keep us in our place. Sometimes it is an empty nest, a divorce, a death that shakes us awake from our complacence. In the novel I just finished, it is a cancer scare that triggers the protagonist’s epiphany and sets her on a new path of self-discovery and reawakening.

    • I love this poem and reread it often. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes, in the midst of our own journey’s of awakening, we need reminding that we aren’t alone – that there are others out there on their own paths of self-discovery…. 🙂

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