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  • Writer's pictureGinny Seegmiller

Mary Oliver: Joyful Inspiration

“What I am, and I know it, is responsible, joyful, thankful."

Books on shelf

To say that I feel inspired working in a library daily would be an understatement. Today’s inspiration comes from a lovely book of poetry called, “Red Bird” by Mary Oliver. As I was checking in this book, a lovely patron wrote on a post-it note the last line of a poem which read:

“What I am, and I know it, is responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not give my life for a thousand of yours”, under this was written, “For whoever reads this, don’t forget that.”

It really opened my eyes as to what this means to me, and how I can apply it to my life. What it means to be joyful and thankful…I don’t see joy and happiness as the same thing. I feel like joy has a deeper sense of self reflection, and purpose; to find joy in each day is an active choice, an outlook with deeper meaning.

A Poetry Handbook

After this, I looked into some additional books by Mary Oliver, one of them titled: A Poetry Handbook, which gives some advice on prose and how to perfect my writing skills. I was inspired again at how words can move people, and so badly wanted to share this gift with others. I’d like to share this poem with you in full and would love to hear thoughts on what it means to you.

By Mary Oliver

Listen says fox

It is music to run over the hills

To lick dew from the leaves

To nose along the edges of the ponds

To smell the fat ducks in their bright feathers but far out,

Safe in their rafts of sleep.

It is like music to visit the orchard,

To find the vole sucking the sweet of the apple,

Or the rabbit with his fast-beating heart.

Death itself, is a music.

Nobody has ever come close to writing it down,

Awake or in a dream.

It cannot be told.

It is flesh and bones changing shape and with good cause,

Mercy is a little child beside such an invention.

It is music to wander the black back roads

Outside of town

No one awake or wondering

If anything miraculous is ever going to happen,

Totally dumb to the fact of every moment’s miracle.

Don’t think I haven’t peeked into windows.

I see you in all your seasons

Making love, arguing, talking about God

As if he were an idea instead of the grass,

Instead of the stars,

The rabbit caught in one good teeth-whacking hit

And brought home to the den.

What I am, and I know it, is

Responsible, joyful, thankful.

I would not give my life for a thousand of yours

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