by Mary Oliver

It didn’t behave

like anything you had

ever imagined. The wind

tore at the trees, the rain

fell for days slant and hard.

The back of the hand

to everything. I watched

the trees bow and their leaves fall

and crawl back into the earth.

As though, that was that.

This was one hurricane

I lived through, the other one

was of a different sort, and

lasted longer. Then

I felt my own leaves giving up and

falling. The back of the hand to

everything. But listen now to what happened

to the actual trees;

toward the end of that summer they

pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.

It was the wrong season, yes,

but they couldn’t stop. They

looked like telephone poles and didn’t

care. And after the leaves came

blossoms. For some things

there are no wrong seasons.

Which is what I dream of for me.

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings: Poems, Penguin 2013


Parker Palmer introduced this Mary Oliver poem to me in his column on Krista Tippett’s “On Being” weekly newsletter email.  (February 18, 2017) Parker reminds us how nature is a place of healing when we have lost our connection to God. My own experience and those of others is that simply getting up off the sofa or out of the seat behind our desk and walking, sitting, or standing outside can make a difference almost instantly. While I sit at my desk I become consumed with my own obsessions and problems. When I go outside I realize there is something greater than myself and my problems. I immediately hear the song of birds reminding me of God speaking to Job during his pain, asking Job and us if we were able to form or make what we see in natural world just outside our window or doors.  We see around us a power greater than we can imagine, the sun, the sea, the wind, trees and plants that bloom out of season because they will not give up.

Parker Palmer and Mary Oliver are asking us to go deeper and make a longer and deeper observation especially after events that seems like our being hit by a hurricane when we ask where was the God of our understanding that did not seem to protect us. In the world of nature, we repeatedly see what was dead come back to life. Being regularly outside and in nature is better than the time I spend with people trying to help them connect to the God within them or even the drugs that medical therapist can prescribe to ease their suffering. Nature is God’s spiritual director that is offered constantly to us if we only have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to touch, a body to feel, taste and smell, to observe in the world outside of us, the free gift and power of resurrection, Easters every day from every awful Good Friday.