Mary Oliver’s Metaphors

The past few weeks, I have been getting to know Mary Oliver. I have read her poetry, read other’s thinking on her, listened to her own voice in a podcast, and been awestruck by the beauty Oliver is entrusting to the world. I hope I can introduce you, just a little bit, to Oliver, through some metaphors – some fun, funny, some meaningful.

Animal: Superb Starling. Mary Oliver is colorful, bright. I imagine her as this common, yet startling, bird, soaring over savannas, seeing things from a different perspective.
Plant: Daisy. Oliver’s work and life have a simple beauty to them. Her journey speaks of perseverance, and blooming even when the going is tough. Her life grew out of the dirt, among the weeds, into something beautiful.
Article of Clothing/Outfit: Colorful tunic with galoshes. Oliver adores the outdoors, especially the woods, so she wears galoshes. Oliver is vibrant.
Day of the Week: Tuesday. Oliver makes the ordinary, like Tuesdays and rain and mangoes, beautiful, and special.
Food: Lemonade. Oliver’s poetry is refreshing, but can be intense (possibly bitter in that it calls out unwelcome truth). Her beautiful imagery, a mint sprig, just to top it off.
Color: Green. Mary Oliver goes outside everyday, she writes while walking, she loves the woods. Green is just her color.
Geometric Shape: Circle. Oliver sees many different things in situations and things. She views everything with a well-rounded mind.
Fragrance: Fresh Hay. This scent sounds weird, I know, but it also sounds like a comforting scent. I think it speaks of home, and comfort. In many ways, poetry for Oliver is like coming home. Her early life was rough, and poetry was home.
Type of Building: A Sacred Space. Whether it be Buddhist or Christian, spirituality is at the center of Oliver’s work and life.
Word: Creation. Oliver marvels at creation – it’s pros and cons, uglies and pretties, goods and bads. Her work reflects her love for creation and her perplexity surrounding creation.
Musical Instrument: Flute. Oliver’s truth speaks for its own; it stands out, clearly like the high voice of a flute.
Season of the Year: Winter. Oliver’s truth can be harsh, her poems sometimes bring out the brutality of the world, much like winter can be hard. But Oliver’s poetry, and her life, is still beautiful.
Appliance / Machinery: Milk Frother. Warming your milk in the morning, to put in your coffee, is a simple joy. I have found that reading Oliver’s poetry can be a simple joy. It might not always have a profound, original idea, but it is almost always beautiful, and a joy to read.
Natural Phenomenon: Rainstorm. Frightening, powerful, and beautiful. Able to make change, peaceful.
Literary Character: Dumbledore. Oliver is wise, a little quirky, I suspect she likes knitting patterns, and adores reading and learning.

Hope you learned a bit, and enjoyed reading these metaphors.

The Case for Cats

I have a cat named Mufasa. He is orange, huge, and hilarious; his name means nothing in Kiswahili, unlike Simba, Pumba, Rafiki. He has an infinite number of meows – one for the big hornbills that sit in a tree outside our window; one for the lone cat downstairs; one for 5 am hunger; one for 2am loneliness; one for when nobody is listening to the dramatic saga of his sleepy day. He sits on my keyboard in the morning when I am writing; he sits on me when I’m lying still enough, and I love him.

Others – you know who you are – seem to think that cats are useless, nothing compared to dogs and other useful pets one might have the pleasure of owning. Because, it is true, cats are seemingly haughty creatures, prone to clawing your legs, taking your yarn – if you’re that kind of person – and waking you up in the middle of the night.

However, Mufasa is always a warm creature for me to hug, always willing to purr in my ear. And I think this is significant. Many studies prove that time spent around animals, passive or direct, can decrease stress and improve your physical health.

Studies done by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) state that pet owners have “lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than their non-pet owning counterparts” (Ventura). Isn’t that great? Just having a pet around reduces your blood pressure. Also, another study proved that “cat owners are 30% less likely to have a heart attack” (Ventura). I mean, I am all for that. There is evidence procured in one study that “pet owners [have] greater self-esteem, greater levels of exercise and physical fitness.” They also “[tend] to be less lonely than nonowners” (McConnell 1243). Not only does the attachment with one’s pet decrease stress, decrease fear, and others, “pets complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them” (McConnell 1250). Therefore, having a pet effects positively your relationship with others.

These facts, and many more, prove that having a pet around is beneficial to your social, physiological, and mental health. Therefore, maybe I’ll keep my cat around primarily for the fact that he reduces my risk of heart attack – just kidding, Mufasa, I love you even without your benefits.


Into The Wild

Into The Wild is a book that calls into the light the question of removing yourself from society, and those that love you, for what you believe to be the full achievement of life.

In 1990, Chris McCandless drove across the country in a Datsun, his beloved car. McCandless left behind a family, and a good education. He donated the majority of his money to charity, and burned the remainder of his bills. The car was eventually destroyed in a flash flood, and he began to hitch across the West (also, a short trip to Mexico). After almost two years of travel, he entered Alaska with a rifle and a 10-pound bag of rice. His body was found 4 months later in a broken down bus.

The Desert Fathers – and Mothers – were early Christians who left their lives for the desert. Living mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt, they became hermits and recluses, living on their own, ruminating on life and God. They followed the path of Christ, selling one’s every possession and giving the proceeds to the poor, and they took it even further: they attempted complete solitude. One of the most well known Desert Fathers is Anthony the Great.

Siddhārtha Gautama, or Buddha, was the founder of Buddhism. He grew up, got married (to a few wives), had kids, then discovered that there was a world outside of the walls that he had lived behind the majority of his life. As legend goes, he left his miniature kingdom three different times; he first encountered old age, then sickness, then death. As he strove to understand these alien concepts, he decided that he must see more. He left his kingdom and went on the search for enlightenment. In the end, he does, he shares his ways, and Buddhism is born.

These two circumstances – the Desert Fathers and Mothers and Buddha – strike a similar chord in my mind to Chris McCandless’s story. I see people, searching for the truth, the hard-won nugget of light. And this is where I am lost.

These stories, while fascinating, are frightening. I begin to wonder, how far do I have to go to reach my true purpose? Must I leave my family, those I love, and those who love me to find the true meaning in life? Is moving to the desert required? Do I need to sit under a tree and starve to see the light of it all? Do I have to follow the path of those before me, like Buddha, Anthony the Great, or Chris McCandless? Must I follow the extremes?

I think Jon Krakauer is writing to those who feel the need to isolate themselves in order to find answers. He works to demonstrate that there have been those that retreat to the wild and have come out ‘enlightened’ in sense. Krakauer talks about McCandless’s appreciation of Henry David Thoreau and Jack London, among others. But these men, they lived to tell a tale, and they returned to society because they learned the benefit of the wild and the necessity of societal relationships.

McCandless and his story demonstrate that while ‘letting go of all that binds’ is a way to get to truth, one must be careful of the circumstances. For some of us, interactions with people are how we find true selves. For others, like Buddha, a period of isolation does the trick. For still others – though probably very few – living alone under the burning sun of an Egyptian desert is how we find truth.

Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild is a book that opens up for discussion how we find answers to life’s biggest questions. And I think demonstrates that we don’t all find our answers, or our questions, the same way.

Laughing and Discovering a Loud Life

{how to live}

Live a loud life

Too many people
Have the misfortune
Of living
A quietly brooding

Live a loud life

Shake up
The ideals
That people have built
Around themselves

Live a loud life

At almost

Live a loud life

Be at peace
With the mess
That is yours

Live a loud life

I live a loud life in almost every literal sense of the word. Those reading who know me personally, are heartily agreeing. Those that do not know me personally – which I, being new to the blog world, still find the teensiest bit frightening –  will just have to take my word for it.

I have always been a loud child, from the moment I was born in a Virginia hospital room on a summer morning. Now, as a 16 year old, my dad still hushes me, when I laugh a little too loud or raise my voice when I am excited. As I have gotten older, I have gained some self control – to shouts of thanks from the aforementioned parents. I now know when making noise is good – or maybe just acceptable – and when it is not. So, while I do a lot of things with the volume turned all the way up, I am still trying to learn how to live a loud ‘life’, like I wrote about in the poem above.

I do not know if I have quite learned the art of being honest enough to heal. I do not know if I have mastered the skill of speaking up when it is most needed, not when I want to.

I want to learn to attack the truth, with all my strength. Then, I want to tell everyone about it. I want to advertise truth until it is the expected behavior.

I want to explore myself, my own thoughts, my own being. When I find the core of ‘me’, I want to write a sign and stick it to my forehead. And when people ask me about it, I will tell them. All of it, as much as I can.

I want to find the good questions, the thoughtful ones, the fun ones, the important ones. When I find them, I want to ask as many people as will listen. Listen to their answers without enforcing my own.

I want to watch the world spin, with eyes dancing with tears and magic. I will take pictures with my eyes, process them in the dark room of my mind, print them as poems, read them to people.

I want to learn an honest, curious, significant, entranced life. I want to learn to live a loud life.