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Saved by the beauty of the world
I was consuming, or rather, consumed by, Mary Oliver’s work recently via the On Being podcast, and I wanted to elaborate on what her words brought forward for me. There is a saying that one does not have to understand the words they read to infuse them into their being — as the words are written in a vibration the soul can comprehend regardless of language. Mary Oliver, I think, really brings this truth to somatic light. One can feel her words, and I hope that in turn, I can share what her words bring forward for me.
“I got saved by the beauty of the world.” ~ Mary Oliver
Growing up at the doorstep of the Rockies, you would’ve thought I was in the mountains every weekend. You would imagine I took advantage of living my early life in one of the most beautiful places in the world… but I didn’t.
As a child, my parents brought our family on hiking and backpacking trips… but somehow, as I grew into my teen years, with the busyness of sports and parties and being with my girlfriend, I disconnected from being in nature. I forgot what you get when you take the time to be present and reminded of the miracle that is this existence. Sure, I would go camping here and there, but the intention of that was primarily to hang with friends and drink beers. “Connecting with nature” was not on the to-do list.
It wasn’t until I moved to Vancouver that I made the commitment to check out a new hike every week. I would go on a new adventure. I would fall in love with nature, and oddly, myself. I didn’t realize the gift the earth would give me simply by exploring what it gives with no expectation of anything in return. Perhaps that is the lesson in its entirety…
Either way, allow me to elaborate.
I didn’t realize what I had been missing until my connection with nature was realized again. In so many ways I relate to the powerful words of Mary Oliver: “I got saved by the beauty of the world."
It’s funny how that works isn’t it? Years ago I wrote:
Sometimes we need to lose things
in order to learn not only their value,
but also their weight.
Loss is a brilliant teacher that way;
it can show us what's important
simply by creating space
where it once was.
Not only is loss itself a great teacher, but so is the addition of a thought, feeling, experience, or habit. Sometimes, these things can remind us of what it means to feel connected and present. They remind us of what it means to fill our own empty spaces that we think only people and things can fill, only to realize that anything not encoded in the magic of the universe turns that hole into an abyss.
“Aside from the appearance of a tree by day or night, is it not kin of the human family with its roots in the earth and its arms stretching toward the sky as if to seek and to know the great mystery?” ~Art Young
The feeling of what it means to be able to stand on the solid foundation of a deep sense of self is not dissimilar to standing amongst the trees on the forest floor. These floors don’t just feel the same. They are the same.
What I mean by that is sometimes, just the presence of a tree can remind us of the simplicity of life and how it’s all right here. The magic of the divine lives in the breath, in the heartbeat, in communing with the world that is always trying to commune with us.
It gives. And most often, we take. But it doesn’t ask much in return… just the witnessing of it. Which, not surprisingly, is what the depth of your being is asking of you: To be witnessed.
"Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter.” ~ Mary Oliver
Take the time to not just sit with nature, but feel it. Admire it. Have gratitude for it. Watch how it doesn’t cling to needing to grow or look a certain way. Observe how death and birth are part of its greater cycles. Observe how effortlessly you grow your nails and your hair. How you beat your heart without thinking about it.
What is trying to be born from you? What are you resisting? Where can you let go? What is asking to be witnessed in you, by you, and not judged?
Allow those questions to marinate in your being. You know the answers… the real question is: Will you let the answers be what they are?