Mary Oliver‘s poem “Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness” appeared in the New York Times last Sunday, while we were visiting a friend who had recently made the decision to forego treatment of a deadly cancer, and live out her life, eyes wide open.

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?
So let us go on

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

Our friend’s sense of things echoes the poem’s; they could have been her words…

“…the world descends into a rich mash, in order that it may resume…the vivacity of what was is married to the vitality of what will be…let us go on…”

Once again, the reminder we needed appeared.

With deep thanks to Maureen Rolla.

Moon phase image via apstas.com.

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4 replies on “‘lines written in the days of growing darkness’ (mary oliver)

  1. My wife just sent me this poem and the comment. Both are meaningful to us. We have been inclined for a couple of years now to identify ourselves as Epicureans, whose ancient school of thought for several hundred years proposed that “death is nothing to us” and that we are part of the ever-lasting cycle(s) of coming to be and providing the basis for other things’ coming to be. Also, we just returned from the Amazon River basin with a course studying bio-diversity. Death and decay are always, everywhere nearby there as this earth’s greatest abundance of life and beauty are also inescapably present. It seems good to belong to the earth, to be part of all this. Thank you for your thoughts, your poem, and your willingness to share.
    tom rocco

  2. Thomas, Thank you so much for your beautifully expressed Comment. I, too, traveled to the Amazon River basin many years ago, and the constant interplay of living and dying in the wildlife, in the everyday, changed my view forever. Curious that you sent your note when you did. I’d just read The Good Short Life in Sunday’s New York Times and have been mulling a post on it. It’s a stunning read that I believe will resonate deeply with your Epicurean ideals.

  3. Thank you for opening my eyes.

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