A Most Intimate Act :: Change

[[ For the first time ever I am instituting a comment policy. This post contains things that plenty of people will find offensive, for good reason. It is in the public domain once I hit ‘publish’ and so I want to be clear about what kind of comments I am willing to entertain. Not that I get a lot- and I see them all before they are published- but this, again, may offend some folks. You are welcome to comment and ask me about my process or provide constructive criticism on my process, but I will not be publishing comments that are hateful towards me. I’ve had enough hate towards myself for what I did, I don’t need more. I also will not publish comments that commend me in some way- I’m not looking for that, and what I did was what any decent human being should be doing; I don’t need kudos for it. ]]

About a year ago I found out I was a TERF. That translates to “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” What it means is that I was a feminist who did not consider trans women (male -> female) as actual women. (Why this is a ‘radical’ position makes no sense to me, now that I am further down the road. It seems pretty un-radical. They have started calling TERFs “FARTS: Feminist-Appropriating Reactionary Transphobes” which is far more accurate.) And I was a TERF because I had one question, and it was this: “didn’t trans women benefit from all the good things about being seen as a male while also getting to have the space and freedom to look and act as women – and all the psychological benefits of that?” I was essentially asking, “don’t trans women get the best of both worlds without having to deal with the shit of either?”

The answer, of course, is no. Trans women are far more likely to be killed (especially trans women of color). Rather than having the benefits of the binary gender norms, they actually get the short end of the stick of both- neither men nor women accept them. Trans women are women, as I now understand. But they rarely get to be seen or treated that way.

I am not a trans educator (although I certainly sympathize and offer what support I can), so I don’t want to pretend to know everything. What I want to look at it what it took for me to change my understanding of this issue such that I could go from being an ignorant transphobe to being an educated trans supporter.

First and foremost, I changed because I was curios and I suspected that I was in the wrong. Or, at the very least, that I had something the wrong way around and I needed to understand it rather than remain ignorant. This, in fact, is a very vulnerable place to be and it is why change is a very intimate act. To say, if only to myself, that my ideas, position, or understanding of something might be wrong is a blow to the ego. It means we are imperfect, it means that our thinking or perspective may not be complete, and admitting that is a level of ego death. It is a psychologically frightening place to be, which is why a lot of people don’t go there.

After having the courage and awareness that I might be wrong, I had a safe place to go ask my questions. I was in a progressive women’s group on Facebook and I knew that I could ask my questions there and, even if I was seen as an idiot, I would be treated kindly and get a truthful answer. Perhaps because I am always after the truth it made it easier to look for and accept when they kindly said, “You’re wrong and here’s why.” The women in the group pointed me to articles about TERFs, explaining why they were not truly feminists. They connected me to trans and non-binary educators like Alok Vaid-Menon (who has some really beautiful things to say about men and their fear of themselves). Mostly they answered my questions without making me feel like an asshole. And because I didn’t feel like an asshole for being curious, I remained open to being wrong (which is when I truly felt like an asshole, once I understood it).

As I began to read things and listen to trans educators, I realized how wrong I had been. How little I had understood. How my privilege as a cis-gendered, white, middle-class woman had allowed me to choose blindness to the difficulties of trans women. Again, this took the ability to sit with my own psychological and emotional discomfort. I had to accept that I had been deeply wrong and purposefully ignorant- that’s a place where I seriously felt like an asshole, which isn’t fun to feel.

These are things most people don’t want to know about themselves, so they don’t do well with change. This is why change is such an intimate act- we must see parts of ourselves we do not like, do not wish to admit that we are. To see those things, to accept them, to choose to engage them and work on them- that’s big psychological work. It means we are getting down in the mud with the smallest, nastiest parts of ourselves and that’s hard work.

Once I was able to learn, understand, and sit with my discomfort I then had to let my new understanding lay the foundation for changing my feelings about it. Most of us make decisions from our feelings- despite what we might like to believe. You only need to look at the last American presidential election to see this at play- folks voted for someone they felt good about, even if he was obviously a liar and incapable of performing the job. The facts there were clear, but people were lead by their feelings. So, when it comes to change, you know it hasn’t happened if people still feel the same as they did before, even if they ‘understand’ things differently. As stated, this was the next step in my development- I let what I read and understood about trans women begin sway my feelings about them, their lives, and their place in feminism. This is also psychological work; work that a lot of people don’t want to do.

Of course, I came around to understanding that trans women are women and changing my feelings about them. I feel far less hard-hearted and defensive about trans women now. I welcome them into the feminist fold and I’m keeping an eye out to make sure they feel welcome wherever I am. I am glad to have a new understanding and to feel differently about trans women. [And I don’t want any kudos or applause for this; I did what any decent human being should do.]

Again, having said all this, change is really hard and very intimate. In order to change we must have safe places where it’s okay to be ignorant or ask stupid questions. We also have to grapple with our feelings and possibly change them when we’re given credible, new information. We have to entertain the possibility that we might be wrong. It’s very tricky and uncomfortable territory. So, when we hope that people will change, we might need to think about these factors. People are likely not going to change because they get yelled at in social media. They are likely not going to change because they have been given some well-researched articles (although this can help break some of the ground loose, sometimes). People are going to change when they can consider that maybe they’ve been wrong. People are going to change when they have places to ask questions that don’t make them feel like idiots or assholes. People are going to change when they begin to feel that they need to or when who they believe themselves to be no longer matches up with what they believe.

 

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

 

In the last couple of weeks, as I’ve learned to practice surrendering and letting go, over and over, I have been given a lot of grace and insight about my life. I’ve discovered some not pleasant things. Part of what I’ve been given is the space to see these unpleasant things and also the space to let myself imagine what might come next, what might be better, what might help me live as a better, more authentic person. Because I’ve not been in a great place for the last 14 months or so, and it’s worn me down to a point where I see that I need to change (the deliberate letting go is a good thing, and necessary to my health and growth). When I look at it objectively, it’s a lot of small changes in many places- a come-uppance. But I think it’s going to feel like a major overhaul, so I’m getting anxious about it. I’ve learned that I probably don’t need to share 100% of my thoughts and emotions about it all here, but if anything useful comes of these changes, I will share about it. If I can alleviate any suffering by sharing my wisdom, I am happy to do so.

Change isn’t always something we get a choice about. A lot of people had to change today because Life gave them some shitty news. I am lucky in that the changes I am about to grapple with are of my own choosing. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be any less impactful or intimate. Earlier today I sat on the couch at a friend’s house and looked at the full moon shining on the water. I felt the most surrendered, sad, and soft that I have in a long time (I had yet another good cry). And that’s due to the tenderizing I’ve received in the last couple of weeks. But it’s from that soft, intimate place that I feel most confident about making the changes I need to make.

I hope you’re well, fellow travelers. I hope you’re able to make changes, rather than having them forced on you. And I hope that you will take every chance you get to change yourself for the better. 

With love and gratitude,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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letting go + surrender

There was a song playing on the radio Friday night that I hadn’t heard in 25 years, “Love…Thy Will Be Done” by Martika. And after being surprised that it had been that long (and humming a bit of her most loved hit, “Toy Soldiers”) I started thinking about the song and noticing that it was about surrender. I felt into the feeling of surrender and noticed that it was very different than ‘letting go.’ I finished my night and went to bed.

Saturday morning I exercised and cleaned up the remnants of a sleepover, but afterwards, as I was stretching, I thew on some alt-j and my mind turned towards the difference between ‘letting go’ and ‘surrender.’ (I think stretching your body helps stretch your mind.)

I’ve been working on letting go again (I need to remember it’s going to be part of my life, forever; it’s my soul work*, I think). For me, letting go has been a very active process. I think the level of work one has to do with letting go of something is directly proportionate to how attached we are to that thing/person/experience. Letting go is dismantling one thing and either simultaneously building something new or dismantling and then leaving empty space for what’s to be built next, but it is a very active experience. It is emotional exertion, work, release. It is prying the fingers open from around whatever we are grasping- sometimes over and over again until there is space, some looseness, some relaxation of the grip. Letting go is a very ego-driven determination of what’s to be done and then working on that process.

Surrender, in contrast, is activating a near immediate release. It is active in that I must decide to surrender, but after that, it’s just…surrendering. It is the attitude of “what will be, will be” and releasing into that, rather quickly. It is allowing Life to flow through, rather than directing where we wish to flow. It is the removal of self or ego as the determiner of the process. I choose to surrender, but then I get in the boat and float along with whatever comes (with hope that it will be something good for me). 

Both are necessary and useful, of course. As you know, if you’ve been reading anything of mine for the past nine months or so, I am all about using things skillfully (there is a skillful use for just about everything, we just have to find it and practice it; exceptions to this are any and all ‘-isms’). But I had forgotten about how useful surrender could be.

I’ve been reading Real Magic by Dean Radin. It outlines the scientific evidence for magic. It’s very compelling and if you’re into science + woo woo, I highly recommend it. One thing he notes is that some kind of surrender-like quality is necessary for magic to work well (or, at all). And I had forgotten how that has been true in my life.

 

Photo by Kunj Parekh on Unsplash

 

During my life as a Christian I prayed a lot. After I left that phase and moved towards Paganism and Taoism I began to see how prayer was a kind of magic, an interaction with the God/Goddess and the Tao. It all taps into the same energy, asking for something to come about. (Seeing these cross-religious connections is a big reason I became and Interfaith minister.) Based on what Dr. Radin writes, prayer is definitely a form of magic. Prayer has been very powerful for me at many points in my life and I have generally had good results from praying (which is to say: my prayers have generally come true). But one thing I realized from listening to that song by Martika is that I had not yet used surrender as a tool in conjunction with letting go.

I’ve been working hard to relax my grip, release emotional connections (desires, wishes, fantasies) and it’s been going rather well. I honestly feel like I’m about 98% done with the process (which means I’m feeling neutral-compassionate in general, seeing past/ignoring/understanding any bullshit, and not worried about public run-ins) . But surrendering is probably a tool I need to use to fully open my grasp and let the last grains slip away. To say “What will be, will be” and then go on about my daily business, unconnected, letting Life flow through me again. 

Some folks are better at surrendering than others. But I also think that surrender may be a tool we can only use when we’ve reached a certain level of letting go. When we’re contracted, connected, attached, hopeful, still fantasizing or wishing, it’s really hard to surrender. I am definitely not built to let go easily, so surrender is farther down the path for me. But I’m glad to remember that it’s there, when I’m ready.

What’s your experience with ‘letting go’ and ‘surrender’ friends? Are they different? Do you use them in certain situations or particular circumstances? Do they feel different to you in some way? How have you used them effectively (or not so effectively) in your life?

I hope this Sunday finds you well. You’re in my thoughts.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

::: ::: ::: :::

11 Feb 2019. I’ve spoken about soul work before, in this post (about half way down), but soul work is also the work our soul needs to do in this life, the deeper lessons we signed up for before we even incarnated. I have talked about soul mates and how I don’t much believe in them (also in that post) but I do believe in them from a very specific perspective. Soul mates are anyone, literally anyone, who helps us grow at a soul level. Sometimes it’s beautiful, as in a wonderful romantic relationship that helps us heal our soul. But it can also be painful and difficult and the healing that occurs because of such pain can also grow our soul. Anyone who helps us heal our soul or make it stronger or clearer is a soul mate. And that is also soul work.

I’ve been thinking, a day later, about how music is getting me through this surrender period. I don’t like it, to be honest, but it’s the right path (very often, soul work is hard work; it’s not fun or easy or even what we want at an ego level, sometimes). And so, music is carrying me along. I think there is a recipe for a good “surrender” playlist. 

One Part Songs That Make You Cry (whatever yours are, these are mine):

Anytime You Need a Friend | Mariah Carey

Love…Thy Will Be Done | Martika (obvs)

Where Does My Heart Beat Now | Celine Dion 

This Isn’t Everything You Are | Snow Patrol

It Looks Like Rain | Jann Arden

Breathe (2 AM) | Anna Nalick

 

One Part Songs That Feel Like Prayers

Life Is Beautiful | Vega4

Somewhere Over the Rainbow | Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Better Days | Eddie Vedder

Sky Full of Stars | Coldplay

No Envy No Fear | Joshua Radin

 

One Part Songs That Give You Hope

One Life | Hedley

I Choose | India.Arie & Bonnie Raitt

Human | The Killers

Skankin’ to the Beat | Fishbone

Hallelujah | Panic! At The Disco

100 Years | Five For Fighting

 

What gets you though the hard parts, fellow travelers? It’s music for me, always music. 

17 Feb 2019. I’ve edited this post a half-dozen times since I wrote it. I’ve learned a lot about my self and my needs as I’ve tried to express myself and understand how this process works for me. What I’ve really come to see and feel is that letting go and surrender are very much like cleaning out an attic or old boxes from another life. It’s work. It takes time and sometimes it goes slowly. You can get easily captivated by small things and spend hours re-living old memories, dreams, and desires. You can easily throw some things out. You can want to smash other things against a wall. And you can also be surprised by what you find, what you didn’t remember being there. I didn’t remember that, besides lust + sensuality + connection there was also a desire for laughter + kindness + being supportive to someone I could care about + the desire to show someone how unique they are in the world, and to celebrate them. It shouldn’t have surprised me, because rooms in the heart are rooms in the heart, but it did. Just like cleaning an attic, you can get stuck there, in the dust and memories, if you’re not careful. But if you are deliberate and take one step forward each day, you can get the job done. Letting go of the memories and desires, surrendering to what comes next. We really do need both. 

21 Feb 2019. I want to write this down so I can remember the words and the feelings. And if it helps someone to read this, I want to write for that reason also. Now that the letting go is nearly complete (at least it feels that way) I am sitting with the feeling of not being wanted by the person this post is about. My initial reaction to the rejection was from the gut: “Fine. I accept the rejection. I will leave.” It was clear and true, but still a thing with weight and cutting edges. It was hard and heavy inside me. Now I am sitting with it and finding the feeling of rejection sitting more in my heart. I am humbled by it, but, perhaps for the first time in my life, I’m not letting it ruin me or my sense of self. I’m sitting with it- the sadness, the loss, the curiosity and just letting it exist inside me. It’s not fun to be rejected, but it is humbling to my ego (which is a good thing!).

I’m actually feeling a sense of compassion for myself and the other person, and I can feel that compassion might lead to gratitude. (I’m not pushing that edge right now, but I can sense that it’s there.) I’ve had to ask some questions in this process: what, if anything, do I need to learn from this? what, if anything, do I need to change because of this? does/should this rejection define anything about me or my value? (sometimes we need this kind of humbling experience to see where we are toxic or where we need to change and grow.) I know what my answers are, and, as I sit with them, I feel a sense of grounding and beauty about myself that I’ve not felt before. With my bed head, no make-up, and snuggled pjs and robe, I looked at myself in the mirror this morning and thought, “You’re lovely. And you’re fine. You’re real and beautiful.” This was a revelation to me, in some ways. A new level of self acceptance. 

I’ve been wanting to day dream about what comes next for me- what my days and weeks will look like, because they need to change- and I haven’t really felt the pull to do that with paper, pens, visions, etc (to make it happen). But I can see that this experience needed to happen first. I needed the feeling of rejection to sit in my heart and show me something new, to help solidify a stronger, hopefully more flexible, version of myself. It’s not a fun experience, but it’s very valuable and helping me heal even more. 

 

 

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Winter’s Sensuality + Imbolc

I will be honest: Winter is not my favorite season for indulging in my sensual side. It’s cold, and I hate the cold (my husband knows that, when I die, I want to be cremated. I detest the thought of laying in a casket, cold, for eternity). And it’s been really fucking cold here the last week, polar vortex and all. I’ve had to wear two layers of everything this week: pants, shirts, socks, gloves. It’s made me feel warm but also slightly inflexible. 

What I’ve come to see in the depth of this cold is that there is a lot to appreciate about the sensuality of winter if I look at it from a different angle: what makes me feel warm, cozy, and safe. Then it’s easy. 

Hot tea with cream + lots of sugar (what is tea if not a vehicle for sugar and cream?)

Being covered in afghans while watching a movie

Favorite soups and warm bread

Coming in from the cold

Flannel sheets

The funny little chugging hum of humidifiers (I am the Keeper of the Humidifiers at my house)

Ass hot showers with lots of lotion afterwards

Long hugs (hugs and hugs and hugs)

Giving myself permission to be a lump

Indulging in social media more than usual

Small reading breaks through the day

The sound of frozen leaves crunching when I walk the dog

Getting creative about keeping sex warm and comfy

Sweating like crazy on my bike on Saturdays (feels good to get red-faced hot, sometimes)

Wool socks and gloves

The sun finally coming back 

Winter’s sensuality might be slightly harder to find, but it’s there. And it worth indulging in, if you ask me. Winter is a time when we need more joy, more connection, more warmth, and comfort.

 I hope you can find the time and space to find your sensual pleasures during this time of year. It is helping me keep my sanity when I feel downtrodden by the cold.

 

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

 

Today is also Imbolc, the half way point between Winter Solstice (darkest day of the year) and Spring Equinox (when the light and dark are equal). I could not be happier for this day because it marks the time when farmers would have begun to look at the signs for when Spring might arrive and begin planning for the future of the year. A favorite ritual of this day is to “bless the seeds” for the harvest of the coming year. 

Earlier this week I was having a very day-dreamy sort of day and I kept bringing myself back to ‘reality’ and focusing on the work I had to do. Turns out, it was a perfectly good day to day-dream, astrologically speaking. I should have gone with my gut! In any case, I think “blessing the seeds” of the year isn’t just about what we have to do in a practical sense, but also about what our dreams are for the year ahead. Yes, we traditionally do this at New Year’s but there’s no reason we shouldn’t regularly indulge in our dreams and desires for what we wish to create- and Imbolc is a great time to do this. 

Here are some things I’ve been dreaming about:

Getting my book about the Sex Surge edited and to the book designer.

Our travel for the coming year.

Concerts I’m going to see this year.

Plans for my own personal retreat (something I haven’t done in a couple of years).

Severing the final bits of an energetic connection. I couldn’t decide if I needed to continue with a “compassionate, soulful, seeker who is healing” energy or just go subtle “psycho hosebeast“* energy- but what I realized is that I don’t need to do either. I can simply continue carrying the peace I feel forward into the future and let the rest go. I love the fact that being a woman (and a witch) means I have access to the full realm of feminine energies, including the toxic ones, when needed. 

The husband and I had a big, deep discussion two nights ago. The one where we re-visit everything about our relationship, what it needs, what it’s based on, what we want- is it still working? is this still what we want? At one point I actually offered divorce as an option to fix some of our current problems and we decided to take it. Just kidding. (My husband said the sweetest thing about my offer, “I could feel, from the bottom of my toes rising to the top of my chest, a giant, ‘NO!'”) So we’re walking into some new depth in our relationship and it’s weird and new, but it’s also good because it’s more truthful than ever before.

I’m definitely day-dreaming about my future work. Not sure what direction it’s going to go, but it will definitely change. That is- is it not? -the definition of day-dreaming.

Playing with ideas for finishing the decorating in my bedroom and making it a truly cozy nest that’s beautiful and unique.

I’ve been thinking about my spiritual practice a lot. I want to deepen it and get back to some studying I’ve neglected in the last six months. More meditation, more reading poetry and spiritual guidance, more practicing with the tarot. 

Figuring out how to increase my social justice work. What do I care about the most? Where do I want to put my time and dollars this year. Also, getting rid of people who think Jordan Peterson is some kind of intellectual.

What are you dreaming of for this year ahead? Now is the time to go back to your dreams, your seeds, and bless them with your work. It will be time to plant them soon- to take up the work that results in harvest. But for now, it will do to roll them in your hand, dreaming of what they might become, and offering them the blessings of hope and desire.

May your desires feel beautiful, joyful, and worth your time.

Big love from the path,
Joanna :: xoxo

* it actually looks like the psycho hosebeast energy worked. yay! but also, after a couple hours of it, I realized I didn’t need it. so, also yay.

And hello to any new readers from my other site. Welcome! P.S.- Don’t sign up for the newsletter, I never send one. :o)

 

 

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Super Blood Wolf Full Moon

Oh, fellow travelers. I know I haven’t said much about full and new moons lately, but tonight’s full blood moon and eclipse (into tomorrow) is a doozy. It is a moon about letting go, speaking your truth, and leveling up. And, holy shit, is it working.

This week I have twice experienced people putting words in my mouth (which I really don’t like, because I don’t like being misunderstood). Once was on social media and once was in a communication with someone. The details don’t really matter because what I realized is that when someone is stuck in something I clearly didn’t say, that’s on them.

In the social media example, someone accused me of something I clearly stated I was against. They got emotionally stuck on a particular point because of their own experience and couldn’t see past it, projecting their emotional connection to the subject onto me. In the other case, I clearly asked for one thing (talking) and the other person was stuck in a completely different place, a completely different part of the story (an old fantasy, resolved long ago). Because this new moon is about seeing and knowing our truth, I can clearly see what’s mine and what’s theirs.

(The other thing about social media is that it’s for me [me-dia, as it were] and some people get confused, I think. My comments are for me, they are about me or things I think or want or am playing with in my mind or things I just think are cool. But it’s always for me. If you think it’s about you, unless I specifically refer to you, maybe check your projections.)

 

Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash


But here’s the cool thing about letting go today with the energy of this full moon. A connection I have actively worked to finish for the last 10 months finally let go today. And, damn, I feel fucking giddy + clearer + lighter. Jesus, when your soul finally gets clear, it feels fucking lighter. Who knew?

Here’s the thing about letting go- when you’ve done your soul work, when you have equanimity for all possible outcomes, letting go is like pushing a boat away from a dock on the calmest waters: it’s easy. I am free and steering in my own direction again. And it feels really good.

One thing I learned from today though, something I have long wondered about, is that you can do all sorts of soul work, but if the other person isn’t ready to let go, it’s a lot harder to get free. But once they let go the slightest bit, it’s e-a-s-y. So easy. Now, a lot of this capacity for letting go is me (I figured out my soul work a long time ago and did it, continue to do it), a tiny bit on the other person (I think they finally started doing their work- yay! it’s gonna take them awhile to fully let go- they still come around- but they are trying so I give them credit), and probably a whole lot on this gorgeous moon. Energy is important. And this mama moon has energy to spare, so use it to your advantage. (And don’t forget, you’ve got a couple of days to play with this energy.)

If there is something you need to let go of, if you’re ready to level up, if you need to speak your truth- have at it. She’s got you. Even if you haven’t done your soul work, even if you’re not able to hold equanimity, even if you’re not sure what you want- take a step in whatever direction feels like freedom. Because that’s the underlying purpose of letting go, speaking up, and moving forward: freedom.

As ever, Bairavee Balasubramaniam (The Sky Priestess) has a beautiful, clear take on all this energy. Heed her guidance.

Blessed be to you all, fellow travelers. Go howl at the moon tonight- I’ll be there with you.
All my love,
Joanna :: xoxo

::: ::: ::: :::

23 Jan 2019

This is what happens when you let go. Feeling happy and free, yesterday I did a small ritual to clear out any leftover energy from this connection. Offered some metta meditation for their health, happiness, and peace. And felt really good about closing the door on this room.

As a result of all this letting go, space has been made for other things to come through. In the past couple of days I have had a handful of people thank me for how I have helped them, shaped their life for the better, or made them feel better about themselves. Like, as soon as I let go of what wasn’t ‘my people,’ my actual people started taking up space in my life. Very cool. 

Last night, half-covered in the body of my beloved, I had one of those moments when I know I’m a goddess, deep down. I could see the outline of my ab and thigh muscles, along with the soft slope of my hips and belly and breasts. This temple is not crumbling, it’s burnished. Glowing from within.  I felt, deep in my bones, so very strong and soft all at once. 

The person I’m referring to is doing well, too. Gradually letting go. I trust that between moving forward, dating someone new, and just finding the joy of moving on, things will eventually pan out and they’ll fully move on. So, you see, it’s all good. Let go and go on…

 

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When Death Comes

William Stafford is my favorite poet. He wrote of the Oregon and Washington landscape in a way that was an exact mirror of his subject. Because of him, I found Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver died today.

Her online obituary states:

Her poetry developed in close communion with the landscape she knew best, the rivers and creeks of her native Ohio, and, after 1964, the ponds, beech forests, and coastline of her chose hometown, Provincetown. She spent her final years in Florida, a relocation that brought with it the appearance of mangroves. “I could not be a poet without the natural world,” she wrote. “Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.” In the words of the late Lucille Clifton, “She uses the natural world to illuminate the whole world.” In her attention to the smallest of creatures, and the most fleeting of moments, Oliver’s work reveals the human experience at its most expansive and eternal. She lives poetry as a faith and her singular, clear-eyed understanding of the verse’s vitality of purpose began in childhood, and continued all her life. “For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”

Obituary via Facebook

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, towards silence

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

::: ::: ::: :::

Precious prayers. Thank you for the words, the beauty, and the truth, Ms. Oliver.


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