Monday, March 26, 2012

Mary Oliver Monday - The Turtle

by Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems:  Volume One (Beacon Press)

breaks from the blue-black
skin of the water, dragging her shell
with its mossy scutes
across the shallows and through the rushes
and over the mudflats, to the uprise,
to the yellow sand,
to dig with her ungainly feet
a nest, and hunker there spewing
her white eggs down
into the darkness, and you think
of her patience, her fortitude,
her determination to complete
what she was born to do----
and then you realize a greater thing----
she doesn’t consider
what she was born to do.
She’s only filled
with an old blind wish.
It isn’t even hers but came to her
in the rain or the soft wind
which is a gate through which her life keeps walking.
She can’t see
herself apart from the rest of the world
or the world from what she must do
every spring.
Crawling up the high hill,
luminous under the sand that has packed against her skin,
she doesn’t dream
she knows
she is a part of the pond she lives in,
the tall trees are her children,
the birds that swim above her
are tied to her by an unbreakable string.

There are many good lessons I could learn from turtles-- their slow, deliberate movements, their perseverance in taking small steps to get where they want to go, their ability to stay still and silent when basking in the warmth of the sun.

The turtle "doesn't dream/she knows."  I dream, I don't know, at least not most of the time. 

But every once in a while, I do feel the trug of the unbreakable string.

What were you born to do?

How do you see yourself as a part, rather than apart, from the world?


  1. I still have a hard time sorting out how my heart would answer that question from the many programmed voices deeply embedded in me, the shoulds that seems to come from everywhere. Somehow, I believe God's voice is in both-- in that which I still try to discern as my own heart-- and in the fabric of common human experience, which is a tangled web of suggestions. Perhaps I was born to struggle with it all and find refuge from it as well, in the still, small voice. I would like to think I was born to continue a life-long birthing process to become love. Not there yet, I'm afraid, but the pond, the sky, the walk up the hill... what a great gift !