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So many coats – Mary Oliver

 

With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them, I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them.

— Mary Oliver, Upstream

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attention Other Writings Poetry prayer Seven Days on

Praying – a poem by Mary Oliver

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

— Mary Oliver, Thirst


I first encountered Mary Oliver and this poem when reading Common Prayer, the book I mentioned in last Friday’s post. I was an immediate convert.

  • Does this poem change your thinking about prayer?  In what ways?
  • Are there things that seem to block you from praying? What are they?
  • How would you like prayer to be for you?
  • Take time to write down your thoughts…and consider reading them aloud to God…in prayer.
Grace and peace to you…
dw

p.s. Notice she’s talking again about paying attention, a growing theme for us (see this, quoted from her book Upstream; see also Wednesday’s post where I emphasize it’s importance in living out our faith.)

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attention

Mary Oliver on ‘Attention’

Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

Mary Oliver, Upstream

I love Mary Oliver’s poetry and now am coming to love her prose as I read her book of essays Upstream.  In these two sentences from the first chapter, she seems to focus on at least part of the antidote for the problem posed by the quote from Thomas Merton last week.


  • I think what we pay attention to is what seems most important to us at any given moment.  What do we find ourselves paying attention to and what does that tell us about the things we value most?
  • How do we cope with keeping ourselves focused? How do we avoid constant distraction?
  • Are we as perceptive as Mary Oliver, knowing something is wrong when our attention strays from eternity?
  • Write down the things that you pay attention to. Which ones are ‘keepers’, things you definitely want to keep front and center? Which are definitely distractions? Are there some that are in between? What are they?

Grace and peace to you…

dw

Photo by dw