Wise Words


Mary Oliver

It’s been an emotionally draining week, this election week in the United States. Wise words from an author and from a blogging friend are helping me through the emotional maze. Mary Oliver‘s  profound wisdom, as shared in her new book of essays, Upstream, is helping me to understand the bigger picture of what is happening right now. And my friend, Nan (Letters From a Hill Farm) shared an insightful comment on my Instagram post about why I have turned to Mary Oliver this week: “Because she talks about what really matters; what is real; what has been here through all the various presidents, and will continue on.

As a retired elementary school teacher, I have been very concerned about the impact of this election on all our children. We are seeing reports now of an increase in bullying and hateful rhetoric by young people in our schools and communities. Some are simply mimicking the behaviors of the adults around them, but others are acting out from feelings of powerlessness and confusion.

Adults can change their circumstances. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them, for children feel all of these things but without any of the ability that adults have to change them…

But the essay goes on to describe the pathways she, herself, found that took her “beyond such circumstances.”

…Whatever can take a child beyond such circumstances, therefore, is an alleviation and a blessing.
I quickly found for myself two such blessings–the natural world and the world of writing: literature. These were the gates through which I vanished from a difficult place.

In the first of these–the natural world–I felt at ease; nature was full of beauty and interest and mystery, also good and bad luck, but never misuse. The second world–the world of literature–offered me, besides the pleasures of form, the sustentation of empathy (the first step of what Keats called negative capability) and I ran for it. I relaxed in it. I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything–other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned:  that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness–the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books–can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.

Her wise words give me hope that we can find positive ways to help our children, and ourselves, through these circumstances and alleviate that feeling of powerlessness…and re-dignify our worst-stung hearts.


5 thoughts on “Wise Words

  1. Lois Canning

    Lovely. It seems not another word needs to be said. You, yourself write so beautifully, Robin. Made me think of Ray and how proud he would be of his talented and lovely daughter

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristen M

    I definitely have been thinking and worrying about children a lot this week. This was part of why, even though Z isn’t at the elementary school anymore, I went back this week to set up the book fair. Books work to soothe and educate young and old alike.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elizabeth (Lisa) Del Buono

    I too have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the outcome of the recent election, struggling with a way to “hold” it that is tolerable and allow me to put my best self forward. Thankfully, my book group suggested that we read “Upstream” and as I am starting my way through it, I am finding hope, for which I am tremendously grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robin Post author

    Kristen, “books work to soothe and educate young and old alike.” So very true!!

    Lisa, thank you for stopping by and sharing your own struggles with these disturbing changes in our country right now. I, too, am finding hope and am very grateful for every little bit of that!



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