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The On Being Project

For Some Things There Are No Wrong Seasons

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had at least one “hurricane” in his or her life — a destructive personal experience that seems beyond redemption at the time. In this poem, Mary Oliver does what she does so well, drawing lessons from nature that can keep hope alive even during our darkest days.

In 2004, a tornado ripped through our neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin, damaging houses and toppling many old trees. No one was hurt, but property damage was extensive.

At the time, I was going through my third major bout of clinical depression. I found it nearly unbearable to look at our yard, where we had lost a lovely maple and a towering white pine — the devastation “out there” mirrored so closely what was going on “in here.”

But slowly, very slowly, the still-standing trees began to recover, “pushing new leaves from their stubbed ends.” And slowly, very slowly, new life began to grow in me.

So for me, this poem evokes deep feeling. It reminds me of hard times and of the fact that eventually I was able to reclaim hope. Today I read Mary Oliver’s closing lines as a sort of prayer for all of us:

“For some things / there are no wrong seasons. / Which is what I dream of for me.”

by Mary Oliver

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

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