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Loving the World Means Paying Attention to Its Simple Gifts

This Mary Oliver gem may be the finest poem about spring — and how we live our lives — I’ve ever read. There are no cardinals or crocuses here. Only a black bear awakening from hibernation, coming down the mountain, showing her “perfect love” by doing what bears do.

“There is only one question,” says Mary Oliver: “how to love this world.” You’ll find your own answer to the poet’s question, your own sense of meaning in her words.

For me, the poem opens into mystery. How could it not, since it’s about the “dazzling darkness” that’s forever coming down the mountain toward us?

But this much seems clear. Loving the world means paying attention to its simple gifts, and receiving them with simple gratitude in every moment of our waking lives.

by Mary Oliver

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her …

(Excerpted from House of Light. Read the full poem here.)

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