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 OliverSomewhere 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, her four black fists flicking the gravel, her tongue like a red fire touching the grass, the cold water. There is only one question: how to love this world. I think of her rising like a black and leafy ledge to sharpen her claws against the silence of the trees. Whatever else my life is with its poems and its music and its glass cities, it is also this dazzling darkness coming down the mountain, breathing and tasting; all day I think of her— her white teeth, her wordlessness, her perfect love.