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Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.”

One of the many things I love about Mary Oliver’s poetry is that she faces squarely into the complexity of our lives on “this side” of things — and then points us toward the simplicity that lies on the other side of our confusions and illusions.

Here’s a beautiful poem in which she says that she is “so distant from the hope of myself” as she wants to be — me too! — but then listens to the trees explain why “It’s simple.”
So I’m going to go out and listen to the trees for a while this afternoon.

When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

(Excerpted from Thirst: Poems. Read the full poem here.)

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