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I have been slowly digesting the delicious words of Mary Oliver’s Selected Poems. Her work comes recommended by several of my closest companions along life’s pathway. Today I have come upon a piece of work entitled “Mindful” that reflects my own interaction with the world.

When I was a little girl, I found myself often wandering away from the large crowds. Off into the little patch of “wilderness” I would go, into the small wooded area found in the park and the middle school behind my childhood home. There I would have respite from the nine plus people living in our house, and there I would find the Divine.

Photo by Theological Zombie – All rights reserved.

In the swimming tadpoles making their way down the little creek bed, in the dance of the scampering chipmunks as they stored their nuts and seeds for the winter, in the open wing of the robin and the hawk as they dove this way and that above my head – there, I would encounter my Beloved. Although remembering such times brings up memories that are perhaps less than pleasant, the experiences I had in these “wilderness times” were precious and life-giving. Remembering these things helps me remember what it is that once fueled my passion for ministry and comforting others. This causes a light, that has been dimming for some time now, to grow brighter once more.

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” – These promises that came through Isaiah have been interpreted as speaking of the Christ child. Today, however, I am thinking of them in a different way. The child within has the antidote of peace.

Our memories are often at war with one another. Some, like a wolf, threaten to devour us whole, eating us from the inside out. Others, like a leopard, are quick to dart away and vicious when hungry or feeling cornered. The parts of us that are joyful and life-giving, like the lambs and the kids, are often chased into the recesses of our inner beings. We spend so much of our energy trying to keep the wolf and the leopard at bay that we forget to feed the lamb and the kid. In the process, we forget who we were created to be. The zombie virus of frantic activity and fear spreads through our veins causing us to loose sight of the delight that our Beloved has always had in us.

What is it, dear ones, that brings you joy? What caused your heart to leap like a young calf birthed in a stall when you were younger? Does that have an impact on what you are currently doing?

When we meditate on such things, dear ones, the child within begins to stir. The inner child that has been sleeping with a fever through the onslaught of the zombie virus hears the calling of the Christ who, from the beginning, has been stroking their hair whispering “Little one, arise.”

…It is what I was born for –

      to look, to listen,

to loose myself

   inside this soft world –

      to instruct myself

         over and over

in joy

   and acclamation…

Excerpt from “Mindful” by Mary Oliver.  Found on page 90 in New and Selected Poems, Volume Two. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005.

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