Mary Monday: on beauty and god

this crab has leopard spots, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

On Friday I shared a favorite poem, “Pied Beauty”, with friends. It was the first time I’d read it aloud since college and I’d forgotten the spell of Hopkins’ words:

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

As I traveled this weekend to speak at a conference and spend time with friends (such beautiful souls), I stayed up far too late and awoke early each morning. Despite that, I was rarely exhausted–as I was absorbing the energy of everyone around me, infected with the excitement of hearing their stories. I suspect that my travel-mania and joy in having new adventures is as potent as any drug…

Revisiting my Mary Oliver this morning, the prose poem “West Wind” resonated with me. This weekend I listened to tales of many spiritual journeys. Tales of joy, abandonment, fear, ambivalence, faith and struggle. Some were hard for me to hear as they hit so close to home. Others reminded me that my journey is unique among many paths. And thus, Mary’s words about the pull of an embodied god feel so true this morning…

And the speck of my heart, in my shed of flesh
and bone, began to sing out, the way the sun
would sing if the sun could sing, if light had a
mouth and a tongue, if the sky had a throat, if
god wasn’t just an idea but shoulders and a spine,
gathered from everywhere, even the most distant
planets, blazing up. Where am I? Even the rough
words come to me now, quick as thistles. Who
made your tyrant’s body, your thirst, your delving,
your gladness? Oh tiger, bone-breaker
oh tree on fire! Get away from me. Come closer.

Picture above is the shell of a crab from a ramble on the beach in Cape Cod. I loved how every detail of this shell was so artful–how the closer I got, the more there was to see. And now that I’m home, the pull of the ocean is so strong I can hardly sit in my chair to write…

3 thoughts on “Mary Monday: on beauty and god

  1. Alisa

    Reading these two poems together is intensely powerful. One of the things I came away with this weekend is how different, how unique, the strong women in my life are – and to love that difference and rejoice in it. Very similar to the varieties of nature and accepting them all in their own ways for their part in beauty.

    I have been very moved these last few days and touched by your visit out here. Thank you.

  2. Vajra

    The Hopkins poem always reminds me of this one my John Donne

    BATTER my heart, three person'd God; for, you
    As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
    That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
    Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
    I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due, 5
    Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
    Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
    But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
    Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
    But am betroth'd unto your enemie: 10
    Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
    Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
    Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

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