Thursday, March 15, 2007


The Uses of Sorrow

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.

Mary Oliver

I received Mary Oliver's latest book, Thirst, from Amazon yesterday. This volume of forty-three new poems is a moving collection of verse expressing the poet's emotions and search for a meaningful faith following the death of her partner. She seeks solace in nature and in a new spiritual path. In the epilogue she writes a brief paragraph with the same title as the book.

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons...

It is often difficult to share thoughts with people who have suffered loss and have not yet seen the "gift of darkness". At times we may bury grief deep within and find ourselves unable to express our deepest feelings. Mary Oliver's search for the meaning is very moving and personal. These are the type of verses that can be shared with those going through difficult stages of life.

I took the picture above on the way home from work yesterday. The rain and fog had closed in and the bright sunlight of the previous day was just a memory. Our lives are like that too, seasons of sun, rain, fog and darkness. Fog and darkness may obscure the road ahead, but in faith we move ahead one step at a time.


  1. Good analogy. I've seen so many Mary Oliver writings that strike me that I think I'll order her book. Nice post, Ruth.

  2. Seeing the gift in the darkness... so very necessary to appreciate the light.

  3. This is a very moving and thought provoking post Ruth. Thank you-

  4. What an apt metaphor for a life in faith--fog & rain may obscure the road ahead, but it IS there.
    I too love Mary Oliver's poetry. She writes so simply, capturing in ordinary things such power.

  5. So many people fear the darkness that is a natural, I think, part of the grieving process. We're made to believe that we shouldn't feel it or show it to those that care about us. But, I think by sharing poetic words, like M. Oliver's, we can make it easier for people to share and to heal.

    Nice post.

  6. Thank you, Ruth! Fog is beautiful, in its own way. This morning on my way to work I saw beautiful fog on the marsh as I crossed a bridge.

    Fog also gives us a reason to slow down our fast-paced lives.

    I'm going to look for Mary Oliver's books. The poetry is wonderful!

  7. Mary- Her writings are simple, honest and beautifully crafted. I got her books from the library first.

    Jayne- You are so right. Light is more precious after the night.

    Lynne- Thanks too. I found the simple four lined verse to be very profound.

    KGMom- I remembered you were a fan of Mary Oliver. You would like this new volume.

    Laura- We all tend to fear darkness and the unknown. Reading poetry like this can help us identify our fears and longings and enable us to "share and heal" like you said.

    Evelyn- "fog gives us a reason to slow down our fast-paced lives"
    I like that thought!