In Blackwater Woods

My therapist used to quote this poem to me in response to some of the work we were doing a few years ago. And lately its perennial relevance to my life is revealing itself yet again. So, here’s a oldie but a goodie….

In Blackwater Woods …. by Mary Oliver

Look the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends upon it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


3 thoughts on “In Blackwater Woods

  1. I read this poem in this context.

    Somewhere, on the edge that divides grief and beauty, grace arrives on a bolt of lightning. Only when I have completely given myself over to loss, when I have finally let go and leaned into it like an undertow tugging on my heels, calling me out to an eternal, shoreless ocean, have I felt its beneficence singe the edges of my wounds so cleanly that I snap to attention and wake suddenly to awe where there once was fear.

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