Whoever you are

Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on…

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.    Mary Oliver

I’ve said it here many times before, but I don’t think life is easy for anyone. Some people have it much harder than others, but all of us have times when we feel loneliness and despair. Oliver’s poem, of which only an excerpt appears above, speaks to me because of the immense and inexplicable solace I find in the natural world. The earth and skies and seas, and all the creatures who are at home in these various spaces, are at once humbling and reassuring. Each of us plays a unique part in a much, much larger story, and all of us belong.


  1. Good morning, Julia! I like that: we have a place “in the family of things.”
    While “things” may sound impersonal or dehumanizing to some, it reminds me that there is so much variety in the world that there could barely be a better world to encompass it all. Even “an idea” is something, although not something that we can touch with our hands.
    And yes! We are a part of it all.

    • Yes, I first wondered myself whether “things” sounded too non-human, but there’s not really a word that encompasses all the aspects of creation. Plus, each person plays different roles – mother, sister, friend, employee or employer, to name just a few — and each of these roles could be considered just one “thing” demanding attention at any given time. That’s just one example of how “things” can be animate. Words are symbols, and imprecise ones at best. Sometimes the general terms are about as good as we can expect. It reminds me of my friend Renee who says, by way of encouragement not to give up when things in my life are rough, “Girl, you have some stuff going on!” and I know exactly what she means by “stuff” – it’s like shorthand! 🙂

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        Great comment & response!!!

        • Thank you, Mary Ann. 🙂

  2. Amy Hill

    One of the biggest reasons I don’t like living in NOVA is the fast pace of everything and I tend to be so very slow. I walk slow, I shop slow, I think slow. I miss a town and community where things and people don’t seem to be in such a hurry all the time. Where people aren’t angry all the time. Stephen is very happy here and since I live my life as a “trophy wife” I can’t just up and move away but we do live in the woods where I can ALMOST shut out the noise of traffic, and I see deer and foxes and turtles and birds. Prince William Forest Park is right in my backyard so I can have quiet get away time there and I take advantage of that whenever I can. (though lots of other people do to) I get to have that sense of solace you are talking about more often than many and I find I need it often these days in a world that went and “got itself in a big damn hurry” There is so much beauty everywhere I don’t know why everyone is in such a hurry all the time.

    • I’m quite a slowpoke myself, going all the way back to childhood. In college when I was pledging a sorority and had all these “major duties” and “minor duties” and impatient members of our brother fraternity wanting waitress service at dinner, I made a lot of people mad because I was seen as not taking it seriously enough. Some people complained about it but I never got kicked out and somehow made it through to initiation. Now I look back on all the club rituals as grandiose silliness at best and misspent time at worst. BUT I did meet Jeff along the way, so it wasn’t a total loss. 🙂 I have come to see busyness and rushing as a form of greed. We want to cram as much as we can into every minute, and we are surrounded by nonstop entertainment that sucks our time away leaving us work that’s undone and usually has to be hurried along.

  3. So true, Julia.
    Loss is a reality experienced by all God’s creatures. However, although time heals all wounds, loss is impossible to forget for we humans because of our capacity to love.

    • Thank you, Alan. I keep hoping and praying that such losses, for me and all creation, are all going to be redeemed, if not in this life, then in the next. I have no idea what form that redemption may take, but I’m greatly relieved that it’s not up to me to figure that out! 🙂

      • All will be redeemed Julia. All that befalls us here has already been born and redeemed by Christ on the cross. Therein is our hope well placed. Justice not satisfied in this world will be satisfied in the next. Otherwise, purpose is then rendered absurd.

  4. Oliver is a fine poet and her insights are at times luminescent to me…thanks for those few lines, I must re-open more of her collections. And yes, we all suffer. Strange how we think otherwise. I read Rilke for solace as well, among others. And Muriel Rukeyser, Theodore Roethke, Joy Harjo, many, many more–I should do a post on poetry I love! Find Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet” and Ann Porter’s “Music”–I keep these on my frig along with Oliver’s “Maker of All Things, Even Healings” and a couple of Rumi’s. My best to you and yours.

    • Hi Cynthia, thanks for being here, and for your good wishes. Yes, Mary Oliver’s work is wonderful. I will explore the poets you mention, as well; I’m vaguely familiar with Roethke, but I’d like to know more. I discovered a short volume of Neruda’s work in a book from a “Little Free Library” someone created at Walter Reed. I read through it and decided to leave it for others to enjoy, but not before copying a few lines which I posted here in a blog at some point. I appreciate your sharing the literary wealth– your own work, and that of others. Be sure to let me know if you write a post on poetry. We can share the link to it here.

      • I will let you know–and thank you for that offer! (I also write my own poetry every Friday.)

        • I’ll try to check in next week (or look back to past Fridays). I love poetry.

  5. Life hands us joy, sorrow, pain, change, and many other challenges. You are accurate in saying time lets us move on. Occurrences change us in many ways, some for the better and some for the worst. If we keep our faith and believe everything happens for a reason we make it through and are able to move on, I have always believed, things happen for a reason and the Lord will never give me more than I can handle. A helping hand, a smile, a hug, all count. You never know how many people’s heart you touch with a simple gesture. It all counts. Hugs to you Julia, a lovely post. xo

    • Hi Patricia, I am always so happy to see you here! I hope everything is wonderful in your world– or at least interesting! 🙂 Yes, I agree with you– it all counts. It adds up in ways we can never see or imagine. Hey that’s a great quote for a motivational piece of art — IT ALL COUNTS. If I ever learn to do collage and work that into a print I’ll be sure to give you credit! 😀 Thanks for being here.

  6. The Earth, as our mother will always find ways to give comfort. You are so right that we are all suffering in some way and we are all part of everything. What a beautiful poem. Even those that appear to have no suffering are just hiding it better. Thanks for sharing this.

    • You’re welcome, Marlene. I’m so glad you like it.

  7. Sheila

    Good Sunday morning, Julia. Not only is the poem so fitting, but the comments and replies were worth reading again. I’ve been in situations of celebrations and gaiety and felt rather out of place emotionally. I use the word “veneer” sometimes, because I think there are so many people and even things that have become just that! “Pile on the layers and hide inside, so real will no longer be known”…. The World. Love to you and Matt, Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, it’s always a blessing to hear from you. Yes, I think much of what passes for social interaction, even in “real time” face to face contact, is rather superficial. I think blogging and other forms of more in-depth online contact are popular for that reason; perhaps it’s my imagination, but it seems to me as if people feel less pressure to be perfect in these type settings than in person or even on Facebook. Then, too, we never feel “caught off guard” because we can take as much time as we need to digest what someone just told us, or to answer a question without resorting to a rote phrase. Removing some of the visual and even the auditory aspects of conversation can allow more concentration on the actual substance of what is said, at least for those of us who are particularly easy to distract. I think it’s nice to have a variety of ways to interact, without too much of any one kind. Having said all that, I’d love it if some of our virtual Verandah time could be face-to-face. Right now I’m sipping herbal– Celestial Seasonings’ True Blueberry. Want some? 🙂

      • Sheila

        You know I do! 💛 I’ll cross the miles with my virtual “GPS” and be on that Verandah before you can say, “diddly-squat”! We spent very little time outside this weekend, as the mosquitoes seemed to be having their last hurrah! Usually the sea breeze will keep them away! Really feels like end of the summer here in Garden City, by the number of tourists but not the temperatures. I hope y’all have a good week, as we are quickly approaching another Verandah. Don’t peek! 🙈Love, Sheila

        • Sheila, I haven’t peeked yet, though I’ve been tempted! We don’t have any crowds as a reliable gauge, but if not for the falling leaves, I might not know it was autumn. The temperatures surely wouldn’t give it away. But I keep reminding myself that just a few weeks from now I’ll be longing for the warmth. My mug is empty…I’d better put the kettle on! “Set a spell” and let’s chat…

  8. Harry Sims

    🙂 Good morning, good morning! 🙂
    A wee bit of anonymity is a precious thing.
    That’s the sense of giving something away with no expectation of recompense.

    • Thank you, Harry. I agree that anonymity is precious. I cannot imagine it would mess life up if one could not go anywhere without being recognized yet not really known– only assumed to be known. I never thought before about the connection between anonymity and giving, but I think you are right. In an anonymous context, a gift can be well and truly free.

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