Hints of gladness

Jeff took this photo of me exultant amid the beauty of Muir Woods, May 2003.

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.    Mary Oliver

I had already begun putting this post together when I looked for a link to include with Mary Oliver’s name. That was how I found out she had just died. I gasped aloud, feeling suddenly the deep sadness shared by countless others whose hearts were touched and reassured by Oliver’s work. I have already featured many quotes from her poems in this blog. When I chose this one for today, I had no idea she had so recently left this world.

There were all sorts of things I could have shared about trees in this post, but really, what more needs to be said than what Oliver put into words in this remarkable poem? May your life be filled with such hints of gladness, there for you when you need them most.


  1. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia and Matt. I can only look at the beauty that Mary Oliver describes from the warm comfort of our cottage. At 7:00 AM the full moon that had caused so much excitement and anticipation just seven hours earlier, was slipping quietly into the marsh grasses of the Inlet behind our house! I am anxious to read more of her writings, as I love her description of nature and life! Thank you for another fine introduction, my friend! ♥️

    • Sheila, I’m so happy to have introduced you to Mary Oliver. I first read her work about 15 years ago — at least, that’s the first time I made note of who she was and how much I liked her writing — and have enjoyed it ever since. That morning moon sounds lovely! I can attest to the beauty of the moon shining over the marsh grasses, but I’ve never enjoyed being able to see it in the morning. What a great start to any day!

  2. MaryAnn Clontz

    Julia, Thank you for this entrance into your love for trees. Muir Woods beckons me! I am among God’s Beauty there & am filled with praise for His Creation!
    Sending much love to you & “my” Matt!

    • Mary Ann, when I read this comment I thought “I’ll add that to our list of things for Mary Ann and I to do together, whenever I make it back out to California.” Immediately I had a mental video clip playing, of our excited voices exclaiming over this or that as we strolled those pathways. Then I realized…we wouldn’t need words at all! So my imaginary video shifted to our simply exchanging astounded, joyful smiles. We’d be thinking alike and would not need to disturb the silence! 😀

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        Ah! How marvelous that will be! A bit of Heaven on Earth. Getting myself to your home will accomplish a major goal on my Bucket List. :::EXCITED:::

        • Hi Mary Ann, I’m excited too! I got your email and realized I forgot to ask the most important question: what kind of TEA or Coffee do you prefer? 😀 Looking forward to April with you, and so is Matt! ❤

          • MaryAnn Clontz

            My favorite tea is Good Earth Sweet & Spicy, 2nd is Bigelow Lemon Lift (I will drink the lemon you like). I add milk, NO sugar. I have not acquired your broad spectrum of tea flavors. I do not drink coffee. Very funny story to tell about Paul insisting I taste his coffee at The Cliff House in San Francisco.
            Hugs & love!

            • Mary Ann, will you use skim milk or do I need to get some whole milk or 2% to have on hand? I’m with you on the Good Earth tea. Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice is quite similar. On the Good Earth tea, do you use the black tea version with caffeine, or the caffeine-free one? This is going to be fun. 🙂

  3. raynard

    Julia your post reminded me of a” trip down memory lane. I would be home in Brooklyn NY. Walking down Bedford Avenue toward Eastern Parkway. ( only two blocks away). If it was springtime, you would see all the trees lining the parkway. Ask you ventured further down toward Grand Army Plaza, you would stop by The Brooklyn Museum. A short distance away you would “take the scenic route through Prospect Park or walk down Flatbush Avenue toward the entrance to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. By the way, the last grade school my sisters and I attended P.S 130 was so close ” it seems like”every field trip our class would wind up there. Would love to go back to D.C in the springtime to see the Cherry Blossoms but not driving may be” one of those cheap dollar buses. It was so cold today,” the dog on the side of the Greyhound Buses was riding in the back next to the Groundhog” hogging up the free wi-fi. I digress

    • Raynard, I thoroughly enjoyed strolling through Brooklyn this morning, thanks for the tour. The scene you described was just slightly west of where I was in 1974 when I visited my friend in East New York, Brooklyn. Who knows, we could have passed each other on the street. I can’t remember the number of the P.S. where she taught, but it was probably fairly close to yours. Then your mention of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens was so intriguing that I did an image search of photos taken there, and WOW — now we have another thing to put on the Cannonball Run schedule. Maybe Susan, Matt and I can meet you and Mary there. I had read those gardens were stunning but I didn’t realize they were good enough to merit a special trip!

  4. Ann

    I love Mary Oliver’s poems. Here is one of my favorites.

    I Worried

    I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
    flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
    as it was taught, and if not how shall
    I correct it?

    Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
    can I do better?

    Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
    can do it and I am, well,

    Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
    am I going to get rheumatism,
    lockjaw, dementia?

    Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
    And gave it up. And took my old body
    and went out into the morning
    and sang.

    Mary Oliver

    • Ann, thanks so much for sharing this poem – I had never seen it before, and I love it! It reminds me so much of myself, and I think there are many, many others who probably feel that way and will enjoy seeing it here, if they happen to reach this part of the page. There is so much more of her work that I’ve never read. Predictably, all her poetry books in the library now have huge wait lists (I only own one book by her) but I’ll enjoy them when I can. Meanwhile, I appreciate you sharing this one with us.

  5. Good morning, Julia! Thank you for sharing “hints of gladness,” which are so pleasant, despite the daily news, and whatever else is going on. The trees don’t worry about so many things, which is possibly why a walk in the woods leaves me feeling that I’ve been in the presence of great (and sometimes ancient) wisdom. But even young trees quiver with hints of gladness, so there must really be something to it! 😀
    Have you ever tried to pick a “favorite tree?” Even in just my yard, I have several favorites: two over-grown male mulberry trees, a birch, the plum, some kind of evergreen (I will have to look that one up), Chinese elm, and oak. Then I planted two sugar maples ….
    All different, all amazing.

    • Oh, my, picking any kind of favorite anything has always been difficult to impossible for me– and trees are no exception. As you say, all different, all amazing. I love the tall pines and magnificent, giant Southern Magnolia, trees that graced our yard during my childhood. I love all the evergreens that keep the landscape from being too desolate in the winter. I love the massive oaks, and the maples which turn such splendid colors in the fall. I love the willows and mimosas that some people hate because they can be messy and invasive. And I have a special place in my heart for any kind of flowering tree, especially the dogwoods (also a fixture of my childhood, and now at my York home) the cherry trees, and the crape myrtles that are trained as trees and reach impressive size. Does your mulberry tree flower? Our northern California home had a lovely willow tree that gave much-needed shade to the bay window in our kitchen, keeping that room from getting unbearably hot in the summer. My landlady announced her intention to remove it because she feared it size was beginning to threaten the foundation of the home. But after I begged for a stay of execution, she agreed to leave it there until we moved away. 🙂

      • Yay! I love that you saved a tree’s life, even if it was a temporary reprieve.
        I actually have several small female mulberry trees, and two huge male trees. Yes, the females flower, but it’s so non-decorative that I usually don’t even notice when it happens. I’m in it for the berries! 😀
        Have you had mulberries? They aren’t as flavorful as raspberries or blackberries, which they resemble, slightly. They’re more subtle, and if I use them in wine or jam, I add other berries, honey, or spices.
        The turkeys seems to love the berries, too, and I think they remember where they are … a small group (flock?) will come strolling up the driveway and snack on their way through, pretty much daily, during the season.

        • You know, I don’t believe I’ve ever had mulberries, at least not that I know of. I may have had mulberry-flavored teas or other things. I looked it up and according to the (NOT infallible) info I found online, a group of turkeys is indeed called a flock, but not so for seagulls, who are called a colony. I wonder what a group of blog readers or writers are called? Suggestions welcome! You are lucky to have wild turkeys. I think. I don’t honestly know whether they would be better than, say, squirrels, which some people detest. I love almost all critters, although I draw the line at cockroaches, rats, and most snakes.

          • My experience had been that turkeys are too wild to hang around and cause damage, for which squirrels and chipmunks are known. They are not like geese, which hold their ground and hiss when confronted. Turkeys walk rather quickly away, if they see me (or maybe it’s my camera! LOL).

            • Susan, I can only remember one encounter with wild turkeys, and that confirms your description of them. Like you, I couldn’t tell if it was me or the camera they objected to, but they promptly turned their backs on me and made themselves scarce!

  6. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. It’s cold and sunny here, contemplating walking Jack. Neither one of us is very excited about it! I read the three related posts and they were just as good to read as the first time. The time frame now and the comments changed them up a bit, laced with some sadness! You’ve been through so much. I admire you, more than you can imagine. 💛

    • Sheila, I can remember times when Pasha excitedly ran to the door for our walk, took one step out, and then turned around wanting to come back inside! I can imagine Jack is none too pleased with the temperatures. I’m glad you enjoyed the linked posts. WordPress software “chooses” those three related posts — I have absolutely no control over which it selects, and have no way of removing them. Sometimes I’m not sure which connection it makes, but I do really like that they do that. They didn’t do that in the early years of this blog, as you may remember. But now, with well over 1000 posts (I think it’s around 1075 now) I often see references to posts that even I don’t remember! So it’s a nice feature, I think. Thanks for your kind thoughts. I’m muddling along, some days better than others.

  7. Susan

    Julia, another friend who is also a fan of Mary Oliver has been posting about her, so between the two of you I was prompted to reserve a book of her poetry from the library 🙂 .

    • Good! Something tells me you’ll like her. That’s not really going out on a limb, though…so many people do. She was famously silent about her past for most of her life, but something I read recently (a few months ago) briefly discussed her childhood and her survival of abuse. I enjoyed reading her own thoughts on finding a new life and a new self-image after the death of her lifelong partner. Even when she was not writing poetry, her words always felt therapeutic for me. Sort of like a more introverted Maya Angelou, I guess.

  8. Hello Julia
    Good to read your posts again.

    • Thank you, Merry. It’s always a joy to see you here.

  9. Harry Sims

    My friends, I want to give you a charm, a good luck charm!

    Oh I forgot you already have it!

    I just finished listening to a wonderful audio book entitled The Man on the Mountain which left the parting salvo which has touched my heart to the point of wanting to share it.

    “Being Nice Is Good Luck”.

    Thank you Anna the prophetess who is to become the Holy Lady.

    Thank you God of my understanding for telling me — “As you give, so shall you receive”.
    And thank you for telling me — “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
    And thank you AA for telling me — “You have to give it away to keep it”.

    I’m Harry, devoted twelve stepper.

    • Thank you Harry. Those us who believe in the law of sowing and reaping (or karma or other words for the same principle) do indeed believe that being nice is good luck. At least we believe it intellectually, though sometimes in our hearts we doubt, when the evildoers seem to prosper and many good people, people we know and love, face cruel hardship. I am starting to believe that the “luck” lies mostly in the incredible blessing of caring about other people, which is a reward in itself, though fraught with potential heartache. The movie Marvin’s Room captured this in a way that has really stuck with me. Love given is never wasted, no matter how much worldly “wisdom” may try to make us feel foolish for having squandered our energy on people who are disregarded by others. Although I’ve always known it to some extent, only now am I fully realizing how lucky Jeff and I were/are to have had Matt as a son.

  10. Sadly, I am not familiar with her… I will add her to my list. So many authors, so little time…

    • Denise, I agree! I finally had to (mostly) stop buying books because I realized that, in all probability, I will not ever read (or read again) all the ones I already have.

  11. Mike

    The Brooklyn Botanical garden mentioned above by brother Raynard is another favorite of mine and Ihave been three times and actually got to meet the president Scott Meldick who is from Seattle and went to horticulture school there. They also have an amazing Bonsai collection on that campus. Seniors get in for 6 bucks so it is an incredible bargain for us on a fixed budget or almost fixed. My son taught in Bay Ridge when he first moved to NYC. I never made it to the Brooklyn museum. Prospect park is also pretty great. Now that Kris is in Manhatten I seem to hang out there. We did walk the Brooklyn Bridge one time which was great. The only set back was going the first time when the female Ginkos were blooming and the flowers put out there vominescent scent which is quite nauseating. I found out this is why most places now only plant the males. I really miss the Little leaf Linden trees in NYC with their wonderful fragrance that reminded me of the PiliKiki ?flowers in Hawaii.

    • Well that settles it. We need to have a Defeat Despair meetup in Brooklyn. After we tour the gardens we can all ride the Staten Island ferry, which is an even more incredible bargain at ZERO bucks (or zero cents for that matter). At least it was free the last time I was there. I bet we could talk Susan into joining us if she’s still at her gig in Massachusetts. Since flights to NYC tend to be fairly cheap we might get some others to come too. New York, anyone?

  12. Mike

    I just sent a pict of a cherry in bloom- Woodstock, Ga.

    • Thanks! As you know, I got the photo. I’m hoping that’s an Okame cherry. They bloom early.

  13. Mike

    I am not sure it is a Okame as the one I saw has a single bloom and Okames are doubles.?
    Never been on the Staten Island ferry. We have also though about taking the train uup to NYC from Atlanta.

    • I have an old article from Southern Living that says Kwanzans are doubles but Okames are singles. This online article says the same, and features a closeup of the single blooms. But the Okame blooms so profusely that I think from a distance it looks like double flowers. If you haven’t taken the Staten Island Ferry, that’s a must! It’s great fun and features some fabulous views of the Statue of Liberty. The photo I used in this post is one I took from the ferry. No kidding I think we need to plan a get together with Raynard, Susan and anybody else who wants to come to Brooklyn or Manhattan for a visit. There’s truly something for everyone there.

  14. Mike

    I think they could be OKames-with two little single blooms on each stem, so they look pretty dense from a distance.
    Never been in a storm like the one last night here in Woodstock. Lightning all night and it actually woke us up like at 4am. After midnight it seemed really close. The house actually rattled and shook. I don’t know how much rain came down. The Etowah river is now at Crest stage. There is still a flash flood warning going on at this time. Thanks for the article.

    • Mike, Matt and I spent many hours at the Atlanta airport on Tuesday, and I thought we might never get out of there. People were everywhere as so many flights were delayed. It sounds as if the storm went on for some time and even got worse. Let’s be thankful it’s over! Until the next one, that is…

  15. Mike Bertoglio

    Definitely Okames and there are tons in bloom right now in the midst of this apocolyptic storm. I will have to look for the bark color changes.

    • I am getting anxious to get my Okame and Kwanzan trees planted, but the landscapers are not starting anything yet.

  16. Mike Bertoglio

    At the Universtiy of Washington Quad as it is called in front of the Suzallo library- one of my favorite places in the world- is a stand of some 50 or 60 Yoshino cherries- also beautiful harbingers of spring. About ten years ago the cherries began to age out-life span of around 80 years. So t hey have started replacing them -working with folks from Osaka- a center for the Yoshinos. A beautiful place in Seattle when in bloom and they give off a ,”hint of gladness.”
    Have you been to Rome, Ga. ? I may go to a conference there next week.

    • Mike, many MANY years ago not too long after my Daddy first checked out as captain at Eastern Airlines— I believe it was on a Convair — my younger brother and I rode as passengers on a turnaround flight with him, just because we wanted to fly (it used to be such a thrill to look down on the clouds). The flight was from ATL to Rome, Georgia. The flight attendant let me play “stewardess” and take the passengers’ drink orders and then serve them. My, how things have changed; they could never get away with that now. But it was a wonderful day with Daddy that my brother and I will never forget. We didn’t have time to get off the plane, so all I saw of Rome was the airport, until many years later when I went to some sort of program (I’ve forgotten now what it was) at Shorter College– now Shorter University– when I was in high school. I hardly remember anything about it. I bet Rome is way, way bigger now than it was then. Sometime when I’m in Atlanta I should rent a car and drive around my home state. There is still so much of it that I’ve never seen.

  17. Mike Bertoglio

    There is also the Bronx Botanical garden which I have not been too and the Conservatory garden at Central park which is only a couple of blocks from my son’s place in Spanish Harlem off Lexington close to the Harlem Meer. The conservatory garden is where the famous statue is of the three maidens?? Much photographed- Beloved, in a little pond area at the center of the Conservatory garden there.

    • Yes, I photographed it myself, and featured it in this post! I love Central Park and pretty much all of the New York metro area, though I’ve never been to the Bronx as far as I can remember. As with any place, there are good things and bad about it. But if I loved it in the mid-1970’s when it was at its worst in terms of crime, I probably always will love it.

  18. Mike Bertoglio

    I forget the name of that fountain ,about three blocks from Kris’s place on Lexington. “Maidens at play? There is always someone photographing it. Did you also get a pict of the Duke Ellington memorial statue close to it-also in the park?
    I go to Rome next Friday. It is like th original a City of seven hills. Apparently in the 30’s Mussolini sent a sculpture to Rome as a gift from Italy. Then in the late 30’s when anti- Italian sentiment rose they took the sculpture down and hid it in a basement. Bu now it is supposed to be back and I hope to get a pict of it. Is it the Remus -wolf statue? Something to do with Wolves.
    Gibbs was pretty spectacular and they have planted sequential bloomers, starting with the Daffodils. There were also some small Irises up also. Next up are Hyacinth and then towards the end-the Crape Myrtles. They have some beautiful specimens there of Myrtles, some of which must be around 30 feet tall. There is something blooming each month and of course I want to see the Monet waterlilly garden-but not till July.

    • I don’t remember seeing the Duke Ellington statue, although I’d like to see it. Grady just played Duke Ellington in his school’s black history month program. WOW, a trip to Rome Italy, or Rome Georgia? I just now got a look at the photos you sent of Gibbs – WOW, wish I was there! I didn’t realize it was gorgeous year round. I thought it was only daffodils. Wait til those crape myrtles are in bloom. And the water lilies should be fabulous too.

  19. Mike Bertoglio

    Did I mention Gibbs garden has a different bloom planting for each month starting now with the Daffodil varietals? Next up are the Hyacinths and i think Tulips. I hope to see the water Lilly Monet garden-but not till July.

    • That is so cool that they have different blooms. The very old Southern Living article that I still have did not mention anything but daffodils. I guess they figured they should move on to other seasons– a great idea. I wonder if Keukenhof has anything besides tulips? I doubt it because I think they are only open a couple of months per year, unless things have changed. It’s hard to believe it was 12 years ago this month that I went there.

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