An Easter Journey


is the instructor.
We need no other.
Guess what I am,
he says in his
incomparably lovely
young-man voice.
Because I love the world,
I think of grass,
I think of leaves
and the bold sun,
I think of the rushes
in the black marshes
just coming back
from under the pure white
and now finally melting
stubs of snow.
Whatever we know or don’t know
leads us to say;
Teacher, what do you mean?
But faith is still there, and silent.
Then he who owns
the incomparable voice
suddenly flows upward
and out of the room
and I follow,
obedient and happy.
Of course I am thinking
the Lord was once young
and will never in fact be old.
And who else could this be, who goes off
down the green path
carrying his sandals, and singing?


                                          “Spring” ~ by Mary Oliver


As always, comments are welcome.

90 thoughts on “An Easter Journey

    1. That road is a familiar favorite, too; it passes the El Capote ranch west of Monthalia. It’s lightly traveled and peaceful, and if only they can get some rain, it will be wonderfully flowered later this year.

        1. That’s interesting. When I went down the road behind the highway monument to the marker at the spot of the ‘first shot’ on April 10, there were flowers in bloom: larkspur, gaillardia, and a couple that I haven’t identified yet.

    1. Jack! How wonderful to see you. Here are some traditional wildflowers for you from last weekend, along with every good wish for a happy spring season.

      I’m particularly interested in the history of the El Capote ranch. Dr. Ferdinand Roemer, the German geologist, stayed there for a time during his travels through Texas in 1845-1847. His journal has been republished by Copano Bay Press, and I’ve been working my way through it as I travel the same territory.

      1. I looked at the wildflower photos! Just so beautiful. I’ll have to look up Roemer. You have his book in one hand, camera in the other. I like doing that as well. Best wishes to you this spring season. Your posts are so beautiful and informative. I look forward to them.

  1. Greetings. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve become aware of Mary Oliver. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of poetry, but I like some poems, such as the one you’ve presented, quite a lot.

    1. Mary Oliver’s been criticized in some quarter for being simplistic and unsophisticated, not to mention being too focused on nature, but the simplicity and straightforwardness of her poems appeal to me. I keep looking for a touch of pretension in her poems, but I haven’t found it yet.

    1. A happy Easter to you, Gerard. It’s Easter Day there now, though we have a few hours yet to wait. It’s been a gray and dampish day, and very quiet: a nice respite from the winds we’ve had, and peaceful in a way that suits the season.

    1. And yet one that creatively suggests lovely, non-stereotypical Easter possibilities as well as pointing to the beauties of the natural world: typically Oliver.

  2. Hello again! We’ve both admired your winding path photo Linda.. it’s lovely, as is the Mary Oliver poem. I confess to being envious that for you Easter is in spring with all the beauty that season brings! For us we have plenty of colour but it’s a process of dying and new life won’t spring forth for many months, and there’s a winter to endure first. I’m very aware that our contexts for the celebration of Easter are vastly different. I talked about this with Nigel while we were driving a few days ago and he asked me if I was going to do a post about it! but nah.. I’ll content myself with a natter to you here in the comments.

    1. Well, it’s a natter I recogize. For me, Christmas means cold and snow: period. You can imagine the adjustment that was necessary when I moved to Liberia, and realized that Christmas was going to be hot and green, with palm trees rather than firs or spruce. By my second Christmas there, I’d adjusted a bit, but it still felt wrong.

      That’s not quite the situation you describe, but it certainly is related. You’ve reminded me of this saying — “In the midst of death we are in life” — and its reversal. You might enjoy this article.

      1. I enjoyed the article and I’ve saved it for future reference too. I’m sure I’ll want to read it again. Growing up evangelical I’ve little understanding of the mainline church observances such as Lent so I struggle a bit with that but am slowly learning a little! Q for you: I’ve no idea what the writer is referring to by “the older manuals of spiritual direction”. I’d love to know what your understanding of this is. Thanks Linda!

          1. That’s so kind of you Linda! I found a couple of online things that are promising (but I haven’t read thru yet); whatever you may have for me would be very much appreciated!

  3. “Carrying his sandals and singing.” That’s the God that made the giraffe and the platypus and flying fish. People take religion entirely too seriously. I sometimes think if the historical Jesus, the Jesus who actually walked the earth, just walked into the middle of some church service somewhere, like the deep South, or the Midwest, what their reaction would be. He wouldn’t look anything like his pictures . . . .

    1. You’ve reminded me of a paragraph from Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm that brought a certain amused recognition when first I read it:

      “The higher Christian churches…come at God with an unwarranted air of professionalism, with authority and pomp, as though they knew what they were doing, as though people in themselves were an appropriate set of creatures to have dealings with God. I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten the danger. If God were to blast such a congregation to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it any minute.”

    1. The whole length of that road can be wonderful. There’s an ever-changing palette of floral color, with differences appearing even from early to late spring. In summer, there usually are black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and such. This trip I found primarily the flowers shown in this photo: white Old Plainsman, phlox of various colors, and butterweed. I’m hoping rain will encourage the daisies and gaillardia I’ve found there in the past.

    1. It’s a nice one, isn’t it? I do appreciate Mary Oliver’s poetry, and I was pleased to have this photo to pair with the poem. I’m hoping to travel this road again before high summer; whether or not that happens, this will be a wonderful memory.

    1. Thanks, Cheri. I do love open roads and open-road photos and paintings, and this is a fine one — not unlike some of those that you’ve shown from your part of the country.

  4. Lovely thoughts by a talented poet. I do imagine Easter services at most of our churches would be improved upon if more people recognized and appreciated why we’re there, Who we came to worship, and focused less on who’s wearing what, ha! Happy Easter, my friend!

    1. On the other hand, those of us of a certain age do remember the straw hats and white gloves of Easter, not to mention the pastel dresses. Of course, we weren’t competing with anyone; we were just enjoying the fancy clothes. They were almost as much fun as the egg hunts and as tasty as the chocolate bunnies. I’m not sure any of us could have gotten away with carrying our shoes in our hands, though; it might have been better if we had!

      Happy Easter, Debbie — I hope your day was a good one.

  5. I love the last line, about going off down the green path, carrying sandals and singing – I imagine walking though the wildflowers in your photograph at the beginning of your post.

    1. Isn’t that line wonderfully evocative? The best walk through wildflowers on this trip was through a bluebonnet field rather than down a road; not only was the fragrance delightful, a certain yet-to-be-shown discovery was even moreso. Still, this is one of my favorite roads, and one I’ve traveled often.

  6. Perfect. I love these lines :” incomparably lovely
    young-man voice” because that’s how it would have been. My daughter and I often jest about the manly man or the manly voice ( I am addicted to deep male voices when it comes to singing) but the most popular ( as in pop) voices belong to men in their late 20s and early 30s. There is something incomparably lovely about a young-man voice, even for a baritone or basso profundo lover like me.

    1. Perhaps Mary Oliver shares your love of ‘that certain voice.’ It certainly would seem so from this poem. Thinking about male voices always brings to mind The King’s Singers. They’re one of my favorites for the Christmas season, but they can do so much more — like this.

        1. I remember that. At one time, another one of my friends who lives in England had a nephew (?) or other family member of friend who was in the group; he sang with her husband at one point. The world of choral music can be a small one!

          1. It seems so. And although NZ is mainly known internationally for its rugby players we do have a surprising number of singers working internationally.

  7. A perfect blending of image and words to describe the message of Hope and Love at Easter.

    Your comment about Mary Oliver’s critics finding her work “simplistic and unsophisticated” explains why I like her poetry so much! Those are my two best qualities.

    And now, more coffee to go with a brunch of leftover ham and deviled eggs.

    A new week awaits!

    1. Once I made myself sit down and get the taxes done, I had to hunker down for a whole week of deadline-mandated work: no journeys down wildflower-bedecked roads this week. No matter. Being able to work while watching a starling build a nest atop a piling may be simple pleasure, but it’s a pleasure nonetheless. On the other hand, those are sophisticated birds. They’ve learned that where the cone-shaped toppers for pilings have been tipped a bit to the side, they can get under them and build their nests out of the wind and rain. Clever birdies!

    1. I’ve always liked this poem: so much so that I posted it once before. It’s filled with the same love and hope as more traditional Easter messages, but there’s that special Mary Oliver ‘something’ that seems to appeal to most people.

    1. The phrase “carrying his sandals” always makes me think of the beach. One of the first things I do when I get to the beach is kick off my shoes. Of course, as kids we always were barefoot, but of course I grew up in the land of soft grass and no fire ants; it makes a difference!

    1. I was so pleased to have a photo that suited the poem. Living on the flatlands as I do, hilly roads are in short supply, but this one did beautifully. I’m glad you enjoyed the pairing.

    1. I’m so glad. This has been a hard year and, as you’ve written, a sad Easter. It’s good to pause and remember that sunshine still surrounds us, and a walk with a sweet companion still is possible. Happy spring!

  8. I love that photo. It’s the kind of view that makes you want to down tools and amble off down the road to see what you could see.

    1. Every now and then I liken myself to the bear who went over the mountain; I love just wandering off to see what I can see. There may come a day when there’s nothing to see, but I’ve yet to experience one, and I sort of doubt those days exist. This road has it all: curves, height, hills, and flowers. Let’s go!

  9. “the Lord was once young and will never in fact be old.”

    My mother once read that when you die you’ll be age 33 in heaven, because of this very idea. She rather liked the supposition and the older I get so do I! Hope your Easter was pleasant.

    1. I’ve heard sayings about always being young in heaven, but never one with such specificity. Clearly, someone had a direct line to the Tree of the Knowledge of Maybe/Maybe Not! Personally, I’d prefer 55 for my eternal age; wouldn’t it be great if we got to choose?

      Easter was lovely. We could have stood a little rain in our basket, but the traditional treats were just fine.

    1. Thank you so much! My time sense is so skewed these days, I didn’t quite realize how much time has passed since Easter. We have even nicer flowers now, which should have been a clue — I need to stop running around looking at flowers and do some new writing!

  10. Wonderful celebration of spring, this Mary Oliver poem. And her words, so very lovely. Thanks for sharing Mary Oliver, Linda, and how beautifully your exquisite photo is that accompanies it.

    1. Easter certainly is in the rearview mirror now, but the poem’s still an appropriate one; I’m glad you enjoyed it. Our spring flowers have been lovely, but we’re moving into summer now — it’s time for more writing, and different flowers, with all of the new insects and birds that come with them!

  11. I know I am terribly late getting to this post, but in part it was intentional. I was too wrapped up in my own “Easter Journey” this year that I wanted to savor the time reading this. Mary Oliver is a favorite because her prose is simply stated and to the point. That is how I view nature most of the time. Anne Dillard’s prose is a favorite too, for that very reason.

    1. Well, and look at me: late getting to my comments all the way around. This past week’s not been pleasant, primarily because of the heat. I suspect you know something about that! It can sap psychic energy as well as physical energy, that’s for sure.

      Like you, I love Mary Oliver because of her straightforward way of living with the natural world. She takes the world on its own terms, and doesn’t attempt to cram it into our human categories. Thought is good, and analysis is good, but analyzing a sunrise or a mockingbird’s song isn’t always the best response! I’d rather observe and appreciate, and let simple curiosity be my guide.

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