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Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York, 1957

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Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York, 1957

In doing her work, Mary Oliver creates an integrated spirituality of the ordinary. The nature, spirit and imagination found in Oliver's poetry are very natural and relating to her day-to-day emotional and spiritual experiences. What Oliver does in writing is to make the reader visualize and feel the idiosyncratic beauty of things offered to us by chance. The main focus is on driving pleasure and retaining for lifetime the unusual and remarkable occurrences of our life. She takes a detail and infuses it with greater meaning, makes us inhabit the moment. She takes a great thing and draws it toward the human heart so that the great and the small, the I and the not-I interpenetrate, and confer meaning upon each other, and grant that the space between us is made sacred by the presence of both.

Essay Writing

Mary Oliver, located as she is in the natural world, writes again and again of lives transistorizes, and calls us nonetheless to be present in it for the moment, the sacred, brief time we have in life. She writes about how once in summer she fell asleep after picking blueberries, and a deer stumbled against her:

…I guess
she was so busy with her own happiness
she had grown careless
and was just wandering along

to the wind as she leaned down
to lip up the sweetness.
So, there we were

with nothing between us
but a few leaves, and the wind's
glossy voice
Shouting instructions. 1

In the above phrases it is so apparent that Mary Oliver, on seeing the deer so near her, lost in her own world and obviously very happy and content, desires for that carefree way of life filled with absolute happiness. Childhood is a period in a person's life where worries of the world are far away from us and do not touch us in any way. But, paradoxically, a person when in the childhood phase is not capable of understanding the true bliss of life. It is only in the later years that we realize the happiness of childhood and therefore love to cherish the memories of that period of our lives. The above phrases mention the incident that when the Deer stumbled across the poet she was invariably drawn to that particular period (childhood) of her life.

but the moment before she did that
was so wide and so deep
it has lasted to this day;
I have only to think of her ---

the flower of her amazement
and the stalled breath of her curiosity,
and even the damp touch of her solicitude
before she took flight ---

to be absent again from this world
and alive, again, in another,
for thirty years
sleepy and amazed, 2

Essay Writing

In the above phrases the poet could either be talking to the deer, or to herself. This poem can be used to describe a moment filled up with a timing all its own. And it was a grace so real and unexpected that, because of it, the poet's life was never being the same again. The poet could not have chosen the experience described in the poem even if she had tried. She could only receive it.
Writing in The Poet's Notebook, Stephen Dunn says: "The trouble with most nature poetry is that it doesn't sufficiently acknowledge nature's ugliness and perversity." In other words, we often fail to pay attention. And attention is the luminous gift of Mary Oliver's writing, poems with clarity of detail, memorable music, and deft linkage of human insight to the carefully observed world, which she praises and loves with wide open heart and eyes." 3
Picking Blueberries is an unlikely poem of hers that actually comes quite close to describing an unexpected encounter with grace. She is talking about a moment--a sacred moment. The exact circumstances of her poem speak about the mystery of Tran figurative experiences; experiences not limited by our own narrow notions of where they might occur.


1. Austerlitz. Picking Blueberries. New York, 1957. [Both from Poems Selected and New, Boston, 1992]
2. Austerlitz. Picking Blueberries. New York, 1957. [Both from Poems Selected and New, Boston, 1992]
3. Lohmann, J. Mary Oliver, Earth Saint 1997-8, p 16. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

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