Saturday, December 19, 2009

My New Diet

Yes, of course it's true that I've gained weight recently. With all the hullabaloo in our lives lately, I've been a very bad patient myself, forgetting to take my daily thyroid medication, letting the prescription run out, having none, no pills, for over a week. Not the smartest move. So I've noticed my jeans a little snugger, yoga pants a little less forgiving. The good news is that I've re-upped my thyroid meds and am back on the straight, if not the narrow.

The new diet has nothing to do with weight or food, however.

Instead, for the past 38 days I've been on a new diet of daily poetry, working my way through a book of poems by Mary Oliver, "Why I Wake Early." I first heard Mary Oliver read aloud in a yoga class, a poem about rushing into the garden in the early hours of morning, in her nightgown, to adore a peony. Both Joe and I, when we heard those lines, recognized ourselves, our barefoot crazy-eyed wonder and passion for flowers and bugs. Perfection. Delight.

I've owned this book of poems for some time, periodically taking it down and reading one or two, but never feeling as though the way to proceed was to read it all at one go. Too blurry.

Recently, an inspired yoga teacher read Oliver in class, so I took her off the shelf. Since then, I've read one poem a day, just one, slowly, and sometimes repeatedly, savoring the phrasing and imagery, thinking about its construction, the deliberate pacing. I try to read in the morning, while my first cup of coffee is still hot, before the rush-rush of the day begins.

Amidst the hullabaloo, this daily reading provides deep solace. It is, for now, my form of meditation.

Recently I purchased a second book of Oliver, looking ahead to the day when my daily practice would exhaust my store of poems. I will eventually move on to someone else, I suppose, but for now, her words are the ones I need to hear, the ones that re-train my eye on everything I love most - birds, frogs, snakes, the morning and joy.

This morning's reading put me in a genius frame of mind for the rest of the day. It's one that Stefanie read us in class recently. I just can't get enough of this one, "Mindful." [Apologies that I cannot replicate the indentation on lines 2-4 of each stanza. Looks much prettier in the book!]

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

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