"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

02 May 2006

On Roses and Reason

In "Roses, Late Summer," Mary Oliver asks

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall


Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?

Then she describes the way the foxes and the roses simply go on about their lives and concludes

If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occured to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

Of course one thinks of Matthew and the lilies that neither spin nor toil. I can't imagine Oliver really wants to be mindless, not having the very human questions about the soul which she is always posing, but I understand her desire to learn to simply live, not constantly questioning and wondering, but knowing one's place and filling it with joy and abandon and without doubt and rebellion.

This poem reminds me of Tony Esolen's post at Mere Comments that I linked a few days ago, about needing to understand and accept our place in the world, the place God has given us. Of course, it's a fallen world and surely some of our angst comes from seeing that sin does affect who we are and what our circumstances are, causing us to doubt. But is God really sovereign or not? Does sin (generally speaking) keep Him from placing us where He wants us, or is it sin (my personal sin of hubris and discontentment) that keeps me from seeing this fundamental truth?

I, too, would like to be like the roses, not asking foolish questions.


Cindy said...

"I can't imagine Oliver really wants to be mindless, not having the very human questions about the soul which she is always posing,"

I have no trouble at all believing that she may very well feel a genuine desire to be mindless. It's the next best thing to non-existence and at times, for certain people, is extremely desireable, Beth.

GrumpyTeacher1 said...

I know that I certainly feel that way sometimes. O to be anything that can simply be itself.

Lisa (Froggyhead) said...

I know you're not here to read this, but it will be waiting when you get back. I love this post so much. I certainly understand the desire to just "be" and enjoy the simplicity of living a life without all the pesky questions that creep in and undermine the quiet moments. That is my "work" at this moment in time, to simply be still, aware of the goodness of life...to be content to be a rose in a field of roses so long as I am fulfilling the purpose that God has set for the rose.

I hope you are enjoying your leisurely time away. You deserve it so much. Soak it in. :)

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