So I’ve just discovered the poetry of Mary Oliver.
I’ve been reading what I think is her latest collection of poems, Blue Horses, and about two thirds of the way through it I discovered a poem that describes an experience I’ve had from time to time over the past few years.
This experience is not a rational argument for the existence of God, and I’m sure Richard Dawkins wouldn’t be impressed by it. All I can say is that it’s vividly real to me. Here is how Mary Oliver describes it.
Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.
It’s what I sense in the mud and the roots of the
trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with
its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and
makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some
spirit, some small god, who abides there.
If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing
I’m not, though I pause wherever I feel this
holiness, which is why I’m so often late coming
back from wherever I went.
There it is. If I were an atheist, I don’t think I’d know what to do with this experience. And I’m certainly not trying to explain it. It’s mysterious and wild and completely beyond my control. I can’t make it happen. But if I pay attention, it happens more often. And those are some of the times I feel close to God.
This poem is taken from Blue Horses, by Mary Oliver (The Penguin Press, New York, 2014).