Sunday, September 4, 2011

What charges and changes

I finished Mary Oliver's Winter Hours this morning; it's already terrifically dog-eared after only one reading, and will clearly join a handful of other small books that exert considerable influence over me despite their size; books I return to again and again because they feed my soul.

This was the image that wanted to be posted this morning.  And though I'd love to try to read something into it, the fact is that I just find pleasure in it: it feeds my eyes just as those books feed my soul.

"To believe in the soul," says Mary Oliver in the final section of the book, " -- to believe in it exactly as much and as hardily as one believes in a mountain, say, or a fingernail, which is ever in view -- imagine the consequences!  How far-reaching, and thoroughly wonderful!  For everything, by such a belief, would be charged, and changed.  You wake in the morning, the soul exists, your mouth sings it, your mind accepts it.  And the perceived, tactile world is, upon the instant, only half the world.

... who knows what is beyond the known?" she continues. "And if you think that any day the secret of light might come, would you not keep the house of your mind ready?  Would you not cleanse your study of all that is cheap, or trivial?  Would you not live in continual hope, and pleasure, and excitement?"

These are the books I return to, the ones on my short list, that help keep the house of my mind ready, that feed that soul-sense of hope, and pleasure, and excitement:

Winter Hours, by Mary Oliver
Clowning in Rome, by Henri Nouwen
Christian Uncertainties, by Monica Furlong
Stillness Speaks, by Eckhardt Tolle
To Bless the Space Between Us, by John O'Donohue
Notes from the Song of Life, by Tolbert McCarroll
Wisdom of the Desert, by Thomas Merton

And, while I think of it, two books of fiction:
As we are now, by May Sarton, and
Franny and Zooey, by JD Salinger

Yes, of course there are other books, and bigger books that have also had a lasting impact.  But these are the gems of the collection, the ones that gleam for me like the colors in this image (which is taken, by the way, from reflections on the bottom of an upturned canoe).

2 comments:

Maureen said...

Wonderful books. One of my favorite among them is O'Donohue's.

karen gerstenberger said...

Believing in the soul, the "what is beyond the known," gives me deep hope and faith that I will see my girl again. Mary Oliver's words strike a chord deep within, as usual. Hugs to you, and thanks for sharing this.