Philosophizing about Mary Oliver and the Minutiae of My Obsessive Mind

I was just reading some Mary Oliver poetry, and I thought, while looking at the cover of the book, a faded photo of Mary Oliver herself looking gently out at you, “Mary Oliver, you really did it, you make people see things newly with your poems. You change how they see the world.”

I said this with the pang of longing that often comes when you see someone else really doing something that you would love to do. Then I thought, “But the real truth is, Mary Oliver, you never really tried to make people see things in a new way, you just opened yourself wide. You have made yourself available for what ever comes.”

This morning, writing in my journal, I found myself agonizing over something that I constantly agonize over in my art business: imperfections. I have this one really deep-set affliction that I get so often hung up on, it might as well be a coat hanger. It is so tiny, so minute, I am embarrassed to admit it here. I am absolutely obsessed with imperfections in paper and print surface.

Every time I sell a print, I scan the page over and over again for imperfections, in the form of small black specks or stray paper fibers. My husband assures me that no one can see these supposedly unsightly flaws, and I try to relax about it. I try to make a judgment call—is this really a noticeable imperfection, or am I being ridiculous? I try to let go. But still, I can often take myself through a torture session in my brain over a small black speck—“Can I send it, or do I need to print another?” Yesterday, I had a particularly obsessive episode, and I still haven’t quite gotten over it.

In reflecting on this brain mania that I put myself through (and we all have our own particular version), I am brought back to Mary Oliver. How does my obsessive tendency figure in with the open experience that Mary Oliver has (and I would like to have)—the one that allows her to experience things deeply, and then share it with all of us, so that it changes the way we are in the world? The truth is, my craziness has no place in it—in fact, it is holding me back from having that experience.

Of course, my analytical brain is reminding me that Mary Oliver is a human being too, and it is certain that she too has hang-ups. But then she writes things like: “It is heaven itself to take what is given,/ to see what is plain” (From the poem “Daisies” in New and Selected Poems: Volume Two). What beauty! What clarity!

I would like to end this blog post with some nugget of clarity myself, but it is not coming. Oh, how I always remember at these moments how every day is a new chance to be who I want to be—really, every moment is a new chance to let go and open up.

I am reminded by Oliver’s poetry, that being open is not about perfection—it’s about stillness, and having a willing and kind mind. It’s about loving this world and loving yourself in it. It’s about appreciating that you are alive. These ideas are both the simplest and the most difficult to remember.

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3 Responses to “Philosophizing about Mary Oliver and the Minutiae of My Obsessive Mind”


  1. 1 Kerri February 17, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Not surprisingly I so identify with this! I have this exact same problem but with my photos. Awhile ago I got some of my photos printed quite specifically to sell and yet I cannot put them in my etsy shop because I am convinced that if someone buys them they will be unhappy with the quality of printing. I examine them in all different lights and show Dean how I can see this imperfection here and here and here . . . He thinks I am insane! He may be right! For me I wonder if it’s a self esteem issue, maybe not feeling good enough therefore the work may not be good enough either? The CRAZY thing is I love imperfections. I tend to dislike perfect things a lot. But for some reason if I made it, it has to be perfect.

  2. 2 Mike McLaren February 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    The only “how-to” write poetry book on my bookshelves is written by Mary Oliver.

  3. 3 Geoff M. Pope February 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I hereby propose a toast —
    a toast with olive(r) oil —
    to your nearly perfect post:
    Uh, let’s see, what do I say
    after that flawless preface?
    Oh, yes, I cheered over this
    monologuing line of yours:
    “But the real truth is, Mary Oliver, you never really tried to make people see things in a new way; you just opened yourself wide. You have made yourself available for what ever comes” — cheered not just because the quote in my planner yesterday reads,
    “The ultimate creative act is to express what is most authentic and individual about you.” –Eileen M. Clegg (I suppose I need to go now to find out who Eileen M. Clegg is…)


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Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

"Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring."
~Rumi

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

~This Work ~

Unless otherwise noted, all images and writings on this blog were created by me, Nicole K. Docimo aka Blue Bicicletta. If you would like to share anything you see here for inspirational purposes online, I just ask that you kindly let folks know where you found it. If you are wanting to share/reproduce any of my work in any other way, or have any questions about how you will be sharing the work in relation to copyright, please contact me directly at nkdocimo {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks!

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