Poetry Sundays: Mary Oliver

Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

~Mary Oliver, from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays, 2003

One of my most vivid memories from childhood is witnessing a starling murmuration. I remember standing in a field with my father, watching as the black cloud rose, expanded, and spun into amorphous shapes in the sky. I can still recall that delicious feeling of wonder and exhilaration, of my breath catching in my throat and pure joy reverberating throughout my little body. It is this memory that sprang to my mind as I read Mary Oliver’s poem. Her description of dancing starlings in the sky spoke to my childhood experience and for a moment I recaptured that tingling feeling of joy.

I have been in the midst of a literal and figurative winter–life has been hard and I have been grieving that reality. But as spring approaches, I find myself longing to shed the heaviness and darkness of sadness. Oliver’s last stanza speaks to me, I want to think again of noble things, to be frolicsome and afraid of nothing. I want to fly through the world and feel all the joy and beauty it has to offer. I want to carry with me the wonder of starlings.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments!

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The Inaugural LDS Women’s Meeting–Part I

I have looked forward to this historic women’s meeting for many months despite sharing the concerns of some that the audience may be too broad. I arrived at my stake center, wearing my subversive purple dress, vowing to keep an open mind and to stand with my sisters, no matter what.

I will be sharing my thoughts on the first half on the session but I have to say, I loved every minute. I was moved and inspired by each talk, I found the videos and music uplifting and heart-expanding. I am grateful that I live in a time where a meeting like this can be held and that we can be taught powerfully by the women leaders of my own faith. I look forward to the time when my daughter can join me.

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Fix This!

Recently the mission president of the Denver North mission came to our ward to inform us that elders would no longer be able to visit single women investigators without a priesthood holder from our congregation going with them. Our ward has many capable sisters, many who have served missions themselves, who would be excellent chaperones for these types of appointments but apparently this is unacceptable. He told us that this was standard church policy, that it is written in the handbook and that there could be no exceptions.

Unsurprisingly, this has proved to be a significant hardship for our inner city ward that struggles with a lack of priesthood holders to fill all the callings reserved for men. These are good men but they are already spread too thin. They simply do not have enough time or energy to take this on. Which means that my husband, as bishop, is the one that has to go out with the elders so that they can share the gospel with women.

Mr. Mraynes already has a demanding career which the church has now put a second, unpaid full time job on top of. The nights and/or weekends he has to go out with the elders is time away from his children–time that is already in too short supply. What does it profit the church if they potentially gain one soul but lose the souls of our four, young children because their father is never home?

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Birth/Rebirth: A Precipitous Birth Story

henry

Henry Lee Raynes Matthews, 3/30/2013, 8 lbs 12 oz

I am an unapologetic lover of birth stories. I love hearing them and I love sharing my own. I have four children and I have written many times about the aspects of three of those births. My last child was born nine months ago and I have yet to write anything about it. In fact, I am not sure I ever would have unless Spunky asked me to tell the story for this series. Birth stories can be painful; they can trigger traumatic memories, insecurity about our bodies, and sadness over the loss of a child or not having children. These are all valid feelings and I want to apologize if my story causes these emotions for any of you.

It has taken me months to sort through my feelings about my last birth. It was a difficult pregnancy. I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies and had controlled it through diet, exercise and medication. It was discovered, in the last pregnancy that I would ever have, that the diagnosis had been wrong and that I am actually a Type 1 diabetic who, hopefully, only exhibits symptoms in pregnancy. It was a hard diagnosis to receive, my mother is a Type 1 diabetic and her disease had a profound impact on my childhood. If I had been properly diagnosed in previous pregnancies I would have known that each successive pregnancy increased my risk of remaining a Type 1 diabetic, a reality that probably would have affected my decision to have more children. 

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