what she read // poems by Mary Oliver

Sometime, I wonder how I’ve missed the boat on some people for so long.  Mary Oliver is one of those people.  I heard her name being bounced around with some of my friends for a while. I finally decided to delve into her writings, her poems that interlace mind, soul, and nature so effortlessly.


Her heart is so similar to mine.  She just finds a much more eloquent way of getting those thoughts out of her head. She is an inspiration to me in every aspect of that word.

I think the reason that she is one of America’s best selling poets is because she doesn’t seem to try to hard.  Her poems are accessible and easy to read.  They mix the dark, the witty, and the real into poems about her life and her passions, which mostly include the outdoors.  (No wonder I love her right?)  People connect with nature, whether they realize it or not, and I think Mary Oliver realizes that in its truest sense.

She has almost 30 collections of poetry.  I’ve only read a few, but can’t wait to continue to build my (very small) poetry collection.

Here’s some of my favorite poems:

I Have Decided

I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully in
the cold and the silence. It’s said that
in such a place certain revelations may
be discovered. That what the spirit
reaches for my be eventually felt, if not
exactly understood.  Slowly, no doubt. I’m
not talking about a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to
stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

Sleeping In The Forest

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in winter, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better

Three Things To Remember

As long as you’re dancing, you can
break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
extending the rules.

Sometimes there are no rules.

And also short excerpt quotes:

forgetting, as men have always forgotten,
that life’s winners are not the rapacious but the patient;
what triumphs and takes new territory
has learned to lie for centuries in the shadows
like the shadows of the rocks.

I am
Possibly dangerous, I am
Entering the kingdom

The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees–
To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.
-Entering the Kingdom

It’s no wonder she won the Pulitzer Prize, right?


what she read // travels with charley

I started this book about a month before I took a journey across most of the country to Montana.  What better way to fully experience America than read about someone experiencing America. Steinbeck writes about his travels across America in his truck, Rocinante with his dog, Charley.  While he actually did take this trip, most of the stories he relays to us in this novel are highly fictionalized.  Do what you will with that. Most of the things he says and writes about in this book just make so much sense to me.  I feel like he says things that I can’t find words for and connects things that I would have never thought to do.  I guess that’s what makes good writing.


When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was in me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. 

 Everyone was trying to protect me and it was horrible. 
If one is vacilando he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether to not he get there, although he has direction. 
There are times that one treasures for all of ones life, and such times are burned clearly and sharply on the material of total recall. 
I am sure that as the pendulum reverse their swing, so eventually will the swollen cities rupture like dehiscent wombs and disperse their children back to the countryside. 
So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world.
I became aware that each state had also its individual prose style, made sharply evident in its highway signs. Crossing state lines one is aware of this change of language.
Having a companion fixes you in time and that the present, but when the quality of aloneness settles down, past, present, and future all flow together. A memory, a present event, and a forecast all equally present.
For it is not true that an uneventful time in the past is remembered as fast.  On the contrary, it takes the times-stones of events to give a memory past dimension.  Eventlessness collapses time.
I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.
What we knew is dead, and maybe the greatest part of what we were is dead. What’s out there is new and perhaps good, but it’s nothing we know.
The American identity is an exact and provable thing. 
Of course I don’t think they do it every day. They couldn’t. And somewhat the same thing happens when they visit us in New York. Of course they want to see shows and go to night clubs. And at the end if a few days of this they say, “We just don’t see how you can live like this.” To which we reply, “We don’t. And when you go home, we won’t.” 
I was very tired, but sometimes fatigue can be a stimulant and a compulsion.
I speculated with a kind of wonder on the strength of the individuality of journeys and stopped on the postulate that people don’t take trips – trips take people. 

what she read // the paris wife

This is the first book in a while that I’ve read that was written in the past 10 years.  Although, it’s a historical fiction novel about Ernest Hemingway’s life through the eyes of his first wife Hadley. So, really, I haven’t strayed much from my “go-to” books.


I went through phases of liking and not liking this book.  In the beginning, I was hooked pretty easily, then about halfway through, I almost stopped reading.  But, the last parts of the book had me teary eyed and sad that the book was done.

Ernest Hemingway fascinates me and even though it’s not an actual biography, I feel like I know the “why” behind his writing style.

Some quotes that struck me:

Happiness is so awfully complicated, but freedom isn’t. You’re either tied down or you’re not.                


You have to digest life. You have to chew it up and love it all through. You have to live it with your eyes really. You can talk and talk and not get it right. You have to do it.


The worst events always have the thrust of accidents, as if they come out of nowhere. But that’s just lack if perspective.  


You couldn’t have real freedom unless you knew where the walls were and tended to them. We could lean on the walls because they existed; they existed because we leaned on them.


We called Paris the great good place, then, and it was. We invented after all. We made it with our longing and cigarettes and Rhum St. James; we made it with smoke and smart and savage conversation and we dared anyone to say it wasn’t ours. Together we made everything and then we busted apart again.


There are some who said I should’ve fought harder or longer than I did for my marriage, but in the end fighting for a love that was already gone felt like trying to live in the ruins of a lost city. I couldn’t bear it, and so I backed away- and the reason I could do it all, the reason I was strong enough and had the legs and the heart to do it was because Ernest had come along and changed me. He helped me see what I really was and what I could do. Now that I knew what I could bear, I would have to bear losing him.


Tatie was dead. There was nothing Paul could possibly do for me except let me go – back to Paris and Pamplona and Sebastian, back to Chicago when I was Hadley Richardson, a girl stepping off the train about to meet the man who would change her life. That girl, that impossibly lucky girl, needed nothing.  

what she read // the scarlet letter

The Scarlet Letter was required reading for my 9th grade honors English class.  I was 14.  I hated it.  What were those teachers thinking trying to make 9th graders read the proper “Olde English” style writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I thought this novel deserved another shot by my 25 year old brain and this time, it worked out a lot better.


What blows my mind is how completely ostracized Hester was for having an affair.  Imagine if that were still true today.  I’m not saying that an affiar is completely normal or alright by today’s standards, but wer sure do look at things differently now. However, I love how Hester grows throughout the novel and becomes a strong, confident woman despite her circumstances.  GIRL POWER RIGHT??! (kidding)

As always, quotes I loved:

In either case, there was very much the same solemnity of demeanor on the part of the spectators; as befitted a people amongst whom religion and law were almost identical, and in whose character both were so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful.

In our nature, however, there is a provision, alike marvelous and merciful, that the sufferer should never know the intensity of what he ensures by its present torture, but chiefly by the pang that rankles after it.

Lonely as was Hester’s situation, and without a friend on earth who dared to show himself, she, however, incurred no risk of want.

The heart, making itself guilty of such secrets, must perforce hold them, until the day when all hidden things shall be revealed.

These revelations are meant to promote the intellectual satisfaction of all intelligent beings, who will stand waiting, on that day, to see the dark problem of this life made plain.

A knowledge of men’s hearts will be needful to the completest solution of that problem. So to their own unutterable torment, they go about amount their fellow creatures, looking pure as new fallen snow while their hearts are all speckled and spotted with iniquity of which they cannot rid themselves.

It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.

As a man who had once sinned, but who kept his conscience all alive and painfully sensitive by the fretting of an unhealed wound, he might have been supposed safer within the line of virtue than of he had never sinned at all.

Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create a sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.

—-and the kicker—–

It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affection and spiritual life upon another; Each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his subject.

What an absolutely brilliant writer (just make sire you are reading in a very quiet place with no distractions or you will not be able to focus on his writing style. )

what she read :: the catcher in the rye

Maybe if I would have read this book as a 15 year old, I would have liked it better.  I feel like that’s when you need to read it, because, now that I’ve been out of all schooling for a couple years, I just feel like it’s old news.  However, I totally understand the function of this novel and think that it’s important to read.  Just read it sooner rather than later…

Picture 2

Follow the stream of consciousness of Holden Caulfield, a boy that just can’t understand the world around him.   He thinks he’s “too cool” for most people and is very judgmental of almost everyone, except his siblings.  The whole book only takes place over 2 or 3 days, which, for some reason, I like that aspect of it.  Just getting the smallest snapshot of life.

People never notice anything.

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend or yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

That’s the thing about girls.  Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid. you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.  Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.

Take the disciples for instance.  They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know that truth.  They were alright after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use as a hole in the head.  All they did was keep letting him down.  I like almost anybody in the Bible more than the disciples.

I mean you can’t hardly ever simplify and unify something just because somebody wants you to.

This fall I think you’re riding for, it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind.  The man falling isn’t permitted to fell or hear himself hit the bottom,  He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men, who at sometime or other in their lives were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with.  So they gave up looking.  They gave up before they ever really even got started.

After a while, you’ll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing.

Don’t ever tell anybody anything.  If you do, you start missing somebody.

You know it’s funny, after typing out and rereading those quotes, I think I pulled more out of this book than I thought. Books are funny that way…


what she read :: the sun also rises

My first Hemingwey novel.  I must say, I’m hooked…

Picture 1

I chose this Hemingway novel to read first because it is about American living in Paris then traveling to Spain, and since I visited both of those places this past year, I figured it made sense.  It was a wonderful story of travel, the confusion that comes with love, and discovering what you really want to get out of life.

She looked as though there were nothing on earth she would not look at like that and really she was afraid of so many things.

It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime but at night it is another thing.

You ought to be ironical the minute you get out of bed. You ought to wake up with your mouth full of pity.

Your an expatriot. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex.  You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriot see? You hang around cafes.

We never talked for very long time. It was simply the pleasure of discovering what we each felt.

There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people.

Women made such swell friends. Awfully swell. In the first place, you had to be in love with a woman to have a basis of friendship.

That was morality, things that made you disgusted afterwards. No that must be immorality. That was a large statement.

I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to do something I really want to do. I’ve lost my self respect.

“My god!” Said Brett, “the things a women goes through.”
“Oh, I do feel such a bitch.”

France is the simplest country to live in. No one makes things complicated by becoming your friend for any obscure reason.

You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.


what she read :: fahrenheit 451

Another must read checked off the list.


This book was similar to 1984 in that it made a bold and eerie statement about where our world could be going.  Guy Montag is a firefighter, however, this instead of putting out fires, they start them, and only to destroy books, because books are “dangerous” for the mind; they allow you to have the freedom to think for yourself.  Society in the novel thought of this as a detriment.  Everyone should be the same and not question anything, which books would make them do.  I definitely agree with that.  Books open up your mind to so many new thoughts and ideas.  Could you even imagine a world without books?  Tragedy!

Here are some quotes that I really loved:

For how many people did you know that refracted your own light to you?

There are billions of us and that’s too many. Nobody know anyone. Strangers come and violate you. Strangers come and cut your heart out. Strangers come and take your bliss.

And he remembered thinking then that if she died, he was certain he wouldn’t cry. For it would be the dying of an unknown, a street face, a newspaper image, and it was suddenly so very wrong that he had begun to cry, not at death but at the thought if not crying at death, a silly empty man near a silly empty woman, while the hungry snake made her still more empty.

There must be something in books, things we cant imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

As for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books. A man had to think them up.

School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almos completely ignores d. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man.

It’s a pretty quick read and very well worth it.