upward on its heavenly oils

horizon - r.kennedy

in my suitcase i crammed one of my books of Mary Oliver’s poetry: New and Selected Poems, Volume One. i decided to read one poem a day, starting with the first page and reading my way through in order. i never read Mary that way. i rarely read any poetry that way. i flip and jump from middle to end. it felt important to limit myself to just ONE a day too – which is really hard to do if you’re me. but i wanted to learn how to really sit with the poem…not run off to fall in love with another one. and it has been good. i have savoured lines more deeply and read the same poem more repeatedly.

just now, sitting in the garden at dusk, i read my today poem…while the southern-hemisphere-sun sets around me and prepares to rise back home in the north. and it was all too perfect not to share.

The Sun

Have you ever seen


in your life

more wonderful


than the way the sun,

every evening,

relaxed and easy,

floats toward the horizon


and into the clouds or the hills,

or the rumpled sea,

and is gone –

and how it slides again


out of the blackness,

every morning,

on the other side of the world,

like a red flower


streaming upward on its heavenly oils,

say, on a morning in early summer,

at its perfect imperial distance –

and have you ever felt for anything


such wild love –

do you think there is anywhere, in any language,

a word billowing enough

for the pleasure


that fills you,

as the sun

reaches out,

as it warms you


as you stand there,

empty-handed –

or have you too

turned from the world –


or have you too

gone crazy

for power,

for things?


– Mary Oliver

oh my god.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver (The Summer Day)


when i was a child i was taught how to pray.
before meal times. before bed.
in church, multiple times. sometimes in multiple languages.
at weddings. at funerals. baptisms. dedications.
before long road trips.
in hospitals. car accidents. when facing empty bank accounts. any and all uncertainties.
even, in early years, in school, right after the national anthem.

if practice makes perfect, i should have had this nailed by now.




somewhere along the way i just stopped talking.
i got tired of hearing prayers said aloud that felt like rambling monologues or speeches; i stopped believing what i was hearing; i had a hard time feeling like any of it really mattered anyhow.
and when it was my turn to kneel and bow, i found myself exhausted by the sound of my own voice. i didn’t want to listen to me anymore, so why would she?



” I love to pray at the beach, staring out at the surf and the pelicans, my prayer at those moments ” Oh my God, oh my God.” I try not to bog down on the “my” or “God” part of this prayer. It is the “Oh” that matters, the expulsion of air from the lungs, that occasional gorgeous shock at what tiny molecules of the whole we are, compared with…one of the most beautiful places in the universe.”
-Anne Lamott (Help, Thanks, Wow)


i just finished reading a book about prayer. Anne Lamott wrote it, which is, quite truthfully, the only reason i read it. i trust her. i believe her. i don’t feel like she cares if i agree with her. she has scars and bruises and doesn’t hide the fact that life has been really fucking hard sometimes. she also throws up her hands and says “thank you” a lot, and i really like that.
Anne says that prayer is really just three words: Help. Thanks. Wow.
Spoken to God, or Buddha, or the Universe, or anything outside of, bigger than, ourselves. To light.

” Light reveals us to ourselves, which is not always so great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own creation. But like sunflowers we turn toward light. Light warms, and in most cases it draws us to itself. And in this light, we can see beyond shadow and illusion to something beyond our modest receptors, to what is way beyond us, and deep inside.”

i’m not in the same place that she is. i’m still wrestling with things that she seems to have learned to rest in. but i think i can make sense of her kind of prayer. i think i do it all the time, even if i don’t know who i’m talking to anymore.
i can’t do this alone.
i’m so full of gratitude.
i’m in awe.

i live those three truths every day of my life, on repeat.





It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.”

– Mary Oliver


life has been teaching me a lot about silence. turning down the racket. tuning out the noise. letting go of the clutter that keeps me from hearing and seeing and breathing and daring and being. if anything like a prayer comes out of me these days, it comes out as a whisper. or a standing-still-ness. or a deep breath.
to you, those may not seem like very sacred conversations.
to me, they feel more true than almost anything else i know.




all my life i was told to close my eyes to pray. the child me did what i was told. the adult me feels like we all missed the boat. like it sailed right by while we had our heads bowed staring at our eyelids.

when our eyes are closed, we are not looking. we are not seeing.

i want to whisper gratitude while staring wide-eyed at a glacier, or a sunset, or the meadow in early autumn. i want to smile at the food as we bless it. i want to look at every inch of my little nephew Sam, moments after he is born, and be in awe of the miracle that i was just blessed to witness. i want to see and be seen in the eyes of my lover, or my best friend, or my brother, when i confess my feelings of helplessness, my brokenness. i need to see some version of god in their eyes.

why would i look away?


i’m not finished yet.
good lord, i’m just beginning.
but it’s an honest attempt.
and if i believe anything, it’s that that’s enough.

Anne says that saying “Amen” is the same as a quiet, deep breath.
it means truly. truthfully.
there you have it.
so it is.

it’s not an ending.
it’s just a deep exhale.



the first, the wildest, the wisest

there is no promise of growing old,
whether it’s alone
or with you.

there are things around the bend,
unexpected outcomes,
a lifetime of unknowns that will write
the end of our stories.

and on this sunny, blue-skied morning
this may read as cloudy thinking;
a gloomy way to begin a day.

in the wake of one more sudden ending,
i find myself needing to remember what is true.

there is only promise of right now.
this morning.
that bird singing.
this breath.

if i forget this
then i flounder.

but when i remember,
i pause,
and i listen,
and i breathe deeper;
i say thank you
and i love you
and i work harder to be here
right now
in this

because it’s what i know for sure.
and i’m grateful for it.
and bless, aren’t they all over too soon?


we all have our things that keep us sane


i take walks and dig in the garden and drink earl grey tea with a bit of milk. i read mary oliver or linford detweiler or listen to shane koyczan rant. i rearrange rooms and purge my house of things. i eat scones or ovaltine biscuits.  i wander through thrift stores. i write words. i sing along with patty griffin and dance to old al. i drive to my favorite beach. i find quiet places where i can catch my breath. i follow the sun with a picnic blanket under my arm. i sift through old things and try to find the stories. i use my hands to  make things. i hold close the people who help hold me feet to the ground.  i root through the chaos and try to find a glimpse of calm. sometimes i have to search really hard.

sometimes i have to search really hard.

i don’t give up.

the poet answers her own question

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

– from This Summer Day by Mary Oliver

the poet

the poet

“What I have done is learn to love and be loved. That didn’t come easy. And I learned to consider my life an amazing gift. Those are the things.

– Mary Oliver, from an interview with Maria Shriver

when spring takes too long to come

i’m cramming the nooks and crannies of heart and head with things that remind me that rain is music on the roof; snow is a clean slate; wind brings change; and every season eventually, always, comes to an end.


 Miss Mary Margaret

Miss Mary Margaret

the brilliance and beauty of Mary Margaret O\’Hara


earl grey tea with a bit of milk

earl grey tea with a bit of milk


the simple truths in the pages of The Camino Letters




the comfort of blankets

the comfort of blankets


good poetry

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Cold now.

Close to the edge. Almost

unbearable. Clouds

bunch up and boil down

from the north of the white bear.

This tree-splitting morning

I dream of his fat tracks,

the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,

blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,

handfuls of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time

we measure the love we have always had, secretly,

for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love

for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

that is what it means the beauty

of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.

In the season of snow,

in the immeasurable cold,

we grow cruel but honest; we keep

ourselves alive,

if we can, taking one after another

the necessary bodies of others, the many

crushed red flowers.

this isn’t a contest

rae art 035


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

– Mary Oliver

a rainy day poem.

rain clouds
Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me
Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.
– Mary Oliver

morning words


Summer Morning


I implore you,

it’s time to come back

from the dark,

it’s morning,

the hills are pink

and the roses

whatever they felt

in the valley of night

are opening now

their soft dresses,

their leaves

are shining.

Why are you laggard?

Sure you have seen this

a thousand times,

which isn’t half enough.

Let the world have its way with you,

luminous as it is

with mystery

and pain –

graced as it is

with the ordinary.

– mary oliver

i am never done with looking



Where Does the Temple Begin, Where Does It End?

There are things you can’t reach. But

you can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.

The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,

out of the water and back in; the goldfinches sing

from the unreachable top of the tree.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around

as though with your arms open.

And thinking: maybe something will come, some

shining coal of wind,

or a few leaves from any old tree –

they are all in this too.

And now I will tell you the truth.

Everything in the world


At least, closer.

And cordially.

Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unlooping snake.

Like goldfinches, little dolls of gold

fluttering around the corner of the sky

of God, the blue air.

– Mary Oliver

Next Posts

Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015