Mary Oliver’s “Lead” And New Beginnings

Mary Oliver’s poem “Lead” wants you to know something. 

About yourself. I can’t tell you what it is. 

But it has to do with the broken bits. 

It has to do with what you do after you break. 

After. Next. On the first day.

Even when it’s not the first-first one.

Because… I don’t know, we’re all giant babies taking giant baby steps, you know?

It had been a rough few years for me when I came across this poem. I’m still learning what those last few lines mean. Sit with them too (emphasis added):

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing.,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

Once it’s broken open, you realize the vessel is larger than you. That you’re already full. So maybe stop fighting it. 

As Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Life is looking bright.