Recently I read Mary Oliver’s poem, Mindful. One of the lines caught my attention – “the prayers that are made out of grass”.
In the poem Oliver says “everyday I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight…”. She states she is not talking about anything exceptional or extravagant, but of the daily ordinary and common presentations, such as “the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made of grass”.
Wow. What to make of these words?
“…kills me with delight…”, “…prayers made of grass”.
What a lovely reframing of the word kill. To be killed with delight. That’s gotta be some kind of delight! I felt that kind of delight on my trip to the Faroe Islands last year.
I’m pretty sure I’m often “killed with delight”, but I have never used the word delight with the word kill. What does that really mean? I guess for me it means experiencing a moment that all but overwhelms; or a moment of astonishment that completely covers me. Knocks me over. Stuns me into silence.
Or, perhaps, to be Gobsmacked. I learned this word on a trip to Scotland while riding a ferry. After I looked up the definition, I was gobsmacked by the word “gobsmacked”.
And then I beheld this view on the Isle of Iona, and I experienced a gobsmacked moment, or as I now realize, killed with delight.
I’ve felt this level of delight on a much smaller scale, of course, as well.
Yep, I’m still able to stand a salt shaker on its edge.
We all need to pause to focus, see and appreciate the “daily presentations”, so as to not miss being killed with delight.
Just this morning as I drove off from home, I was killed with delight as I turned out of my driveway. The reflection seen in the image is the sky reflected on the hood of my car.
So what of “prayers made out of grass”? I’m certain many people – from poetry scholars, to those who simply enjoy reading poetry- have opinions about what grass prayers mean. I’ve been thinking about what it means to me since I first read the poem.
My first thought was about how grasses face upward, implying God, who is to receive our prayers, is “up” somewhere. As I’ve matured in my faith, I know now God surrounds, not hangs from up above.
Another thought- grasses sway. This reminds me of prayer and praise music, that often causes one to sway to both the melody and the words. A kind of swaying prayer.
And then I come to the natural world. God’s creation. Grasses are rooted in the earth, providing a foundation of sorts – just as I want my life to be a foundation rooted in prayer. Swaying now and then when the breeze of God’s presence makes me take notice.
I’m headed to northern New Mexico on Sunday. It’s a place where true native grasses are found. It’s also a place where it’s often easy to be killed with delight.
And it’s a place of wide-open places where prayers can be cast upwards, and cast about.
As I was finishing this blog post just now, I learned of Mary Oliver’s death today. I give thanks for her beautiful and “not fancy” (as she was quoted as saying) words that have given me such delight.