Art Tells Us Our Own Stories
My heart has been full of gratitude for the many gifts of a single life since learning of the death of Mary Oliver yesterday. I am a relative late comer to the Mary Oliver fan club with my daughter Hannah sharing her poetry with me through the gift of two Mary Oliver poetry collections just a few years ago. Mary Oliver poems are also frequent guests at the Wednesday night Evensong services held at Ralph Connor Memorial United Church in Canmore where my husband and I worship together. The poetry of Mary Oliver is easy to love. "Mary Oliver isn't a difficult poet," (Ruth) Franklin says. "Her work is incredibly accessible, and I think that's what makes her so beloved by so many people. It doesn't feel like you have to take a seminar in order to understand Mary Oliver's poetry. She's speaking directly to you as a human being." [from NPR Obituaries, Jan 17, 2019] Mary Oliver spent most of her life living simply with her Beloved, Molly Malone Cook in Provincetown, Mass. where she took long, long walks and then wrote exuberant love songs about her encounters with nature.
“The Summer Day” Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. 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?
That final line set in a celebration of idle contemplation of creation has brought so many of her readers a much-needed correction- a wake up call to pay attention to the gift of our own existence set in the midst of the amazing gift of life all around us. Mary Oliver’s poetry will continue to help us experience the sacred in a blade of grass, and another art form- the musical- will tell a very different story. Living Spirit United Church has agreed to host a new theatre company called The Honest Collective for their production of Bare: A Pop Opera that will be running from Feb. 15- 23. This musical tells the story of two closeted gay teens at a religious boys school. Artistic director Alex Bergen says about the musical: “It focuses on love, religion, acceptance, tragedy, and I believe starts a very important conversation about why GSAs [Gay-Straight Alliances] are important in all schools as well as acceptance of all humans. I believe this is an incredibly important conversation to have given the political and cultural ethos we are currently in.” We look forward to welcoming this group of young artists into our church to share this story.
Rev. Shannon Mang