Mary Oliver died 2 days ago. Its maybe a name that you will not be familiar with. But in the United Sates she was the most published poet in their history.
Her poems are largely about nature and things she observed: birds, snakes, the moon, the woods, ponds, trees. Her language is accessible, lively, brilliant and full of joy. She was a rather reserved and quiet woman who gave few interviews over her lifetime, her poems come from walks and things she observed. She often said that there was no need for interviews, the poems would speak for themselves.
Mainly she wants to speak about the miracle of things in the world, the natural beauty of things: how a seed grows, the colour of flowers, the leaves in the trees, the fast-flowing water, the night sky, the light of the moon and the stars. She simply wants to remind those who read the poems that we are surrounded miracles each day.
If you have ever watched those great programmes on nature with David Attenborough, you get that same sense of wonder that Mary Oliver speaks of in her poems. Icy wastelands where creatures survive in sub-zero temperatures. Elephants crossing great tracks of land for water and food. How animals communicate in sophisticated ways. The fine balance of nature and how things have evolved in our planet. There is an overwhelming sense of the miraculous in it all.
Today at Mass the Gospel reminds us of the miraculous too. We hear of the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. Perhaps it is the most extraordinary of Jesus miracles. Nobody gets better or well again. Nobody walks away changed. There is just a simple miracle that saves the blushes of a young couple who are about to run out of wine at their wedding. The water that the jars had been filled with had turned into wine and the best wine too. It’s a simple thing which means so much.
In the simple things that we are surrounded there are things which are miraculous as Mary Oliver observed in her poems. Multiple shades of green leaves in the trees. Flowers of every description. Insects and animals that live alongside us. The rain and the wind, the snow and the ice, the sun and the heat. We are walking amongst the daily miracle of life.
That sense of the miraculous is an antidote to feeling miserable. The sense of the miraculous gives us that feeling that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. That we are parts of a world that is incredibly wonderful and beautiful and we each as individuals have a place in that world and a part to play. We are part of the miracle.
The miraculous reminds us that we are constantly being surprised at the things in our world. Things we never knew, things we couldn’t have imagined. Incredible surprises. Outcomes we never expected. Endings that we never imagined.
The hand of God is in this all. He is a God that is always surprising us by the things he does. In the story of the wedding feast at Cana, he astonishes by changing the water into wine It’s not the outcome it should have been. It’s not the ending that should have been. God will not even allow this young couple on their day to be let down. The story takes a surprising turn.
In all of our lives there are miracles. Things that seem amazing. Things that turn out in ways we could never have imagined. Outcomes that were never foreseen. Situations that we have given up on that resolve themselves. Friends reunited. Families reconciled. Money that seems to come from nowhere when we most needed it. We get better from illness or we get strength to bear an illness when we never thought we would. We sense that our life is touched by the miraculous.
God can surprise us. Be surprised. Believe in miracles. You are surrounded by miracles and you are part of that miracle.