Mary Oliver, in her poem “In Blackwater Woods,” writes about the choice we have to make if we are to live present in a human life, in this constant cycle of life and death in our lives.
In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees are turning their own bodies into pillars of light,
are giving off the rich fragrance of cinnamon and fulfilment,
the long tapers of cattails are bursting and floating away over the blue shoulders of the ponds,
and every pond, no matter what its name is, is nameless now.
Every year everything I have ever learned in my lifetime leads back to this: the fires and the black river of loss whose other side is salvation,
whose meaning none of us will ever know.
To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against the bones knowing your own life depends on it,
when the time comes, to let ti go, to let it go. ~ Mary Oliver
This is what it means to answer the call of your heart, of your soul, to commit to being here in a human life, as a human being: to love what is mortal, to love what is unpredictably changing and impermanent, to love while being mindful that everything, every person, every place, every moment we love will change and pass, but to love anyway. And to love what you love fiercely, no-holds-barred, nothing held back, to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it, knowing that the reality of who and what you are as a human being is inseparable from this body, this world, this life you claim and inhabit fully.
And when the time comes to let it go ~ and no one can ever predict or control when that time will come ~ to let it go. I am in awe of our human capacity ~ of my capacity, your capacity ~ to do this, to choose to love deeply and fiercely, conscious of the impermanence of all that we love, and when the time comes, to let go. It is our human nature ~ that marriage of essence, the pure and sacred presence that is the source of and greater than the sum of all things, and ego, our individual preferences and attachments ~ that gives us the ability to do this. If we commit fully to being human, if we say yes to being here now, this is what it is like: to love, to experience loss, and to refuse to step away from the realities of love and loss by seeking to live a more “spiritual” life, by looking for a way to get it right, to do it perfectly. To answer the call, to find what we long for, to be who we are is to accept the beauty and the challenge of being here now.