My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.*
It strikes me that having a “ready room” whether at home or church or other important building filled with and functional for all the things that we anticipate means that we actually are already “ready.” At least in the sense of preparing ahead for what we can anticipate, “the ready room” implies that we are prepared. In these words from her poem “Messenger” Mary Oliver embodies that sense of preparedness by proclaiming her work. She knows her work. She does her work. We have her powerful work on the page in front of us.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
I want to be this confident that I am, in fact, read for life, that in my aging and in my imperfections what matters is “my work.” One’s work might be the same thing as the “job” one goes to each day, and it very well may not be. I hear in Oliver’s words not an identification of a job, but of a calling, of that vocation that rises up in the center of one’s self. “My work” is the place from which I am most comfortable working at my life. This poem reminds me that this place is already (and all ready) within me. My whole life so far has been, experience by experience, a stockpiling of my own interior ready room.
Oliver concludes that her “work”
. . . is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy*
What are you already ready (and all ready) to celebrate, be, and do today? Can you begin to put words to what “your work” is?
*”Messenger” in the book of Poems Thirst, by Mary Oliver