If you perused this column a couple weeks ago, then you are aware that I am an avid reader and admirer of Mary Oliver’s poetry. Her words have a way of breathing movement into every moment of life, no matter how magnificent or miniscule that moment may be. My thoughts for this week center around her poem “The Sun.” So, if for whatever reason you cannot stand Mary Oliver, I am deeply apologetic that you are about to hear my thoughts on more of her poetry.
Winter brings along some dreary, hazy days. One afternoon I stood in front of the window above my kitchen sink and stared at the wall of fog, unable to see my neighbor’s house because of the misting fog that filled the air. The mist was so dense that it encompassed every object, as if nothing else existed but the misty haze. It is days like this that I notice the sun the most; I notice it because I am acutely aware of how it feels invisible. To some, the rising of the sun into the sky may be the most mundane thing; the sun climbing to the top of the clouds is a guarantee, right? It happens every day, and something that happens every day is monotonous and not worthy of recognition.
In Oliver’s “The Sun,” the reappearance of the sun in the sky is the most wonderful and extraordinary occurrence. Halfway through the poem, Oliver speaks of the process the sun goes through, rising and falling each day, and inquires of her reader: “have you ever felt for anything such wild love.” Her words enhance the effect the sun has on her as it returns to bring light to our side of the world. She proceeds in her infatuation with the sun and illustrates how the sun “reaches out, as it warms you as you stand there empty-handed” each morning. These small segments of the poem paint the sun as a sacred being. The sun gives to us each morning; the light illuminates our daily tasks; the light brings warmth to our shivering skin; the light gives way to spaciousness and unhindered movement.
Oliver’s reverence towards the sun and all it provides reminds me of the presence of Jesus in my life today. In John 8, Jesus proclaims, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Light is intimately connected to life, physically and spiritually. It would be challenging to live on an earth that has no source of light. How would the vegetation blossom and grow if there were no light to nourish it? All of creation would suffer. It is similar to life without the light and freedom that Jesus Christ has brought to every person. When you awake tomorrow, when the sun peeps through the blinds in your room and you squint your eyes in surprise, take a moment to reflect on what the light brings. Perhaps each new morning, each new ray of light that breaks through the darkness, is an invitation to walk in the light and notice the redemption it exudes.