This is an excerpt from the book Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver.
Adults can change their circumstances; children cannot. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them, for children feel all of these things but without any of the ability that adults have to change them. Whatever can take a child beyond such circumstances, therefore, is an alleviation and a blessing.
I quickly found for myself two such blessings-the natural world, and the world of writing: literature. These were the gates through which I vanished from a difficult place.
In the first of these-the natural world-I felt at ease; nature was full of beauty and interest and mystery, also good and bad luck, but never misuse. The second world-the world of literature-offered me, besides the pleasures of form, the sustentation of empathy (the first step of what Keats called negative capability) and I ran for it. I relaxed in it. I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything-other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness-the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books-can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.
Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!
Upstream: Selected Essays – Summary
In case you’re interested, here is the book summary from Goodreads:
Comprising a selection of essays, Upstream finds beloved poet Mary Oliver reflecting on her astonishment and admiration for the natural world and the craft of writing.
As she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, finding solace and safety within the woods, and the joyful and rhythmic beating of wings, Oliver intimately shares with her readers her quiet discoveries, boundless curiosity, and exuberance for the grandeur of our world.
This radiant collection of her work, with some pieces published here for the first time, reaffirms Oliver as a passionate and prolific observer whose thoughtful meditations on spiders, writing a poem, blue fin tuna, and Ralph Waldo Emerson inspire us all to discover wonder and awe in life’s smallest corners.
Copyright © 2016 by Mary Oliver.
More details on Goodreads can be found here.