letting the voodoos of ambition sleep

by Mary Oliver

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move through really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
to the temple.


When I read this poem for the first time, I was immediately drawn to:

  • “I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.”
  • “I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.”

As I continue to move away from my days working full-time in corporate America to a calmer, more relaxing life of retirement, I often find myself facing the “voodoo of ambition” and open myself to the possibility that life’s work right now is not in the realm of achievements or accomplishments but rather in the space of quiet being and living in gentle kindness. I have a sense of deep personal growth, although as I move from day to day, it often feels like nothing is happening. When I look back at the 15 months since my last day working, however, I see the “terrific distance” I have traveled. Thank you Mary Oliver for enabling me to see that I am not alone in my feelings and experiences.


For a few weeks, I’m featuring posts from Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings. If you missed last week’s post, you can read it here: three things to remember and positively drenched in enthusiasm.


* I took these photos 1) top left – Lela Palace Hotel in Bangalore, India, 2) top right – public beach on CR 20, Lake Koronis, and 3) bottom – at a shop front garden in Fish Creek, Door County, Wisconsin.