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.



dancing in circles
shining with vibrant aliveness
cycling into quiet darkness
moving in a cosmic rhythm
like a blossoming, dying
blossoming, dying


We’re deep into winter where I live. Outside the trees stand naked, While the day light hours are technically increasing, it is dark, and cold. This time of year, a kind of fading and hibernation happens. I turn inward, nourish myself, indulge in rejuvenating activities like cooking something delicious or curling up in a cozy chair to read. When spring comes, the trees bud in the warmth of the increasing sunlight. And, I too, move differently, feeling strong, energized, and ready to stretch into the growing light.

This poem is about the cyclical patterns I notice in my emotional experience. I am filled with joy and see abundant beauty, and then I feel sad or angry and life feels gray. Always, sitting in the darkness, light comes again – and through the light, gray approaches and pulls me into darkness. Over and over. Sometimes with so much space between them, sometimes with so little. I’m learning not to judge either one as good or bad, just ‘what is’. I’m discovering that when I sit long enough with any experience, it changes, morphs into what’s next, something else, something born from what has come before.


* The images at the opening of the blog are photos I took of a clematis vine that used to grow on the railing of my back deck – one when the blossoms were at their peak, and the other when their glory was fading.

Flowering to Magnificence

2016 Vacation2 096

Flowering to Magnificence

The seed,
seeking nourishment,
finds richness surrounding it and
takes inspiration from the light above.

The seedling,
breaking free,
stretches toward the sky and
shouts its greatness to the world.

The stem,
taking shape,
expands into the openness and
develops powerfully each day.

The blossom,
flowering to magnificence,
touches the world with its vibrancy and
shapes the beauty that is life.

May you see that you are a beautiful blossoming flower. May we see each other as beautiful blossoming flowers.

* I took this photo in the garden at Knappogue Castle in the parish of Quin, County Clare,  Ireland.