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.

positively drenched in enthusiasm

Morning Lake Wren with Sunscreen filter

I Happened to be Standing
By Mary Oliver

Then a wren in the privat began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.


Don’t you love that phrase: “positively drenched in enthusiasm”? It makes me heart patter in happiness and invites me to inquire, what positively drenches me in enthusiasm? Well, perhaps quite simply, the sight and sound of the wren singing with joy for possibly no reason at all, other than he is able and it feels delicious.


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.


* I took this photo at my friend’s cabin on Lake Koronis of a wren on the deck railing singing it’s morning song.

three things to remember

L&J Wedding 130.jpg

Three Things to Remember
By Mary Oliver

As long as you’re dancing, you can
break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
extending the rules.

Sometimes there are no rules.


I just love Mary Oliver! I’m featuring her work in A Thousand Mornings in my October posts.

How often I unknowingly make up rules, filled with expectations of what should be, of how things should happen, of how I should act, of what the outcome should look like. When I can step back and see that I have created the box I find myself in, I am able to simply tear down the wall and walk into freedom. The key is noticing, noticing the rules I’ve written (and have the power to erase).


* I took this photo at the reception when Jim’s niece Lindsey married Joe Gaughren – it’s her mother and her best friends.