Praying Days

Someone passed on to me this poem by Mary Oliver, “I Happened to Be Standing.”  Perhaps you know it; I didn’t.  But it speaks to me these days as I watch birds and squirrels outside my study window and try to turn these odd days into a kind of extended retreat, soaking in and treasuring the miracles of nature popping up all around us.  We probably all need this kind of escape these days—an escape into a beautiful reality that surrounds us.

I don’t know where prayers go,

or what they do.

Do cats pray, while they sleep

half-asleep in the sun?

Does the opossum pray as it

crosses the street?

The sunflowers?  The old black oak

growing older every year?

I know I can walk through the world,

along the shore or under the trees,

with my mind filled with things

of little importance, in full

self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really

call being alive.

Is a prayer a gift, or a petition?

or does it matter?

The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.

Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing

just outside my door, with my notebook open,

which is the way I begin every morning.

Then a wren in the privet began to sing.

He was positively drenched in enthusiasm.

I don’t know why.  And yet, why not?

I won’t persuade you from whatever you believe

or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.

But I thought of the wren’s singing,   what could this be

If it isn’t a prayer?

So I just listened, my pen in the air.

3 thoughts on “Praying Days”

  1. Loving this, Paul! Calls to mind another one of her poems:

    It doesn’t have to be
    the blue iris, it could be
    weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
    small stones; just
    pay attention, then patch
    a few words together and don’t try
    to make them elaborate, this isn’t
    a contest but the doorway
    into thanks, and a silence in which
    another voice may speak.


  2. This is so beautiful and impresses upon me where I am right now, in nature, with birds and pigs/piglets and geese and turkeys and heron, and my cat Whiskers, to watch and listen.
    I have been wondering why I or why we spend so much time trying to fill time with so much busyness. I watch the animals and they are content with just, being. They sit, eat, protect. No Wi-Fi.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s