Mary Oliver was perhaps the most prolific nature poet of the modern era. Drawing from Romantic tradition, Oliver found inspiration and wisdom in nature and committed it to verse. From youth, she favored long wandering walks in the woods with a notebook in hand. Clearly, this method worked wonders in terms of creative inspiration. Her long literary career proved that nature is a subject of inexhaustible wisdom and universal applicability.
Oliver’s poems testify to both the complexity and simplicity to be found in nature. They are meditative and assuaging, filled with a marvel of the natural world. Just like World Sauntering Day, her poems serve to remind us to slow down… to look and listen and enjoy life in all its simple beauty. They’re a call to celebrate being alive.
To celebrate that today (and every day), let’s take a stroll through one of Mary Oliver’s poems from her collection West Wind, titled: “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?”
Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.
And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?
Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!
To put one’s foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!
Read the full poem here.
The incentive to take a break and wander is at the heart of World Sauntering Day’s encouraged observance. As Oliver spells out in verse, nature is waiting, and there is plenty of time to go out and “look for your soul.”
World Sauntering Day began with an impetus to escape from the ultra-rushed routine of daily life. In other words, to have a change of pace from all the deadlines, meetings, errands, and responsibilities that make up a hectic mind. The act of sauntering is purposefully slowed down and meditative. It is wandering without hurry, even without a distinct destination in mind.
As Oliver’s Romanticism adds to this inducement, sauntering is also a deeply introspective form of escape that can help you forge a profound connection to nature. Within this sauntering mindset, there is a broader lesson for living life to the fullest, which can be summed up in various short mottos: Enjoy the journey, savor the moment, be present.
By focusing less on the destination and more on observing the beauty of the world around us, we can experience a profound sense of place even in our aimless trails.
Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean’s edge.
I climb, I backtrack.
I ramble my way home.
Oliver’s scenic conclusion to her poem perfectly rounds out the sauntering journey, evoking the feeling of peace and ease. Coincidingly, the observance of World Sauntering Day helps provide a much-needed reset, leaving wanderers feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and free.
To celebrate World Sauntering Day this weekend, there are many avenues you can take. It is a holiday that prioritizes taking care of yourself by giving yourself the breaks that you need. If the weather permits, saunter through a local park, nature reserve, walking trail, or even your own backyard!
Live in the city? You can simply saunter through the streets and see where you end up, maybe find a quiet spot to read. All that matters is that you give yourself permission to check out from the busyness of life for a while.
All in all, by wandering in the footsteps of the late great Mary Oliver, our personal observance of World Sauntering Day can help grow our connection to nature, which holds so much beauty and joy for us to experience.
Looking for more nature-inspired poetry? Click here for 5 poems to celebrate the upcoming summer solstice.