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Reflecting Upon the Lake: A Journey of Emotions by Mary Oliver

The arrival of yet another august in the throes of summer has found me

imbibing the warmth of the sun once again

as the lilies are generously scattered atop the water’s surface.

It’s clear to me now, they yearn to caress one another.

I’ve been absent from this place for a multitude of years

during which my life unceasingly unfolded.

Similar to the heron with its guttural cry, yearning for melody

I, too, crave the ability to vocalize joy.

A small token of gratitude from each living voice seems fitting.

Thus is the nature of existence, as it has always been:

Throughout my years, I’ve grasped moments of joy,

as well as all that stood in its contrast,

which I acknowledge with clarity.

Shadows are garments we all drape about ourselves.

Yet, here it is again, the summer season

and my eyes take in the lilies as they defer to one other,

gently dancing on the breeze and the thread of yearning,

drawing near, ever so near to each other.

Soon, I will pivot to commence my journey homeward.

And who can tell, I may well be found chorusing a melody.

Mary Oliver’s exquisite composition, “Reflecting Upon the Lake,” hails from her anthology “Felicity,” first gracing bookshelves in 2015.

My foray into the world of poetry being a recent endeavor, I am not yet well-versed in Mary Oliver’s repertoire; nevertheless, this particular piece captivated me with its elegant use of the natural world as a metaphor for the human condition.

This work speaks to me of the ephemeral nature of joy. It likens the sporadic emergence of happiness to the cyclical ebb and flow of summer. With each summer’s advent, Oliver reflects on absorbing its radiant glow, synonymous with experiencing contentment.

Furthermore, the poem juxtaposes the uplifting imagery of summer and happiness with the darker undertones of the shadows we bear. Oliver’s poignant assertion, “Each of us wears a shadow,” suggests that even in the height of summer, shadows linger, emblematic of our sorrow. Thus, it seems happiness is inexorably linked to the existence of its opposite.

Oliver mirrors her human experience in the duality of a graceful heron’s croak. The heron, with its elegant bearing yet rudimentary cry, longs to sing sweetly. This contrast accentuates a yearning to embrace happiness without its cyclical downturns — to experience joy unmarred by the shadows of sadness. A heron with the gift of harmonious song would be the paragon of this aspiration.

In the opening lines, Oliver acknowledges a revelation: the water lilies, dispersed upon the pond, strive for connection. This can be seen as a metaphor for our instinctive attempts to connect with the world around us, to reach out and be in touch with nature and one another. In our multifarious actions – harsh, compassionate, unfortunate, and at times magnificent – we, like the lilies, are ever attempting to forge connections.

In essence, it’s a piece of profound beauty that delves into the intricacies of the human spirit and the palette of emotions we carry within us.

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