noticing the world

field of sunflowers

credit: graham owen

Mary Oliver’s poems invite us to notice the world – not only trees, deer, mockingbirds, violets of the natural world – but the inner world, as well. A perennial favorite is “Children, It’s Spring,” which evokes deep reflection with such lines as ‘picked by careful fingers’ or ‘children bringing such happiness home in their small hands.’

The prompt to notice both inner and outer worlds brings writers to immediate recognition, making connections within their own motivations and current situations that otherwise would not have occurred.

It is most gratifying to watch the women inmates writing their poems and memories, read them with emotion ranging from joy to sadness, ending in determination to change. By the time we are ready to close our circle for the evening, they pen notes about what felt like a gift, and what a challenge in the evening.

Then we hear the deeper layers of what has shifted or settled for them during our 90 minutes together: “What settled with me today – I have a better sense of where I wanna go in life . . . what shifted is my uncertainness. I’m very inspired and insightful” and “I felt a shift of being dysfunctional to a sense of inner peace,” to share just two.

It is an honor to hold these emerging insights as women in prison pen themselves toward growing awareness of their place in the world.

As a child, I remember playing in a huge field of sunflowers. I remember this time especially because I was happy that I was able to spend time with my dad. Spending time with my dad was always a joyous time for me, because I was not always able to spend time with him due to the fact that my mom and dad divorced each other when I was three.

For me, that seemed like a punishment. I felt as though I had caused them to split. I always felt as though I had done something wrong. Therefore I struggled a lot with my emotions as a child into my adult years. I still to this day have trouble coping with my emotions. I tend to wear them on my sleeve.

However, what I remember most is the times I was able to spend with my dad, because we would go camping, fishing, to the Great Escape in New York, to Granby Zoo in Canada and numerous other places. We would always have a good time. But when I had to return to my mom’s, I always dreaded it. I felt as though I was being robbed of my most precious childhood memories.


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