Upturned by wind, the form and color of this water lily leaf brought to mind Mary Oliver’s poem “Sunrise,” even though the photo was taken as sunset drew near.

You can
die for it-
an idea,
or the world. People
have done so,
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,
an unforgettable
fury of light. But
this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
                          “Sunrise” ~ Mary Oliver


Comments always are welcome.

45 thoughts on “Sunrise

    1. She was such a prolific writer, with such broad interests, that there seems always to be something suitable in her oeuvre. Her sensitivity to nature in all its forms always has appealed to me, although I’ll confess I never imagined pairing her “Sunrise” with such an image!

    1. It intrigued me that the form as a whole reminded me of the sun, while the veining on the leaf’s underside resembles veins, branches, roots, and neurons: all of which require sunlight to thrive.

      And, yes: she is a brilliant wordsmith.

  1. Truly a joy, Linda, to be gifted with this artful photo and another one of Mary Oliver’s uplifting and profound poems. Thanks so very much.

    1. A Florida friend recently posted a photo of a lake with what I assumed were flowers of some sort floating on its surface. He said that they weren’t flowers, but flipped-up lily pads. Little did I imagine I’d come across the same phenomenon so soon, and I was happy to have such an unusual sight to pair with Mary’s poem. I’m so glad you enjoyed their juxtaposition.

  2. One of my favorite water-lily shots is an overturned leaf. They are so colorful beneath.

    As always, Mary Oliver says so much about life. We do breathe for each other, sharing the oxygen, exhaling the spent air to be replenished by the life we share with other forms on the planet.

    1. I don’t remember seeing the underside of a water lily leaf before. I surely have, but didn’t pay attention. This one wasn’t going to be ignored, that’s for sure. It certainly fit the descriptions I read in my go-to books and online sites. I guess I thought that the leaves only become red in autumn, as the temperature drops. Silly me.

      Speaking of Mary Oliver, have you come across her book titled Dog Songs? It’s not just about dogs, but it certainly is mostly about dogs. Here are some selections; even non-dog owner me enjoyed the book.

    1. I’m sure I must have, but I don’t remember them, so this probably qualifies as the first I’ve ever really ‘seen.’ I’m just so taken with the patterns, as well as the color.

    1. I agree with completely that we lost a treasure when Mary Oliver died. On the other hand, thank goodness for her enormous archive; there’s always something new to be discovered and enjoyed. I’ve used her poems about herons and egrets from time to time; clearly, she watched them as closely as you watch your Great Blue Herons.

  3. I don’t guess I’ve ever read this poem of Mary’s before. It’s lovely, as is your photo of the lily’s underside. You’ve opened my eyes today, Linda!

    1. Mary Oliver has a way of opening eyes, I think. Her way of looking at the world can seem simple — even simplistic — but her work continues to be shared, and probably still will be touching people decades from now. Because so many of her poems reflect her engagement with nature, they’re wonderful companions to photos like this!

  4. The title, ‘Sunrise’ made me think of Norah Jones’ song, so I followed the link while expecting to see a soft pastel colored image – and certainly not ready to see the gorgeous lines of the underside of a water lily leaf!

    The poem adds balance – and food for thought as I nudge Norah’s back to quiet mode and consider Mary Oliver’s musings about the fabric of dawn. Last week I considered some of those same musings while peering across that vast refuge, no sound from the human’s world, and thought about the extreme opposite being experienced in Ukraine and other war-torn countries.

    We who can bask in peace are indeed blessed, and sometimes we forget to be grateful for even the smallest gift, like the network of lines on the underside of a leaf – or to know people like you.

    1. Once again, you’ve pulled me out from under my rock. I’d never heard of Norah Jones — can you believe that? I certainly smiled when I watched her official video for “Sunrise.” She spends some time in the video time in a pond decorated with water lilies — albeit without elegant red leaves. She certainly has had an interesting life, not to mention interesting parents.

      In truth, there’s always something distressing/ghastly/horrific taking place somewhere in the world. Often, the tragedies are uninteresting to the media, so we don’t hear about them, but they’re no less life-changing to those experiencing them. On the other hand, someone has to preserve the world’s beauty and joy for those who are longing for them. Dealing with the darkness by snuffing out any remaining light hardly seems useful, and Mary Oliver steadfastly refused to be a light-snuffer.

      1. Ok – I burst out laughing just now – you are in the minority to not have basked in Norah’s amazing voice. Come Away with Me – Don’t know Why — Feeling the Same Way… (I once read that it was about a hangover!) – One Flight Down – Nightingale – oh there are so many!

        I know what my playlist will be later tonight!

  5. I like your pairing of this poem with the photo. Both are reflective of one another, but also an addition. Lovely post, Linda.

    1. It’s another example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I like that it reminded me of sunrise, even though I took the photo at sunset. As I recall,l there was a song about “Sunrise, Sunset”!

    1. Your comment reminded me of a passage from Annie Dillard’s book Holy The Firm. It’s certainly not as well-known as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but it’s one of my favorites. She recounts some experiences in it that are terrible, beautiful, and fascinating all at the same time. I found the one that came to mind after reading your comment archived in the NY Times. Her ability to convey such an odd and memorable experience in words is unrivaled.

      1. Thank you for sharing the link, Linda. That experience Annie Dillard describes is one I have witnessed myself, even if I have never tried to summarize its devastating beauty in words.

        In thinking about moths, I was reminded of “Luna,” a passage Louise Erdrich wrote about a living Luna Moth. I tried to find it online, but couldn’t. Keep your eyes open for it (it is part of The Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year, published in 1995), for the language and descriptions are as luminous as the moth.

  6. What a legacy that woman left us. It is the magic of the printing press that keeps such voices alive long after they have left us.

    1. And now our books have added value: no publisher can remove them from our shelves. Well, as least until things get a lot, lot worse in the world. I have a friend who’s had the experience of having one of her e-reader books removed, and she wasn’t happy about it. All that said, your point is a good one; there’s something so satisfying about encountering words on a page.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Ann. Mary Oliver loved nature, but she loved people, too, and had her own griefs because of it. Still, she aged gracefully, and her words will age well, too.

    1. I’ve seen a few sunrises through eyes that might have been a little bloodshot — something else that the photo reminded me of — but I’ll agree: even a tropical sunrise or sunset never looked like this. Hooray for visual metaphors!

  7. I absolutely love this photo and I’m glad you found it and saw the potential. The reddish color against the typical greens is so nice, as are the vein-like patterns as compared to the typically flat topside of the leaf. And of course, the reflection! I’m not familiar with Mary Oliver but I like the poem. Provides some food for thought.

    1. I was so surprised to see that reddish underside. I’m accustomed to seeing the leaves turn a bit in fall, but even then they don’t display this lovely color; as I recall, they become a bit more orange. I’ll have to wait a few months and see.

      Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. I often include her poems in both of my blogs; here’s one I think you’ll like, given your comments about hanging about in nature with large groups of people!

      1. You were so right about me liking “How I Go to the Woods.” Like you, I smiled when reading it, and it very much resonates with me.

    1. I had no idea at all what a ‘louboutin’ might be. I assumed it was either a botanical or artistic term; I guess in a way it is related to art! I quivered a little when I saw that one pair of those shoes cost as much as two months of my rent. No matter: the lily pad was mostly free — apart from the gas to get to it!

    1. The song talks about seeing clouds ‘from both sides now’ but in this case I got the see a water lily leaf from both sides. It was far more attractive than I ever would have imagined.

  8. Your poet’s perspective continues to delight all who are fortunate enough to find it.

    Images and thoughts such as this transform “photography” into “art”.

    1. Some say ‘poet’s perspective.’ Others say ‘weird.’ Personally, I prefer ‘quirky,’ but in any case, I really liked this photo, and I’m glad you did, too. Thank you for those kind words!

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