Pythian Games

put on your track shoes and write the miles

The Whistler by Mary Oliver

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The Whistler


Mary Oliver

All of a sudden she began to whistle By all of a sudden I mean that for more than thirty years she had not whistled. It was thrilling. At first I wondered, who was in the house, what stranger? I was upstairs reading, and she was downstairs. As from the throat of a wild and cheerful bird, not caught but visiting, the sounds warbled and slid and doubled back and larked and soared.

Finally I said, Is that you whistling? Yes, she said, I used to whistle, a long time ago. Now I see I can still whistle. And cadence after cadence she strolled through the house, whistling.

I know her so well, I think, I thought. Elbow and ankle. Mood and desire. Anguish and frolic. Anger too. And the devotions. And for all that, do we even begin to know each other? Who is this I’ve been living with for thirty years?

This clear, dark, lovely whistler?

Mary Oliver is my absolutely favorite poet. This, since I discovered her work about four years ago. I have all her books and so often find joy and/or solace in her words. This piece, The Whistler, she wrote of her long time partner, Molly Malone Cook, who passed on in 2005. Oliver, now in her seventies lives on with strong memories of her partner in life. She has recently published a book of Molly’s photography entwined with her own, s prose depicting their lives together through words and pictures.

I wonder if I, faced with such a loss go on as she is doing. My own partner of 45 years is at present undergoing tests due to symptoms that may point to the diagnosis of a debilitating disease. This being the case, I wonder where I will get the strength from to cope. I so admire Oliver and her work and know that I must look to others like her and take a page from their book of life…to find my own well of strength. I look for a positive outcome, but have to be prepared for whatever eventuality.


Written by woodnymph

May 17, 2008 at 4:27 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Vi, her work is lovely! Thank you for introducing Mary Oliver to us. I had not heard of her. I’m sad to hear your life partner is going through tests that could reveal a debilitating disease. My thoughts and prayers are with you for a positive outcome and if there is a health challenge, that strength grace you both. Genece


    May 17, 2008 at 5:36 pm

  2. Vi – thank you for sharing – I did not know of Mary Oliver, but I would like to read more – she has such good-natured observations and attitudes, and just enough whimsey…
    I too send you warm thoughts & hope your partner gets good news back on her test – for both your sake’s. Kerry


    May 17, 2008 at 11:02 pm

  3. None of us know how we will face loss such as this Vi. I will never pretend it is an easy path. It is not quite eighteen months since Darryl died and the void is no less intense. But, with life there is hope and I feel that you take more from each day that you have.

    Heather Blakey

    May 17, 2008 at 11:48 pm

  4. We gather so much strength from those who go before us on the journey of life, as you are doing with Mary Oliver. Take care, Vi.


    May 18, 2008 at 3:37 am

  5. Look for inspiration and wisdom wherever you can find it. No-one can predict the future. Live each day with wisdom, Vi.


    May 18, 2008 at 9:58 am

  6. Thank you for introducing Mary Oliver to us – I shall seek to read more, inspiring indeed. My thoughts are with you Vi..let us all hope for a positive outcome.


    May 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm

  7. Thank you all for your comments and kind thoughts. We are doing our best to be positive. We won’t know anything until after we see the neurologist in about ten days time.



    May 18, 2008 at 3:27 pm

  8. Mary Oliver is a clear light touching the world. She shines truth. You have the strength for anything. Just know it is there, and there it is.


    May 18, 2008 at 6:48 pm

  9. Here’s to positive outcomes, strength, and rediscovered talents that reveal even deeper layers in the lives of those we love.

    And thank you for introducing Mary Oliver to us, Vi.


    May 19, 2008 at 2:09 pm

  10. Mary Oliver is new to me, Vi, but I think I’ll be looking her up. I’ll be hoping the best for your partner, too. Waiting can be so very hard. Those we love and live with for so very long become part of us, and we become part of them, and things that affect one affect both. I’ll be keeping you both in my thoughts.


    May 19, 2008 at 2:36 pm

  11. Mary Oliver is exceptional. I had gone for a blood test–only to find the lab didn’t accept my insurance. I’d have to find another lab, reschedule for another day, and wait two hours for my disability bus to take me home. I counted the wasted morning a blessing when I read “The Summer Day” in an old magazine.

    Vi, waiting is so difficult, I hope and pray your partner will get encouraging news.


    May 19, 2008 at 3:31 pm

  12. Reblogged this on Blue Mountain Poetry and commented:
    My favourite poet too, so connected, so real, so open… so well bounded.


    March 5, 2015 at 7:44 am

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