The season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on the simplicity of life – and to reflect on our own mortality. To think about how fragile the gift of breath, the gift of life, really is. This feels like an especially stark lesson for our community of faith this year. In these first three months of 2022, we have bid an earthly farewell to so many of the faithful pillars of our church. In March alone, Pastor Brandon and I have officiated six memorial services.  Truly, this has been a Lenten season in which we have had much opportunity to reflect on the fleetingness of life.

In our Lenten study on the poetry of Mary Oliver, this is a theme that has come up nearly each week that we have gathered for discussion – some aspect of our scripture or our poem has turned our attention to the rhythms of the natural world – ancient rhythms of giving and receiving, of losing and saving, of holding on and of letting go. For our devotional today, I invite you to join us on that journey. Begin by reading Mark 8:27-38, letting its words wash over you. Then, slowly read throw the poem below. Read it more than once, if you like, and let it saturate your soul. What connections do you see between the scripture and the poem? Is there a phrase or line that is especially striking for you today? What images or emotions are brought up for you as you read? May the Holy Spirit speak to us all.


In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars


of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,


the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders


of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is


nameless now.

Every year


I have ever learned


in my lifetime

leads back to this: the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side


is salvation,

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world


you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it


against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.