43 Inspirational Mary Oliver Quotes For New Perspective

Mary Oliver was an American poet who lived from 1935 to 2019. She has written many poems that have been translated into over 30 languages. Her most famous poem, “Wild Geese,” was written in 1959 and is about the universal grief of death.

Mary Oliver was a woman who spent her life writing poetry about the universal grief of death. Yet, for poems often filled with nostalgia and hope, she was incredibly prolific throughout her life and published over 100 books throughout her career.

She also wrote a memoir called The Summer Birds, where she describes the natural world around her during her childhood in Maine and New Hampshire during the early 20th century.

Here are some of her most meaningful quotes on life, love, and pursuing a new perspective on life.

43 Inspirational Mary Oliver Quotes

1. “Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers. Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.” ~ Mary Oliver

2. “You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.” ~ Mary Oliver

3. “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” ~ Mary Oliver

4. “It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” ~ Mary Oliver

5. “When will you have a little pity for every soft thing that walks through the world, yourself included.” ~ Mary Oliver

6. “There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But, who wants easier?” ~ Mary Oliver

7. “So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which was you.” ~ Mary Oliver

8. “In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” ~ Mary Oliver

9. “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” ~ Mary Oliver

10. “I try to be good but sometimes a person just has to break out and act like the wild and springy thing one used to be. It’s impossible not to remember wild and want it back.” ~ Mary Oliver

11. “For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.” ~ Mary Oliver

12. “I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” ~ Mary Oliver

13. “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” ~ Mary Oliver

14. “After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then reimagine the world.” ~ Mary Oliver

15. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ~ Mary Oliver

16. “What misery to be afraid of death. What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.” ~ Mary Oliver

17. “How could there be a day in your whole life that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?” ~ Mary Oliver

18. “Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us.” ~ Mary Oliver

19. “We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” ~ Mary Oliver

20. “As long as you’re dancing, you can Break the rules. Sometimes breaking the rules is just Extending the rules. Sometimes there are no rules.” ~ Mary Oliver

21. “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” ~ Mary Oliver

22. “You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” ~ Mary Oliver

23. “Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ~ Mary Oliver

24. “It is the nature of stone to be satisfied. It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else.” ~ Mary Oliver

25. “It’s not a competition, it’s a doorway.” ~ Mary Oliver

26. “And now I understand something so frightening & wonderful-how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing through crossroads, sticking like lint to the familiar.” ~ Mary Oliver

27. “Listen, whatever you see and love— that’s where you are.” ~ Mary Oliver

28. “Keep some room in your heart for the Unimaginable.” ~ Mary Oliver

29. “I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it will break open and never close again to the rest of the world.” ~ Mary Oliver

30. “When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement.” ~ Mary Oliver

31. “Every morning I walk like this around the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart ever close, I am as good as dead.” ~ Mary Oliver

32. “Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.” ~ Mary Oliver

33. “Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” — Mary Oliver

34. “Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Something in me still starves.” ~ Mary Oliver

35. “Most mornings I’m up to see the sun, and that rising of the light moves me very much, and I’m used to thinking and feeling in words, so it sort of just happens. I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and … almost involuntary in my life,” she says. “And when I talk about prayer, I mean really … what Rumi says in that wonderful line, ‘there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” ~ Mary Oliver

36. “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” ~ Mary Oliver

37. “My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness.” ~ Mary Oliver

38. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver

39. “Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled — to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world. I want to believe I am looking into the white fire of a great mystery. I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing — that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.” ~ Mary Oliver

40. “You too can be carved anew by the details of your devotion.” ~ Mary Oliver

41. “It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.” ~ Mary Oliver

42. “I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.” ~ Mary Oliver

43. “It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day.” ~ Mary Oliver

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