A white owl hunting in and out of the snow helps Mary Oliver see death as spiritual transformation


White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field

Coming down
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful
and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings–
five feet apart–and the grabbing
thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys
of the snow–

and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes,
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows–
so I thought:
maybe death
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us–

as soft as feathers–
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,

not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light–scalding, aortal light–
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

House of Light, 1990 © Mary Oliver

See this remembrance of Mary Oliver with links to more of her poems.

The ideas and imagery of light and dark that Mary Oliver uses remind me of William Stafford’s poem, Rx Creative Writing: Identity, where he describes “then that bone light belongs inside of things. You touch or hear so much yourself there is no dark. You know so sure there burns a central vividness.”

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5 Responses to “A white owl hunting in and out of the snow helps Mary Oliver see death as spiritual transformation”

  1. Nathanael Chawkin Says:


    Sent from my iPhone Nathanael Chawkin, M.A. | Founder Integral Martial Arts “All things change when we do” 805.770.2120 integralmartialarts.com


    Liked by 1 person

  2. deborahbrasket Says:

    Amazing! I love her work but hadn’t read this one. I’m so glad I did. Transformation indeed. Her insights are have so much power and truth in them. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. RIP: Mary Oliver. Thank you for sharing your poetic gifts with us. They are a national treasure! | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field by Mary […]


  4. Mary Oliver’s transcendent experience at the lake, put into words, might leave you breathless | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] these other lovely poems by Mary Oliver: Summer Day, Varanasi, Praying, Wild Geese, Sunrise, White Owl Flies Into And Out Of The Field, The Journey, and When Death Comes, which was included in her obituary Jan 17, […]


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