“The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver (and a note from Christy)

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

“The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst, 2007. Beacon Press.



Note from Christy:

2016 was a tumultuous year. It had its share of joy, but most would agree that ’16 also had an inordinate amount of pain and loss and anxiety. It’s why I chose to leave you–for the time being–with Mary Oliver’s “The Uses of Sorrow.” My long-term readers may know that I’ve opened and closed each year with Ms. Oliver, and given the “box full of darkness” that was 2016, it felt like the right piece to close this year. We can learn from darkness. We can learn from sorrow. We can learn from grief. We may never “get over it” or “feel better,” but we can adapt. We can grow scar tissue. We can choose to be softened, to keep going. We can choose to look at darkness as a gift.

Had I not gone with Ms. Oliver, I may have chosen the following by Viktor Frankl:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


Words for the Year will return in the new year after a short hiatus. Like last year, I plan to be back by April. I may post daily, or I may post on a reduced schedule, or I may just go with the flow and allow room for spontaneity. This project means so much to me, and I’m touched to know it means so much to many of you as well. (Special wave to Willene.) Sometimes you all are the bright lights that keep me going, just as these poems often keep you–us–going. “The darkness around us is deep,” to quote William Stafford in “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” but somehow, like elephants, we hold each others’ tails and we continue to find our way. Until next time, I wish you love and light and good health. ~Christy


22 thoughts on ““The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver (and a note from Christy)

    1. And a happy new year to you and yours as well!
      “Wild Geese” was the very first poem I ran here…
      Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
      Meanwhile the world goes on.

      Still as poignant today as it was the very first time I read her words. Just as every poem of hers. Seems the more life we live, the more we discover in her words.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. My heart swelled with love and gratitude as I read Mary’s words and then yours.

    The visual of elephants holding the tail of the one in front of them filled me with joy, too. It’s what I think of each time I see Virginia the elephant perched on my writing desk.

    Love and light to you, too soul sister. xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it mysterious how we can look back upon darkness and sorrow with the eyes of love and gratitude? We never think it at the moment, but time allows us to see the lessons, the gift. The longer we live, the less time needed to get that point of gratitude. Usually. 😉

      Thinking of Virginia makes me smile. Thinking of you makes me smile too. Love you. xoxox

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gia

    I’m saddened that you’re leaving just after I ‘found’ you, Christy, but I certainly understand and will console myself by reading through the archives until your return. All the best in 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gia! Awww, don’t be saddened. I just looked, and there are over 1,000 published posts (1,050) in the archives. Should keep you busy for a little while, at least.

      Just need a little digital hiatus and some time to recharge and reflect. Hope to read lots of poetry during my break so I’ll have some goodies to share upon my return. Stay tuned…I have a feeling you’ll see me a few times before April.

      Blessings and peace, Gia, so glad you ‘found’ me, Christy


    1. The same to you, Jim! So glad our paths crossed this year.
      And happy running! I’m starting one of Hal Higdon’s marathon training plans tomorrow for a Spring marathon. Fingers crossed my knees and I stay healthy. 🙂


  3. Brian Dean Powers

    Thank you for introducing me to so many new authors.

    As the song says: “Let’s drink a cup of kindness, dear…” because our world is so much in need of kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I raise my cup to that sentiment right along with you, Brian. Thank you for your support this year. Your comments always make me think, and help me look at poems with new eyes. I tend to focus on the end result of how a poem makes me “feel” in my gut; you have helped me observe the poet’s process (the form, the flow, the word selection and intent), which in turn strengthens that feeling in my gut and helps me appreciate it even more. Happy new year to you and yours, Christy

      Liked by 1 person

  4. James G. Rice

    Appropriate poem to end the year by one of my favorite poets.

    Christy, thank you for all the wonderful poems you gave us in 2016. May 2017 be a year of health and happiness for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rob, your note made my day, thank you for your kindness.

      For those days when there’s not much light, remember…”you are marvelous, the gods wait to delight in you.” ❤

      The Laughing Heart
      by Charles Bukowski

      your life is your life
      don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
      be on the watch.
      there are ways out.
      there is a light somewhere.
      it may not be much light but
      it beats the darkness.
      be on the watch.
      the gods will offer you chances.
      know them.
      take them.
      you can’t beat death but
      you can beat death in life, sometimes.
      and the more often you learn to do it,
      the more light there will be.
      your life is your life.
      know it while you have it.
      you are marvelous
      the gods wait to delight
      in you.

      –Charles Bukowski

      Liked by 1 person

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