Mary Oliver’s Many Gifts to Us

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Mary Jane Oliver, American poet, died on January 17, 2019. Although she will be greatly missed, her poetry remains to remind us of her gift for deep connection with the natural world. Arguments about her literary value may feed the appetite for constant critical analysis in the academy, but no one who has suffered childhood trauma and read Oliver’s work as an adult doubts her ability to see and express the human ability to heal through our connection with nature. Whether she intended to be or not, Mary Oliver is a poet especially relevant to those who suffer trauma at the hands of the humans in our lives.

Poetry, like life, gives us what we expect. If we expect erudition, cleverness, and cerebral workouts, Mary Oliver will disappoint. If we expect solace, delight, beauty, and coherence, her words flood us with the comforting sound of a mature voice expressing our deep hunger for, and discovery of, meaning. Because of the deeply rooted sensory nature of her work, it is no surprise that Oliver is one of America’s best selling poets. Many of us experience the pain of broken human relationship when we are young, our youth ensuring we have no words to describe what we are feeling. Bereft, we find love and caring where we can, sometimes with people who do not have our best interests at heart, sometimes with those so broken they forget connection, love, and kindness is the fuel we all require to become the people we were meant to be. And sometimes, we find home in the other-than-human world beyond our doorstep.

Mary Oliver is one of those rare poets whose images remind us we can reclaim our embodiment, even after the most severe trauma sends us deep into dissociation and lost identity. Moving through trauma means recognizing the site of the crime, marking out each violating act, and tenderly befriending whatever we had to do to feel safe. For many of us, safety is palpable when we are lying on the Earth looking up at the clouds, attending to the scents of mint or pine or salt water, or kneeling with reverence at the moment of some birth, death, or discovery we did not expect. The cry of wild geese, the heart-beat of waves, the drumming of woodpeckers, these sounds connect us to the pulsing mystery that sustains our lives. Humans may let us down, Mary Oliver reminds us, but the natural world never will. The natural expressions of life on earth knit us together with sight and sound and rhythm, these sensory foods nourishing body, heart, mind, and spirit.

As a survivor of early trauma, the most challenging aspects of my early life grew out of my inability to be present to the people in my world – family members, friends, teachers, and later, lovers and employers. Dissociation is a coping mechanism – a search for safety – most easily obscured by apparent compliance or its alter ego, rebelliousness. Traumatized children and adolescents are often called daydreamers, under-achievers, and even developmentally challenged. What we truly are is homeless, our sense of safety within the sanctuary of our bodies shattered by the traumas we’ve experienced. Mary Oliver, in her own pursuit of embodiment, has created an alchemy of re-connection, for herself, for those who read her.

Childhood trauma may leave us feeling permanently broken, alienated from others, adrift in a sea of sensation that feels constantly threatening and random.  Mary Oliver’s poetry offers a lifeline out of this sea.  As she looks and listens, as she expresses the joy, the surprise, the shock of life’s unfolding, her words have the power to coax us into our bodies – our personal expressions of sensory life – rhythmically, safely. 

Perhaps more than ever before, human disembodiment is encouraged and even rewarded by the mechanisms we have created to “connect.”  Our children are encouraged to study  STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects, this emphasis covertly teaching generations of children to devalue the arts as frivolous non-essentials that take time, attention, and resources away from research that increasingly preoccupies the minds of our best and brightest, but, sadly, neglects the hearts and souls that make us human.

  “Meanwhile, the world goes on.”  In “Wild Geese,” Mary Oliver reminds us of the “soft animal of our bodies,” of our need for the other-than-human coherence found beyond the failures of our human connections.  Her poetry forges pathways to seeing, hearing, and living this coherence, even after the worst has happened.

As an EFT practitioner, I have come to think of the work I do, personally, on my own traumas, and with clients, as a means of rediscovering the poetry of our lives, the safety of our own bodies, the joy of being in relationship with the forces supporting all of life on our fragile, lovely planet.  Mary Oliver has long been part of this rediscovery.  I mourn her passing.  And I celebrate her ongoing, healing presence in the beauty and healing she continues to foster in so many of us to through her poetry.



Jane is an EFT practitioner, trainer, writer, and educator specializing in neutralizing the long-term effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)  as well as the cultural limitations that interfere with our ability to imagine, create, and live the lives we desire.  To engage Jane for individual or group coaching services, AAMET (EFT International)  Accredited, Certified Mentoring sessions,  and EFT Level One and Two Training for your group, call Jane at  (802) 533-9277 or email .  Visit to learn more about how Jane supports and inspires individuals, groups, and communities.

Please Note:  This is an educational website only and not meant to replace therapy with certified psychologists, family therapists, or psychiatrists.  Jane Buchan, MA, is an AAMET (EFT International) Master Trainer, long-time teacher at the elementary, secondary, and college levels, and early trauma survivor who works exclusively as a learning coach in the best practices of EFT.  She created this website to support the most effective use of EFT to reduce general and specific stresses and to increase the joy of daily living through self regulation and co-regulation.

To experience the benefits of EFT for in-the-moment, trauma-informed emotional support and to build emotional resilience over the long term, please reach out to Jane by phone at (802) 533-9277 or by email at  In her coaching practice, Jane uses EFT and many other techniques to help individuals, groups, and communities resolve inner and outer conflicts and identify and achieve goals that will bring about desired positive changes.  This blog reflects her experience with EFT’s efficacy as a support for personal, community, and cultural transformation.