“One Day You Finally Knew What You Had To Do, And Began…”

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

Thus opens Mary Oliver’s poem,  “The Journey.”  I’ll print the whole poem below.

I wanted to start though, with just these lines, and an invitation to you to read her poem as if it’s a call to your soul today.

I imagine you’ve heard by now that Mary Oliver died on January 17, 2019.  I will share some of my favorite poems of hers with you over the next few weeks, both to honor her legacy and call you to your own.

When a poet is so great, both as an artist and a human being, we sometimes forget that we, too have seeds of greatness within us.  Mary Oliver took her life seriously.  She took her dedication to poetry seriously.  She woke most mornings early and took long walks in the woods, or along the shore, and those walks were the foundation for her writing.

You, too, have the possibility of greatness within you, if you’re willing to devote yourself to cultivating it.  Most of us use only a small portion of the potential within ourselves.  Yet each of us is born to be a creator.

As Mary Oliver tells us in her beloved poem  “Wild Geese”

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.


Your Writing Practice:

When you have time to write for 5- 15 minutes,   spend some time with her poem The Journey.

In The Journey Mary Oliver speaks of all “the voices around you…shouting their bad advice…until little by little, as you left their voices behind,/ the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,/ and there was a new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own…”

Listening for that voice is the work of a lifetime.  It is the work that will give you back to your self, because it is the voice of your own soul, which is longing for you to hear it.  When you write with conscious intention,  you can hear that voice.

Every day that you write is a journey home to your own soul.  Mary Oliver’s poems have been guiding many of us to write, and to live, for decades.

It takes time to read a poem and receive it deeply enough to let it change you.  It takes time to write your own poem, or novel, or memoir.  But when you take that time you become more fully who you were meant to be…who you always wanted to be.

In her poem  “Mockingbirds” Mary Oliver says

Wherever it was

I was supposed to be

this morning—

whatever it was I said


I would be doing—

I was standing

at the edge of the field—

I was hurrying


through my own soul

opening its dark doors—

I was leaning out:

I was listening.


Give yourself the gift of leaning out into your own soul, opening its dark doors, and listening.  Let The Journey be your guide.

Read the poem (printed in full below)  to yourself, out loud if possible.  Then, take the first line,  “One day you finally knew/ what you had to do, and began…” and write it down as your first line.  Let that line be your prompt to write whatever comes for 5- 15 minutes.  Do your best to keep your hand moving on the page and try not to censor yourself, even if your writing doesn’t entirely make sense.

It always helps to set a timer for your writing practice.

After you write, pause, stretch, breathe a few conscious breaths, then read what you wrote.  Notice what images, thoughts, revelations particularly move you.  Circle those.  Give thanks for the gift of writing.  When you have time, in the next 24 hours, read your writing again.

If it’s time for you to deepen your own journey home to your soul through writing, let’s have a conversation.  Just reply to this email or contact me at DeboraSei@gmail.com 

Enjoy your writing practice!

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice—

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations—

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do—

determined to save

the only life you could save.