In this very lyrical excerpt, Mary Oliver has a great attraction to nature because of its paradoxical yet balancing form. By being both terrifying and beautiful, nature fills the world with contrasting entities that can be “death-bringers” or bring “immobilizing happiness.” Oliver uses imagery, parallelism, and contrasting to express her swaying emotions of fear, awe, and happiness towards nature.
The imagery creates the very distinct contrast between terrifying and beautiful parts of nature. The frightening great horned owl has “razor-tipped toes” that “rasp the limb” and a “hooked beak” that makes a “heavy, crisp, breathy snapping.” The physical form is rough and rugged, reminiscent of a terrifying being. The owl is presented with characteristics of the “night” and “blackness,” The flowers, on the other hand, are like “red and pink and white tents.” The color contrast reinforces the complete oppositeness of the flowers and the owl.
Contrasting continues throughout the excerpt to display the conflicting character of nature. Nature is so complex that even very similar animals have very differing aspects. Oliver can “imagine the screech owl on her wrist” and she can learn from the snowy owl, but the great horned owl will cause her to “fall” if it “should touch her.” Even though this great horned owl is terrifying, Oliver still is in amazement of it. She says it would become the “center of her life.” While “the scream of the rabbit” in “pain and hopelessness” is terrible, it is not comparable with the “scream of the owl” which is of “sheer rollicking glory.” Nature has extremes, and the owl is the extreme of terror. The flowers, however, represent the extreme of happiness. Through parallelism, Oliver exemplifies the happiness given by the fields of flowers. The flowers have “sweetness, so palpable” that it overwhelms Oliver. She uses phrases continually beginning with “I’m” and then a verb, to show how the fields engulf her like a “river.” She is...
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