HBR | The Mockingbird by Mary Oliver

HBR | The Mockingbird by Mary Oliver

2017-08-18T13:19:44+00:00 February 19th, 2013|Harvard Business Review|

Having just posted Independent Work May be Inevitable over at HBR, The Mockingbird by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, seems fitting:

The Mockingbird
by Mary Oliver

All summer
the mockingbird
in his pearl-gray coat
and his white-windowed sings

from the hedge to the top of the pine
and begins to sing, but it’s neither
lilting nor lovely,

for he is the thief of other sound–
whistles and truck brakes and dry hinges
plus all the songs
of other birds in his neighborhood;

mimicking and elaborating,
he sings with humbor and bravado,
so I have to wait a long time
for the softer voice of his own life

to come through.  He begins
by giving up all his usual flutter
and settling down on the pine’s forelock
then looking around

as though to make sure he’s alone;
then he slaps each wing against his breast,
where his heart is,
and copying nothing, begins

easing into it
as though it was not half so easy
as rollicking,
as though his subject now

was his true self,
which of course was as dark and secret
as anyone else’s,
and it was too hard–

perhaps you understand–
to speak or to sing it
to anything or anyone
but the sky.

Are you speaking up?
Using your voice?
Sounding like you?

You may also want to read/listen to The Power of a Single Voice, Summer Reading Featuring Heroic Females, My Journey as a Political Mother, The Help.

  • Going solo and being independent has been a wonderful road. It has been scary, feeling alone at times and some days I wondered what will be the next disruption. This all began 20 years ago when I opportunity to begin a new journey and be independent as I set up my practice. Honestly I had no business plan, not a lot of money, did not like debt and I was unsure of what I was really going to do.

    I grew up in a family where my father and grandfather had their own business. However they were “gone” and not here to guide me. My husband was in his own family business and I was determined I could also have my own profession.
    The journey has been a dream, a challenge and I haven’t looked back.

    The roads have changed but the direction has always been forward. I have met some inspiring new people and disruptions along the way. However, I am so happy I made the plunge. With independence I have enjoyed many freedoms with this journey while raising my four sons as the priority.

    I think back on the various places my sons were with me as I worked or in school. One special time my 8 year son and I went to Washington when I spoke at a Senate committee meeting. My son stood in the Capitol with the Press group holding his camera and being just like them as I spoke! Raising a family and independent work is a challenge, you pick you “battles”, keep you humor and focus on moving forward. I am still on my journey and it is special!

    • Whitney Johnson

      I love this story about your son Debbie — a great example of modeling for our children how to dream! Thanks so much for sharing a piece of your story.

  • Pingback: Whitney Johnson Whenever I Hear the Song of a Bird()

  • John

    Verse four in the first stanza should read “in his white-windowed WINGS”

  • John

    verse 2 in stanza 4 should read “he sings with HUMOR…”