What Does It Mean?

The First Snow
by Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
such an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing 
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain - not a single
answer has been found -
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields
feels like one.

Highbanks Metro Park Photo by Kris Stephens Worthington, November 17, 2014

Highbanks Metro Park
Photo by Kris Stephens Worthington, November 17, 2014

Gravel 
by Mary Oliver 

It is the nature of stone
to be satisfied.
It is the nature of water
to want to be somewhere else.

Everywhere we look;
the sweet guttural swill of the water
tumbling.
Everywhere we look: 
the stone, basking in the sun,

or offering itself
to the golden lichen.

It is our nature not only to see
that the world is beautiful

but to stand in the dark, under the stars,
or at noon, in the rainfall of light,

frenzied,
wringing our hands,

half-mad, saying over and over:

what does it mean, that the world is beautiful –
what does it mean?

The child asks this,
and the determined, labouring adult asks this –

both the carpenter and the scholar ask this,
and the fisherman and the teacher;

both the rich and the poor ask this
(maybe the poor more than the rich)

and the old and the very old, not yet having figured it out ask this
desperately

standing beside the golden coated field rock,
or the tumbling water, 
or under the stars –

what does it mean?
what does it mean?