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Beautiful Mary Oliver Quotes to Live By

We all can benefit from adding a little more poetry into our lives. The Mary Oliver quotes below feature her powerful, honest words that will give you a brand new perspective on life. 

Who is your favorite poet?

As a child, my love of writing began with poetry. During my many trips to the library, I fell in love with many poets such as Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, and of course, Mary Oliver. Her work often dives into the state of humanity and its connections with the natural world.

Below we have compiled some of the most motivational Mary Oliver quotes on life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Enjoy!

Mary Oliver quotes on life 

1. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

2. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver

3. “Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” – Mary Oliver

4. “You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” – Mary Oliver

5. “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” – Mary Oliver

6. “What misery to be afraid of death. What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.” – Mary Oliver

7. “It’s not a competition, it’s a doorway.”  – Mary Oliver

8. “And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money, I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.” – Mary Oliver

9. “I try to be good but sometimes a person just has to break out and act like the wild and springy thing one used to be. It’s impossible not to remember wild and want it back.”  – Mary Oliver

10. “We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” – Mary Oliver

11. “When will you have a little pity for every soft thing that walks through the world, yourself included.” – Mary Oliver

12. “After a cruel childhood, one must reinvent oneself. Then reimagine the world.” – Mary Oliver

13. “When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement.” – Mary Oliver

14. “As long as you’re dancing, you can Break the rules. Sometimes breaking the rules is just Extending the rules. Sometimes there are no rules.” – Mary Oliver

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15. “It is the nature of stone to be satisfied. It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else.” – Mary Oliver

16. “And now I understand something so frightening & wonderful-how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing through crossroads, sticking like lint to the familiar.” – Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver quotes on love

17. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” – Mary Oliver

18. “I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it will break open and never close again to the rest of the world.” – Mary Oliver

19. “Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.”  – Mary Oliver

20. “It is better for the heart to break, than not to break.” – Mary Oliver

21. “So every day I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which was you.” – Mary Oliver

22. “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” – Mary Oliver

23. “Love, love, love, says Percy. And hurry as fast as you can along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust. Then, go to sleep. Give up your body heat, your beating heart. Then, trust.” – Mary Oliver

24. “Every morning I walk like this around the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart ever close, I am as good as dead.”  – Mary Oliver

25. “There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But, who wants easier?” – Mary Oliver

26. “Listen, whatever you see and love— that’s where you are.” – Mary Oliver

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Motivational Mary Oliver quotes

27. “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” – Mary Oliver

28. “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” – Mary Oliver

29. “Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.” – Mary Oliver

30. “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell others.”  – Mary Oliver

31. “You too can be carved anew by the details of your devotion.” – Mary Oliver

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32. “So come to the pond, or the river of your imagination, or the harbor of your longing, and put your lips to the world. And live your life.” – Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver quotes on happiness

33. “I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” – Mary Oliver

34. “Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” – Mary Oliver

35. “You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.”  – Mary Oliver

36. “I believe in kindness. Also in mischief.” – Mary Oliver

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37. “But I also say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it’s done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive.” – Mary Oliver

38. “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.” – Mary Oliver

39. “It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day.” – Mary Oliver 

40. “How could there be a day in your whole life that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?” – Mary Oliver

41. “Joy is not made to be a crumb. “  – Mary Oliver

42. “Sing, if you can sing, and if not still be musical inside yourself.” – Mary Oliver

43. “My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness.” – Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver quotes to inspire you

44. “Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” – Mary Oliver

45. “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” – Mary Oliver

46. “Always there is something worth saying about glory, about gratitude.”  – Mary Oliver

47. “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” – Mary Oliver

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48. “Knowledge has entertained me and it has shaped me and it has failed me. Something in me still starves.” – Mary Oliver

49. “You’re like a little wild thing that was never sent to school.” – Mary Oliver

50. “Look, hasn’t my body already felt like the body of a flower?” – Mary Oliver

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Other iconic Mary Oliver quotes

51. “For some things, there are no wrong seasons. Which is what I dream of for me.” – Mary Oliver

52. “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” – Mary Oliver

53. “Things take the time they take. Don’t worry. How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?” – Mary Oliver

54. “May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” – Mary Oliver

55. “The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us.” – Mary Oliver

56. “You can fool a lot of yourself but you can’t fool the soul. That worrier.” – Mary Oliver

57. “There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.” – Mary Oliver

58. “All things are meltable and replaceable. Not at this moment, but soon enough, we are lambs and we are leaves, and we are stars, and the shining, mysterious pond water itself.” – Mary Oliver

59. “Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually. Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us.” – Mary Oliver

60. “When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider the orderliness of the world.” – Mary Oliver

When’s the last time you examined the beauty in everyday things? 

Much of Mary Oliver’s work oozes positivity. She sees beauty in everything around her and is constantly in amazement at the miracle of life. 

To celebrate Mary Oliver’s life and work, take time out of your day to find beauty and happiness in everyday things. Whether it’s the smell of your morning coffee or the sound of the rain falling on your roof, life is filled with magic that’s waiting to be discovered. All it takes is a brand new perspective to find it. 

Which of these beautiful Mary Oliver quotes stuck out to you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Nia Simone McLeod
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  1. steve pasternak

    January 26, 2021 at 1:03 PM

    I love all her quotes, but this one resonated in me, it is my life:“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” – Mary Oliver

  2. Linda McGraw

    October 1, 2020 at 11:03 AM

    Every one of them! I love all of them. Her poetry has shaped my life for the last 20 years! I miss her. Thank you for making this list.

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