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by Mary Oliver

Flare Man and the Natural World Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Section.Line)

Quote #1

          Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of animals; the
give-offs of the body were still in the air, a vague ammonia, not unpleasant. (2.8-9)

The barn is described in a way that sounds almost mystical or magical, and these lines drive home the connection between the space and the animals that live in it. Their presence has turned this human-made structure into a natural place.

Quote #2

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
            of self-pity.

Not in this world. (4.7-9)

Our speaker seems to look to the natural world for an example of how to live. She finds one, surprisingly, in a green moth. She uses the image of the moth to show us how to live without self-pity and with vitality, rather than carrying our lives around like heavy weights and feeling sorry for ourselves. Who cares that the moth is in a bit of a hopeless situation. We're all going to get caught in the beak of a crow (so to speak) someday. That doesn't mean we should just mope around waiting for it to happen.

Quote #3

Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
of sweetness? (7.1-3)

Again, our speaker turns our attention to a detail or aspect of the natural world, in this case an ant's tongue. Why? For two reasons, we think. One is that maybe she just wants to amaze us, to make us want to engage with the world. It's so full of crazy, fascinating things like ant tongues that we're completely unaware of. But why this specific detail? Well, that gathering in of sweetness is kind of like the act of studying and learning about the world. The speaker wants us to gather in the sweetness of the world, just like an ant. Nothing like a bit of insect trivia to make your point.

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