The Journey (to Thailand) by Mary Oliver.

Via Melissa Smith
on Jan 31, 2012
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photo by James Sutton


“One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice —

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried…”

Leaving balmy Thailand, even knowing I would return in a year, I still felt robbed of the carefree gypsy life I was craving.

Standing at the doorway of the studio on the eve of my last day, my eyes looked out into the parking lot toward a sea of motor bikes and bicycles and my back faced all the friends I’d made on this journey. I took a bellowing breath and as I exhaled, felt the tears hot on my cheeks.

“..but you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones…”

I had fallen in love years ago… with Asia, with exotic experiences, with the unexpected encounter with persons who mystically show up just at the exact moment I needed something.

Enamored with the simplicity of life away from my own hectic “real life”, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to whisk my 2 young boys off to this magical foreign land: Eating sticky rice with our fingers. Taking a rickshaw to explore sacred temples and riding bicycles to school with them. Drinking fresh coconut juice from a street vendor who just chopped off the top with a machete.

I wished on the big full moon: Let us go, run and return here as fast as we can.

“…But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world…”

melissa, traveler on the journey

In Thailand, I felt ALIVE. I released my fears and allowed the day to come and go as it pleased without agenda.Since returning home from my summer abroad, I’ve struggled to maintain the high. Just like a suntan fades over time, my glow dimmed a little more each day. My heart felt pale instead of vibrant. Until now.

“…determined to do the only thing you could do –“

A series of personal and professional setbacks: divorce, loss of friendships and love long hoped for, and job cancellations have forced me to reexamine everything I know to be true. As I was assisting in a community yoga class this weekend, the humble teacher stopped mid-asana and asked us to open our palms, and I heard him speak as if it were my own voice pleading me to consider: ‘This is your life. Don’t miss it.’

“…determined to save the only life you could save.” 

My life, clouded with unfulfilled longing for things that are not yet to be or may never come.I am forced to look my life in the eye and tell it I’m ready NOW. Come, save me from what I hope for and instead, clear space for me to be mended. I don’t want to miss my life.

*Poem by Mary Oliver, The Journey

More by Melissa: Waking Up a Different Person on Elephant Journal. And Pledge to Live.

joy revisited


About Melissa Smith

Melissa is a freelance writer, zealous traveler, momma, and AcroThaiTherapeuticsYogaLifeStudentOccasionalTeacher. She leads advanced teacher trainings for Leeann Carey Yaapana Yoga, specializing Therapeutic Partner Practice and hosts retreats in Texas, Thailand & New Orleans for Grace Yoga Retreats. Connect with her on Facebook, her Grace Yoga Blog, and Twitter. or read other Elephant Journal articles.


21 Responses to “The Journey (to Thailand) by Mary Oliver.”

  1. Jenn says:

    raw. deeply personal. touching. lovely. i heard those words too.. "this is your life. don't miss it." and the statement infused me with power and a sense of encouragement to keep living boldly, with LOVE and gratitude… to follow wherever this life may lead me with open heart and mind… thailand is calling. "exotic experiences and unexpected encounters with people who show up just when you need them."

  2. melissa says:

    thank you for your feedback, Jenn. Your thoughtful comments mean a lot to me. showing up!!

  3. Jules says:

    this made me cry. you are beautiful

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    I loved how you broke apart the poem and added your own. Beautiful.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  5. melissa says:

    thank you sweet Jules. xo

  6. melissa says:

    Thank you Tanya, I value your comments & support. all love, Melissa

  7. Stacy says:

    Melissa…you write with such beauty and courage. YOU inspire. xoxo

  8. melissa says:

    thank you, Stacy. I appreciate you. xx

  9. Mandy says:

    So touching. A friend of mine read this before I had a chance to and brought it up last night over dinner. Your story has entered into our lives so much that it's talked about in the most intimate of table talks. Your a powerful women.

  10. Shirly Oh says:

    melissa you are a gem…keep shining! i love the quote ‘This is your life. Don’t miss it.’
    your post reminded me of this song by ross copperman
    It's one door swinging open and one door swinging closed
    Some prayers find an answer
    Some prayers never know
    We're holding on and letting go

  11. Suz says:

    This is the writing of a woman in love…. a woman who must leave the one she loves. Even if she knows she will return, it is the tearing away of part of her soul. Wondering if they will be the same when they return to each other again and knowing that they won't be…can't be because of life. Those who know this kind of passion have been truly blessed, of that I am certain! I love your passion, my friend!

  12. beth reese says:

    Life and art are interconnected like a performance piece that has no beginning, no end, and dances into new theaters of the lives of others in unexpected ways. With better story lines, including loves and losses, choosing to embrace life and its many obstacles (hellooooo Ganesha!) is indeed a choice…. and one that comes with soaring joys and dark, deep lows.

    Melissa is a leading lady demonstrating for us—and our lineage—how navigating this lavish labyrinth does in deed have doorways and blocks… but the path is full of sukha… sweetness…. even if some days the resonance is oh so bitter.

    Sending you a hug full of gratitude until I can give you one in person…….

  13. melissa says:

    thank you beth, i value your words and you have been someone who's integrity and light i hope to emulate. thank you for you.

  14. melissa says:

    my kindred spirit…yes, i am in love… with wanderlust. 🙂

  15. melissa says:

    thank you for your sweet words.. it is YOUR life. that I know for sure: Let's not miss it.
    heading out the door to ride bikes with my little guy who's 6 and hanging on my arm wondering when his mommy will please play…. off I go! : )
    Life is waiting.

  16. Me too! Thank you for this beautiful piece, I too have fallen in love with Asia & cannot wait to return xx

  17. Angie says:

    Thank you for sharing. Synchronistic.

  18. Maya says:

    thats my favorite poem by Mary Oliver!

  19. melissa says:

    thank you. full of gratitude.

  20. melissa says:

    mine as well.

  21. […] Having said that, there is something unique about the people that, over the course of several years, I have come to meet on this beach. […]