This Morning, I Do!


The cardinal pair which is faithful to choose nesting sites in our garden is a consistent source of delight for me.  Their song draws me from my own nest with pillow and lamp, put down my book,  walk barefoot on the cool wet stones of today’s path.  I am called to pay attention, to  have my heart pierced as the sun rises, to love this world and to cherish this life, to exclaim of the dearness given to me new every day.  I love Mary Oliver’s poem that prompts these words for me.


This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?
~ Mary Oliver, “Peonies” from New And Selected Poems

Sunsets and Sonnet 73

Today is my birthday, and I almost missed one of my gifts!  While I was thinking about how many sunsets and sunrises I have been gifted in 73 years, I almost failed to go outside and witness the blaze of glory that is today’s sunset.  We do that, don’t we?  We busy ourselves with good thoughts and activity and miss the glory of what is happening right this minute.  I am thankful for every day and every blessing I have been given.  But I want to practice being present in the moment that will pass forever if  I don’t (in Mary Oliver’s words) pay attention, be astonished and tell about it.  Today’s sunset will be remembered, but the gift it has given me is more than its beauty.  Help me, Lord, to celebrate the now.031

That time of year thou mayst in me behold (Sonnet 73)   William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
 This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
 To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Pay Attention

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”   ~  Mary Oliver, “Yes! No!”

Joe and I attended the same highschool in Jacksonville, Texas . Over fifty years later, we talk about how grateful we continue to be for good teachers who taught us well, expected much, and by their example and instruction gave us more than knowing how to construct sentences, write paragraphs, solve equations, and appreciate art,  history,  geography, music and sports.  Lois Boles, Frances Childress, James Everett, Mr. Mosely, Signora Mullinix,  Jerry Robinson, Bill Ingram spring to mind quickly.  But a spry lady we called Miss Kate (Kate Stadler) who taught typing, used an expression so often in her classes that we still use it.   “Pay Attention!”  Miss Kate demanded attention to detail with expected results in skill and accuracy.  I am pretty sure she didn’t intend application beyond keyboard skills or think that as years went on, paying attention would be a skill that would become something to live by.  I am certain that I did not understand the phrase as more than a requirement until much later.  In its simplicity, there lies a risk of underrating its scope and impact. But it has become a compelling imperative, one that helps me see the intersection of faith and creation and art. No surprise, my favorite Mary Oliver quotation expresses this well.

“Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention…

Be astonished…

Tell about it!”              ~  Mary Oliver, “Sometimes”