Standing Still and Learning to Be Astonished

I looked in the mirror today and didn’t recognize myself. A cliche of the worst sort, I know, but there I was. Me, yet not.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves,” said the novelist.

I suppose that is what is happening.

Life has distilled into something simple. Read a little, go to a park ranger talk, sit outside and watch boys skip rocks in the river, make some food, take the motorcycles out for a ride, hike to the top of a very high cliff.

The daily dramas of the office, of friends and family, of my own self-indulgent notions, have drifted away. They still arise in the mind every so often, seeking to enchant. But the other things that need attending sweep them away. Do we have enough gas? Can we get the RV level? Do we have enough food for the next few days? Will we have enough water for this nine mile hike?

Since leaving Bryce we’ve seen the oddly phallic spires of Kodacrome, the largesse of the Grand Staircase, and the pure colors of Capitol Reef.

Kodalante - 6
Kodachrome State Park, home of the world’s cleanest campground bathrooms. Photo credit: T
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The massive walls of the Grand Staircase. Photo credit: R
Kodalante - 3
The brilliant colors of Capitol Reef. Photo credit T.

In all that time there was no power (our generator is the latest victim of the RV gremlin), no cell service, and no wifi. The campgrounds in Utah are so spotless, so comfortable, that sitting around watching life go by is easy.

Over and over the first line of this poem played in my head:

The Messenger
by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.

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