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I grew up on the south shore of Long Island close to Jones Beach. On hot summer days like these, we spent so much time in the ocean that at night in bed after a day's swim, I could feel the push and pull of the waves still working on my body. But today, if I close my eyes and think of home its the marshes I see - that middle space of earth and water between the ocean and solid ground. I remember golden cattails reflected in the water, the smell of salt on the edge of the pond and the cushion of mud between my toes as I searched for the red winged blackbirds perched on the sea grasses.
This week I finished reading the highly recommended Where the Crawdad's Sing (Delia Owens). It is a finely crafted story about a young woman who calls the marshes of North Carolina her home. The heroine, Kya, collects bird's nests, feathers, shells, and mushrooms. She studies clouds, knows the tides, paints the grasses, feeds the gulls. Its a love story between the marsh and Kya. It is poetry and mystery and awe and I was captivated.
My muse Mary Oliver says in her poem, My Work is Loving the World, our work is standing still and learning to be astonished. How, I ask myself and you, do I learn to be astonished?
It was easy for me to be at home on this earth when I was a child. As a seventy year old woman my work is to learn to be at home again, but this time with the maturity to give this world the amazement and astonishment it deserves. I take a clue from Kya, who studied the marsh and came to know it intimately and learned to love it.
My Work is Loving the World 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.
I welcome your thoughts on learning to be astonished.
Best to you, Judy
The sky is not your limit. Your mind is.
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