Mary Oliver speaking at a gathering in San Francisco, told the audience, “I want to speak to the young people in the audience.” She said, “Pay Attention
These three instructions have stayed with me. Being astonished evokes a sense of awe within me as I am pulled out of myself and feel connected to something greater. With the daily headlines shouting out climate destruction, mass shootings, and hate filled, divisive rhetoric, I find myself retreating to the beautiful seven miles of nature trails out my back gate. I am blessed to be so close to an old growth forest.
My garden is another refuge. Watching the flowers slowly opening to their amazing beauty. Watching and listening to the various birds that grace my feeders brings me joy and peace. I often think of Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things” where he says,
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in this beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Research suggest that the sense of broader connectedness and purpose evoked by awe can help relieve negative moods and improve happiness. Evoking feelings of awe may be especially helpful when people are feeling bogged down and disconnected. Doctors are now prescribing walks in nature over medication. Abraham Heschel defines awe as a “Sense of transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine…..What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.” He further states, “Awe is the beginning of wisdom.”
My teacher and mentor Matthew Fox once said, “You must fall in love at least three times a day.” Yes!!! I practice falling in love, being astonished, with the beauty that surrounds me daily. It helps me move out of a sense of despair and into awe and wonder.
May you fall in love at least three times a day, and be astonished with the mystery of our universe.