Awe and Wonder: Schooled in Delight

In these days of Presidential campaigns, candidacies and cacophonies, have you noticed how hyperbole has become common speak?  When saying the outrageous or extreme becomes the norm, our senses and sense are dulled as to what normal might be.  We can laugh at that and chuckle over how absurd we become, but it really is a dangerous place to live for too long a time.  Our Presidential races last for two years or more now.  That’s too long to be without a sense of what is normal.

I am less interested in which hyperbole works these days.  I want to return sense and my senses back to the very normal things that transform me.  As often, I turn to the vatic prophetess of my world, Mary Oliver, this time from her poem “Mindful.”

I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.

At first glance, we might think that even Mary Oliver has gone the way of hyperbole, seeing something that would seem to kill her with delight.  But, we know better.  This is every day stuff.

It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

She renounces hyperbole:  the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful and the very extravagant.  The delights that nearly kill her every day are what she and I and you were all made for–to lose ourselves in this soft world, in the ordinary, the common.  She even calls it drab.

What ordinary, common things have invited me into their delight today?  The first things that come to mind are the faces that have faced mine: my beloved’s, my elderly Dachshund’s, the student’s who was relieved to know that a fee had been paid for something needed; another student’s who arrives each day bearing such anger from another place, the gentle grey clouds that are currently covering the face of the sky. I enter these faces with my life and their realities enter me as we behold each other.

Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

The grass in my yard is still brown, but soon, it’s green shoots will appear.  I wonder.  Will I recognize the rising prayers that each blade offers?

Bob Patrick

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