The WOW factor

Each year at this time I am amazed at the quality and quantity of light. Although the ground is still shedding its snow cover, revealing splotches of muddy earth, the sky is full of brilliant sunlight. When people in other places ask me how I survive the cold and the dark here, I try to explain the annual cycle. They nod and their eyes glaze over as I tell them that the amount of available light changes at the rate of plus or minus f 6-7 minutes a day. Right now we have more than 15 hours of light, and it will keep increasing until June 21. By then we will be used to the never-ending daylight. But right now I am still amazed when I walk outside after an event in the evening and say, “Wow, it’s still light!”

There’s another story that accompanies this amazement. We are also experiencing warmer than normal temperatures for this time of year. This means that the trees may leaf out a full two weeks earlier than usual. I love what we call “green-up,” the vibrant new life, but I also worry that these warmer temperatures are the result of global climate disruption.

How do I hold both emotions at once? Amazement and concern. I think we need both. When I look at a glacier or a sunset, I want to say, “Wow! and to appreciate the transitory beauty of the moment. That’s my heart space. My head tells me that the glaciers are retreating, the waters are rising, the woods surrounding my home may be dying, the permafrost is melting, and more. But just for this moment, let me feel the joy and love the world.  I love the following poem by Mary Oliver.

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
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the 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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