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.
Family gathered to spread ashes. Back row: Treve, David, Luarie, Joann, Arlen, Kurt Hailey Ann, Toland, Sue, Beth. In front: Austin, Amy Serena, Aaron.
The beach in Santa Cruz
Scattering Phil’s ashes
Family on the beach in Santa Cruz
On Saturday, April 22, Earth Day, we gathered as family in Santa Cruz to celebrate the life of my father, Philip W. Johnson who passed away on November 15, 2016. Scattering his ashes seemed to be the appropriate way to celebrate his life. We formed a circle, and with a brief prayer, we passed the canister of ashes around with each person saying a few words before scattering ashes. The canister made two rounds. The first round was a bit somber, with the second round there was a bit more levity. Dad wouldn’t want us morning his passing too long. His remains are now fertilizer for wildflowers in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Following the ceremony we returned to Shiphouse, the big house we had rented for the weekend, had a festive BBQ, and went for a walk on the beach.
Walking, paddling, meditating. What is it you do to maintain a sense of grace and compassion? In the midst of a chaotic world that would have us succumb to fear and anger what do you do to maintain sanity? Nothing seems to renew my sense of grace more than walking. I’m not sure that it’s simply the fact that I’m moving forward, one foot after the other, or that while walking, the problems of the world seem more distant.
I was out walking the dog this morning when I stopped to talk to a neighbor. She expressed concerns about where 2017 might lead us, and I was reminded of a piece I wrote in September “Keep on Walking.”
As part of my “walk” through 2017, I’m going to offer my services one day a month, pro-bono to help support social or environmental causes. With the changes we face in Washington, it’s going to be up to use as individuals to make a difference in how we act as stewards of God’s creation. I’m looking forward to the new year, to the new people I’ll meet on the journey ahead, to new connections I’ll make in the global community and to new opportunities that will arise.
Blessings to all for 2017
Kehoe Beach. Point Reyes National Seashore.
“Our greatest power as nations and individuals is not the ability to employ assault weapons, suicide bombers, and drones to destroy each other. The greater more creative powers with which we may arm ourselves are grace and compassion sufficient enough to love and save each other.” —Aberjhani
I found this quote wile reading the November-December issue of Orion Magazine. I thought this quote seemed appropriate given the season and the challenges we face.
I caught some attention this morning when I pulled my iPhone out to photograph my foot. A red shoe on red carpet. My wife explained to some friends that “he has a different view of the world.” In any event, I couldn’t resist the temptation. It just seemed like a striking scene and the natural thing to do. And we had just stepped out of a presentation about “social location” and how that affects our understanding of how we read scripture. It seemed like the morning was about celebrating diversity, which seems like a refreshing idea given how divisive and individualistic we seem to have become. So here’s to seeing things differently.