It doesn’t have to be the blue iris

by Elouise

It’s the end of a busy week, and we’re hoping to visit Longwood Gardens tomorrow (yay!). One thing that helped me stay focused this week was Mary Oliver’s poem below. My comments follow.


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver, Thirst, Beacon Press 2006

Mary Oliver invites me to attend to small things right before my eyes, often at my feet. Pay attention. So much attention that I can’t stop thinking about it/them.

One small thing caught my attention this past week. At first I didn’t see any connections. Or hear any voices speaking into my silence. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

‘It’ is a small, striped-tail chipmunk (ground squirrel) that regularly sits on a cement block wall just along the edge of our backyard driveway. He or she? I don’t know. I do know it’s often sitting or lying on that wall in just the same spot. And has been since the wall was completed several years ago.

Sometimes it runs down the wall and jumps into our pile of yard trimmings, looking for food. When the weather is chilly, it stretches out on top of its favorite cement block and soaks in the sun. Other times it sits there alert, watching for possible intruders.

I think it has a nest inside one of the cement blocks—on the unfinished back side of the wall. Sometimes when I walk by on the way to the garage it quickly races into one of the cement blocks.

Several kinds of hawks frequent our area. I’ve watched them swoop down into our back yard to surprise a large gray squirrel, a slow sparrow or a dove. I’ve also heard our small chipmunk squawking out the alarm, joined by other small backyard creatures. Sometimes the hawks have their way.

We live in unsettled times. It takes determination to focus on simple things that inhabit our lives. Especially when there are hawks out there with their beady eyes scanning the ground for juicy tidbits.

Mary Oliver’s poem invites me to pay attention to the chipmunk. To hear our Creator’s voice speaking through the simple things of life. Not giving up, but staying alert, living each day simply and fully. Which can be a way of saying thank you. Without fancy gestures or heavy words laden with heavy thoughts. This isn’t a contest.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2017
Photo found at Pinterest