I sit on gray stones at half-tide on Maine’s stunning rocky coast. Golden rays shine on blue water. The same sun greens the tree-lined shore. I read Mary Oliver’s poem, “Summer Day:”
“I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, …”
I, too, know how to pay attention, mostly. Mostly I am learning.
This week I’ve met people visiting Maine from Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Texas, Chicago, India. They savor Maine while some of us natives ho-hum our Pine Tree State. My new friends “ooh and ahh,” say, ”Wow! The tides come in and go out! Oh, watch those boats pull traps! What’s that horn in the fog? Smell these sea roses.”
They teach me to see, hear and bask in the awe of it all. So today I sit on this outcropping and notice. I inhale huge salty-air breaths. I pinch myself and marvel, “I LIVE here!”
Then, I see, for the first time, a part of nature that has been seeable all along: two big ducks with two little ducklings in pursuit. In a snaking path, the adults paddle slowly, gently, regally, looking ahead, not back at the two chatty ones behind. The children hurry, splash wildly, as if trying to keep up, racketing the whole time, as if begging, “hear me,” or maybe, unlike some of us, praising this magical world they inhabit. “Quack, quack, mwah, mwah, chp, chp, honk, honk.”
Paying attention to what I had missed, I smile, then laugh. This sweet scene fills me. Appreciating this charming duck family, I think, ”this moment is enough.”
I do know how to pay attention, but do I do it? Like this? Sitting still, appreciating here, appreciating home, seeing, hearing, feeling? Do we? Mary Oliver says paying attention “is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done?”
We (or maybe just I) excel at “what else.” We (or maybe I) tilt forward out of here to reach for there, to lean into “what else.” If I had some dark chocolate, this ocean view would taste richer. If that special friend sat here with me, joy would surge. Or if the weather would please cool, or warm. Or could we have a tad more wind? It’s as if we (ok, I) dwell in a constant state of “not enough,” of wishing for something different, something more. But, since this moment cannot exist in any way except how it shows up, how do we come to value the this-ness, the suchness, of Maine’s summer days?
I gaze again at the quacky duck family. More big ones have joined, more little ones too. They glide on the calm sea’s surface, some in sync, some alone, some braving through seaweed. What else should they have done?
I remember a client saying, “There is no future in my relationship” and I thought, “there is no future for any of us. All we have, all we get, are moments.”
I believed that when I heard myself. But to live it? To welcome these special enough moments? To land content on this rock, in this breeze, under this azure sky, in this July sun?
I want the richness of “now” and the splendor of small things to be enough. So I practice how to love these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer (thanks, Nat King Cole) rather than wanting something else. Not wishing for more or different, I’m learning how to be idle and blessed.