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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Tag: nature

Day 95: A Black Bear

I’m a city girl by brain, but my heart lives in some kind of amalgamation of woods, fields, rivers and oceans. This afternoon, I stood on a street corner while cars screeched by and people laughed in coffee shops and I smelled it… nature! Spring! I know spring is still a ways away and I’ve already posted extensively on it here, here and here, but my heart is so ready for those little green buds.

In honor of the coming freshness, coolness, lightness and root-growing, here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets:

by Mary Oliver

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.


Day 28: Still Sun

Yesterday was many things. The winter solstice. The end of a long and sad week. The beginning of a cheery and spirited season.

Solstice. Sol—sun. Sistere—stand. The sun stands still.

During the winter solstice, the sun gives us our distance and stands still on the other side of the world. It barely rises, blinks and then sinks. Somewhere around December 21, the sun reaches its southern-most distance from the celestial equator and is closest to its southern-most Earthlings. In the north, we feel the darkness.

Then, slowly, the sun begins to ascend again and we prepare to start fresh and greet the light.

If we aren’t paying attention, I think we experience this shift as holiday cheer. In reality, we are incredibly connected to the movement of our universe. However tiny they are, our cells respond to light and dark, ebb and flow. We carry the history of creation in our bodies. As Carl Sagan once put it, “We are made of starstuff.”

The danger of attributing our feelings of mirth and togetherness solely to the holidays is that they tend to disappear once the new year has begun. As the January commercials for fitness centers describe it, we experience a little post-holiday letdown. But—what if we keep noticing the light instead of focusing on the holiday bustle? What if we take a deep breath every morning and thank the sun for coming back? What if we smile every evening and greet the darkness like a quiet, warm friend?

If we get too wound up in stuff and events and obligations, we miss the experience of being alive amidst a living universe. The solstice is the perfect opportunity to reconnect.

Sometimes, a little distance from the light can be very illuminating. (Hey-oh!)

BenchThis photograph of the Oregon coast was taken by my lovely mother right around the 2010 winter solstice.