772. A Sign Pointing the Way [to the Beach]

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One afternoon this past week I got up from my desk to take a walk. I walked down a street I'd never been before and something caught my eye and delivered joy. In the corner of a yard, just along the sidewalk, but nearly hidden by garden overgrowth, was a small metal sign that said "BEACH." The letters were cut-outs, which made the sign particularly hard to see given that the foliage behind it showed through (see the banner photo). My guess is many have walked right past it as I would have also if some unknown something hadn't caused me to look in the exact right place and in the exact right way. Above the word was a figure that appeared to be in motion, ready to leap from a board (diving or surf?) or simply from the sand into the water. Under the word was an arrow pointing the way.

I wondered about the arrow given as there was no beach across the street or on the next street over. It struck me first as wishful thinking, but then I thought some more and indeed there is a beach in the direction of the arrow if you go down a few blocks then find your way either to a walking path or the road alongside a lake and wind around a bit before coming to a rather small parking area and follow another path down to a nearly hidden beach.

The sign in the yard had a hint of something to be found. A sign of something good in the direction it pointed. A spark of joy, a promise, a silent companion on the road.

Keep your eyes open!


[Photo: taken of the BEACH sign. A spark of joy, yes?]

768. Stopping for a Garden


One day earlier this summer, my husband and I drove down a road we've driven a hundred thousand times and were about to, once again, pass an entrance to a place we've never been, when in a surge of adventure and discovery, we decided to turn on the blinker and pull in. It was the entrance to a wildflower garden—the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. It's hard to say exactly why neither of us have ever gone through that gate, but for me, it probably comes down to assuming nothing much was there other than a garden plot, plus a negative reaction to something I'd once heard long ago, both adding to up to not really even seeing the sign anymore. That day, though, we saw the sign, we made the turn, drove in, and parked. We walked to the gate and stepped through.

There's a dream I've had periodically over the years. Maybe you've had a similar dream. In my dream I discover that my house has many more rooms than I ever knew. The doors open endlessly, and there's more there than I could ever have imagined. I don't wake up from this dream relishing the revelation of hidden wealth but instead relishing the sensation of something more. There's more here than I ever knew. More to be discovered. More to be revealed. That's how it felt going through the gate of the overlooked garden. Fifteen acres—this was no small garden plot!—of wetland, woodland, and prairie; the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States. Amidst the flowers and the ferns were benches, benches, benches everywhere, placed at all different angles and in private places for thinking, dreaming, and watching. Benches for sitting and being calm in the beauty. The beauty!

The garden was started in 1907 by botany teachers from the Minneapolis Public School system. The group was led primarily by Eloise Butler, a teacher who retired in 1911 but kept working in the garden. Inside the entrance there's a picture of her, in a long dress of the day, digging with a shovel.

We've since gone out to the Garden a couple mornings before work. Each time we brought a thermos of coffee and some bagels. We found a bench right in the midst of the beauty and started our day. We ate and talked. We were quiet. We prayed. We walked and took pictures and looked with eyes open wide. He and I both plan on going back again and again.

Maybe there's a place of potential beauty and potential calm right near where you live that you've been driving or walking by so very many times without stopping.

I encourage you: stop.


[Photo: taken of some ball-like, spikey flowers I saw on the first time to the garden. On a second visit, I found the tag that identified them: buttonbush.]

757. With thanks to Mary Oliver

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Mary Oliver, superlative poet and essayist, died this past week at the age of 83. I first started reading her work, particularly her essays, in mid-life when I was in graduate school. Reading her was like having a friend next to me, urging me on to pay attention, to pause, to look, to wonder, to praise. In Long Life: Essays and Other Writing, Oliver wrote:

“And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning, ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’"

When I heard that she had died, I took Long Life off my bookshelf and went through, re-reading the lines I’d starred and underlined.

Here are a few of the other lines my eyes landed on:

“What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

And this:

“I walk in the world to love it.”

And this:

"And here I build a platform, and live upon it, and think my thoughts, and aim high. To rise, I must have a field to rise from. To deepen, I must have a bedrock from which to descend." ( I had wanted to use this as an epigraph for Finding Livelihood but due to permission issue I had to cut it.)

This morning, here in Minneapolis, the sky is blue and sunny, the air cold. New snow, not much, is glistening white. Although the thermometer reads –1°, it is all so beautiful. Oliver wrote, “There is a rumor of total welcome among the frosts of the winter morning. Beauty has its purposes, which, all our lives and at every season, it is our opportunity, and our joy, to divine.”

May you divine much beauty, live the life yours to live, think thoughts and aim high, walk and love. I thank Mary Oliver for writing and sharing her deeply meaningful words. If you have some words of Oliver’s to share, I’d love to read them in the comments.


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To read other posts I’ve written about Mary Oliver, click here.

[Photo: taken of a painting viewed at the Minnesota Museum of American Art: “March Idyll or Winter Landscape, Woodstock” by John Fabian Carlson; used with permission. I love that crack in the sky in the upper left corner that tells you the sun is about to break through. I think Mary Oliver would also have loved it.)