Thursday, January 5, 2023

Pay Attention: Be Astonished

The first sunrise of 2023 - 7:34 AM, January 1, 2023

Instructions for living a life: 
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
Poet Mary Oliver


Mary Oliver likely didn't have a lot in common with me. During her life, she won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. I sometimes write in verse for my granddaughters, but I'm well aware I won't be collecting prestigious awards for those rhyming verses - or for anything else I write, for that matter. No National Book Award for me either.

Even though she died at the age of 83 in 2019, her poems and observations about life keep getting shared in memes and other social media posts. She grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, not on the plains of Kansas. 

But as we begin the new year, I am still drawn to her observations about life and how to live it. The city girl loved nature like this country girl. Her "Instructions for living a life" came up on Facebook as we turned the calendar page from 2022 to 2023.

For several years, I've taken photos of the last sunset of a year and then the first sunrise of the new year.  Sometimes, the skies are spectacular. Sometimes, they are not. This year was a little bit of both. 

December 31st's sunrise had pretty colors, but not a lot of drama. Because of the sun's position in the winter sky, I decided to use the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op for my farewell to 2022 sunset shot. It's as much a part of my "commuting" life as the Brooklyn Bridge is to New Yorkers.

At first, my "chauffeur" drove down the co-op's driveway, trying to get me in a position that the sun was setting between our version of city skyscrapers. That didn't work, so I settled for it landing underneath an auger.

Then we went back to the Zenith Road for a wider angle.

I've taken more dynamic and dramatic photos of the Zenith elevator through the years. But there's a simple beauty in the quiet colors of the setting sun, too. As the sun set on 2022, the co-op seemed a fitting place to say goodbye to a year when we retired from active farming. 

On the way home, we stopped for a snapshot of one of the many deer we have to avoid at dusk and dawn on our Zenith Road journeys.

The next morning, we drove down to my sunrise tree, just a half mile south of our house. With a little more cloud cover, 2023 dawned with a little more drama than the exit of 2022.

With the road illumined by our headlights as we first arrived.

I don't think I'd ever tried a panorama of the view from my sunrise tree. I'm sure it won't be the last time.

In other writings, Mary Oliver said that “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” In her essay "Teach The Children," she reminded us that contemplation of nature’s small wonders and life's simplest things have the power to change us in the deepest ways. In paying attention to our surroundings, we can invite joy to our lives and avoid letting our negative thoughts spiral. She reminds us we have a choice: We can let the world delight us, rather than let it beat us down.

It's a good reminder for me as a new year begins. It may not seem likely to combine quotes from a Pulitzer Prize winning poet with a zany actor. But I also liked a quote from comedian Jim Carrey that ended up in the email in box earlier this week.

I feel that we're all lighthouses, and my job is to shine my light as brightly as I can in the darkness.
Jim Carrey
Do you ever feel like God is trying to get your attention? My email devotional from The Upper Room continued the theme:
A Time to Think

On New Year's Eve, we also discovered this message on our dirt road from an unknown correspondent. I posted it to Facebook. So far, no one has claimed authorship, though everyone I've asked wished it had been their idea.
May it be true for you, too!




  1. Stunning 2023 sunrise tree.
    Beautiful message left on the road.
    Best wishes as your retirement gets fully underway throughout this year.