09-05-3I was floored by the news. After being off the grid for almost a week, I had decided to catch up on the goings-on in the world. I wished I hadn’t. 22 dead in Baghdad, 11 dead in Istanbul, the travel visas of 83,000 Palestinians revoked so they couldn’t visit their families for Ramadan (retaliation for a shooting in Tel Aviv, killing four). But the last item – the straw that broke the camel’s back – was the destruction of a 3,000-year-old Abyssinian temple at Nimrud. Such senseless hatred! I felt sick to my stomach and endlessly sad.

I walked out into the garden and sat for a while, trying to breathe through my distress. At first, I could see nothing, just pain, and anger. Gradually, the soft chirping of sparrows and the hum of satisfied bees took me outside of myself. Bees! I had been worrying about bees, signing petitions, and planting bee- and butterfly-friendly plants for ages. And, as I started looking around me, I saw that the garden was filled with all kinds of bees: large and small ones, honeybees, wild bees, and bumblebees. All going about their business and covered with pollen.

I shifted my attention to the pond, its water clear and free of algae. Tiny newts swam between the plants; a blue damselfly skimmed the surface. As I watched, a small green frog crept onto a warm rock, ignoring my presence, viewing the world through round, golden eyes.

In this tiny corner of the world, all is well. I cannot heal the world; I can only be a steward for this piece of sanity. And that is enough.

When I shared my thoughts with a friend, she sent me the following poem by Mary Oliver:

~ Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this, I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.

I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe

or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.


  1. Jeanne Kaufman

    Dear Maddi,
    As always you write a beautiful and thoughtful piece. I’m happy that you found comfort in your garden. When I look at the news I, too, feel despair. If only we could snap our fingers and fix the problems around the world. I take time every day to breath deeply and reflect on how blessed and grateful I am for the life that I am living, and that brings me the peace I need to get through each day with some measure of happiness. Love the Mary Oliver poem.
    Best always,

  2. Thank you, Jeanne! Gratitude is such an important practice. I’m grateful for the beauty of the nature around me. And for my kind and thoughtful readers!

  3. Going through issues of my own, worrying about the state of the world, politics in the USA, etc and you told me to go out into nature. It doesn’t make any of the other stuff go away but gives peace, grounds me. Like you, I can’t cure the world’s problems but I can take care of my corner & be kind to those I meet & be grateful for what I have. Maybe it will spread. Thank you.

  4. Mary Lou Gillette

    Dear Maddi,
    How lovely it is to find your words and photographs, and those of so many others who share the joys of nature with each other. In a world in which humans have seemingly gone mad, we take refuge in the constancy of the natural world, where joy is abundant and even death is at least understandable. We share our gardens, our pets, our love of birds and we are better for doing so. I can picture your walk from your door to your little pond, picture your surprise and joy in discovering your tiny frog, and that brings tears to my eyes. Your joy spreads into the hearts of all who worry, and we can smile.

  5. Today’s news from Orlando is, once again, shocking. Once again, I need to breathe deeply and listen to the trees murmering that life is one big prayer.

    • Mary Lou Gillette

      I just watched scenes of cities from all over world displaying their compassion and understanding of our grief over Orlando. That touched me so very deeply. How can it be that so many of us who think and feel alike cannot manage to bring about the change that is needed to bring peace to this world?

      • Maybe we are. Maybe we do. Maybe it’s a matter of time. I’m reminded of the saying that’s attributed to Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. I don’t know the answer, but I know we must stay true to our hearts.

Leave a Reply