Keeping a Good Thanksgiving: Part 7

Part 7: Thou’st Made the World Too Beautiful

Poets remind us to pay attention. It’s one of the reasons to read poetry. They see things most of us miss because we are so busy, in a hurry always to get to the next appointment, the next luncheon engagement, the next item on our full and overcrowded schedule. Mary Oliver lives on Cape Cod and in a poem entitled “Praying” she wrote:

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.   [Thirst, p. 57]

She named her modest Cape Cod cottage Gratitude.

In another poem, she explains:

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers
such gifts bestowed
can’t be rejected.
If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the
house near the corner, which I have named
Gratitude.  [Thirst p. 35]

I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming a few weeks ago speaking at a conference. We had never visited Jackson Hole in the Tetons before, so Sue came along and we met up with a daughter and son-in-law. During a free afternoon we drove out of Jackson Hole up through that amazing broad valley, majestic, surrounded by the rugged, high, snow covered mountains. I need help seeing things sometimes – not because my eyesight is deficient – it isn’t – but because I am a scanner and don’t pay attention or focus and I’m always in a hurry and thinking about the next thing…and I frequently miss what is right in front of me now. I can walk through a field in the spring and not see anything until my wife points them out to me – tiny half-hidden, delicate, beautiful wildflowers. Diane spotted them – elk out the car window, maybe 50 yards away, a small herd of 15-20 females, quietly grazing. We stopped, rolled down the window, stopped talking and watched. After a minute or so, by which time I was ready to go on to the next thing (fortunately I wasn’t driving), out of a stand of trees emerged the biggest bull elk you could imagine with a huge rack of antlers. He moved so slowly, with such dignity and grace. He was watching over his small herd as it is the season for romance. But the way he emerged from those trees, so silently and gracefully, touched me deeply and reminded me again of the mystery and the majesty of the world and I said out loud – Thank you. We all did.

The one who made me call Grandma and say “thank you,” taught me her favorite poem and sent it to me every year at about this time. I dig it out every year in autumn. It’s by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

‘O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise.
Thy woods this autumn day,
I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful
this year.

          Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Carole Norton says:

    It’s wonderful that you could visit the glorious Jackson Hole, the Teton mountains, and the herd of elk. Glad you had a slow driver!! It has been my privilege to be there many times and the wonder of the place is always magnificent and a great blessing. Carole Norton

  2. Jerry Johnson says:

    Thx for this wonderful Thanksgiving series, John. Karen & I just love the Tetons and are happy you and Sue were able to visit there. One of our memories is when we watched two grizzlies team up to attack a herd of elk and succeed in taking down a calf. Amazing nature scene.

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