“The world did not have to be beautiful to work…”

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It has to be close to freezing this morning. Seriously. It’s the second week after “falling back” out of daylight savings time, and I wake, surprised by the sun and wincing at the idea of leaving the warmth of my bed.

I shuffle through my routine – read, pray, gulp down some coffee – then throw on my coat, and brace myself for the gust of wind that I know will meet me on the other side of my front door. Head tucked down, I make it to the driver’s side of my car, throw my briefcase, purse, and lunch bag into the passenger seat, and set off toward work.

It’s all pretty routine. I’ve noticed that it’s easy for me to slide in and out of my days in this habitual way. I am, after all, someone who finds comfort and peace of mind in the predictability of a steady rhythm and pattern.

But then my day changes.

NPR is airing an interview with one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, who has released a new collection of poems, A Thousand Mornings.  Her aged and crackling voice breaks into my oh-so-regular morning: “The world did not have to be beautiful to work. But it is. What does that mean?”

I am haunted and challenged by the question. Have I encountered unnecessary beauty in the way my world works?  I revisit the events of my morning through this lens.

Mornings are growing colder. Today I wake with a start and a shiver, aware of the clear but cool morning light pouring through my windows, and noting that the days now spend themselves racing toward sunset.

I tug on a pair of socks to protect my already-cold feet from the shock of the chilly hardwood floor they are about to encounter. I wrap my hands tightly around a ceramic mug, thankful for its smooth glaze and intensely satisfying heat. The comforting scent of my daily coffee ritual rises, steaming, into my face.

I ease the muscles of my hands into the day’s work as I write in my journal, offering prayers and petitions for those I love, those with whom I work, those who are sick, those whose weight my heart already bears at 6:30 AM.

As I prepare to leave, my mustard yellow coat falls softly against me. Its collar is twisted and sticking up, but I choose not to fold it down, anticipating its protection against the wind that tosses red and brown leaves onto my sidewalk. I unlock and open my glass-paned front door. Thankful for the extra buffer of the collar, I quickly bounce down my stairs, around the corner of my house, and into the driver’s seat of my car. Closing the door, my belongings piled beside me, I slide my transmission into reverse and leave for the day.

There is beauty hidden in the rhythm of my morning. It doesn’t have to be there – and if I don’t notice it, it’s wasted – but it is there, nevertheless.

To you, I present the same question that has changed how I see my days: “The world did not have to be beautiful to work, but it is. What does that mean?”

-Ellie Poole

Images by adamknits and SSJE via Flickr

Oliver’s interview aired on NPR Morning Edition on October 14, 2012.

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About Ellie Poole

Ellie is a Wellness Advocate at the Clergy Health Initiative. A native of Durham, she attended Wake Forest University, where she majored in History and Secondary Education. Additionally, Ellie has experience researching the Church's care for those with mental illnesses. She loves reading, running (outside!), NCAA basketball, and good coffee.

1 thought on ““The world did not have to be beautiful to work…”

  1. Lovely post, Ellie. I’ve actually been thinking about this topic a lot.

    This fall, I’ve been getting up early to run, and prior to the time change, I was starting out in pre-dawn darkness, which isn’t much of a motivator. But I found that invariably, I encountered some sort of beautiful moment on those runs that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. A deer in the mist. Light filtering through scarlet maple leaves. A dew-speckled spiderweb. Or (my favorite) — a kid saying, “Look that lady, Mom. She’s running so FAST!” I assure you, I was not, but it made my day nonetheless.

    Those moments have become something to look forward to, sort of a validation of my choice to do something good for myself. They’re there if we choose to look.

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