When I was an English middle school teacher back in the day, I used to do a lot of R.L.W.’s in my literature class for our main lesson when approaching universal themes of great breadth and depth. As a class we would read something, either fragments of a short story or the piece in its entirety, an article, lyrics, or a poem. Then we would listen to something along the same thread, either a song, an interview, or a piece of poetry or prose read aloud. And lastly, my students would get out their journals and write from the prompts I provided them, expanding on reflection questions that encouraged different perspectives about humanity from all views in the forest.
Let me explain. I love and have always felt connected to the timeless metaphor of trees, and how they so beautifully share with us scales of perspective in how we may come to view the world we live in – this earth home we are a part of share with one another. You’ve got the wide angle lens, which is what I would call the “forest view” that enables you to see life from far back, taking everything in as a whole. If you are familiar with Meyer’s Brigs, you may already know through my chatter on Instagram, that I am an INFJ. The “N” (intuitive) part of this typology equation, means that “I” it comes very naturally to me to see the world from this vantage point – from a forest perspective. Those with an “S” (senses) are better able to see the forest up close, therefore are better able to move into groves of trees, and sometimes even more specifically, up to canopy on the top of a grand oak, or down to the root map beneath the home of a gargantuan sequoia.
When you learn how you best learn, you can begin to figure out how to best utilize your inherent gifts as well as begin to grow and stretch the part of you that doesn’t come as naturally. With regard to the R.L.W. I did with my students, you can get even more detailed with this lesson by narrowing perspective to focus in on the seeds and leaves that hang from the trees, or the animals on the branches that call the tree their home. This “zoom in, zoom out” way of perceiving life offers us an opportunity to see the world in a variety of different ways. By doing so, it was my hope as an educator to help my students fold compassion and empathy into what we were studying.
Anyway, I’m rambling and I think you get the idea. This post today is not as much dedicated to the layered metaphor of trees as it is on gratitude and Thanksgiving with my favorite holiday right around the bend. I’ve put together a little something for you to practice sometime this week. I am going to do my own later today during (finger’s crossed) nap time. I’ve got pie crust to make, quiche filling needing more cheese, a few beds to tuck, kiddos to bathe, and a pocket full of last-minute errands before family arrives this evening, but surely I can take an hour at some point to sit with my thoughts, to read, listen, and write about why this time of year is so meaningful and special. And I invite you to do the same, whether you’re on the road and need a break or stuck in an office and could use a something to listen to and ponder over. It’s a change of pace from the hectic nature holidays often stir up within is, and I encourage you to find a place to get quiet and rest in the messages below.
This poem is by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. To say that I am moved by the way she sees and writes about the world is merely scratching the surface of how her word have impacted my life. To me, The Messenger is about loving the world with simple and sincere gratitude with intentions rooted in abundance over fear. Read it several times, and underline your favorite part. Then share it with someone you are thankful for.
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.
– Mary Oliver
Anatomy of Gratitude by David Steindl-Rast
Brother David Steindl-Rast sheds on beautiful light on what it means to be happy this life and how gratitude is at the heart of it. He says, “The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” Krista Tippet interviewed him almost two years ago on her blog and he shared how gratitude is acting out of a sense of enough, which is how we can begin to see the world from a lens of abundance and love instead of scarcity and fear. Listen to the interview and let it marinate before you follow up and write in your journal.
Take your time and journal on the questions below. They begin from the forest level and move through the trees to the seeds and leaves. Let them carry you into this holiday of thankfulness with an open mind and an open heart.
- What is the meaning of gratitude? What does it value? (forest)
- Why do you think our culture is an ungrateful one? How can we begin to heal and change this way of being? (forest)
- What are you most grateful for in this season of your life? (tree)
- In what ways do you find yourself living more our of scarcity and fear instead of abundance and love? (tree)
- How can you begin to cultivate more gratitude in your everyday life, not just around the table on Thanksgiving? (seeds and leaves)
- Who is a gratitude role model in your life and why? (seeds and leaves)
And if you are looking for something to do around the table, here is an idea from last year’s Thanksgiving. xx
Stefanie - Thank you for the beautiful poem! I think it will be perfect to read as a part of our family’s thanksgiving tradition which is to each read a poem or verse as we linger over dessert. Happy Thanksgiving!
Kathleen Kennedy - Love this poem and all your sentiments. I’ve already shared it with a friend who is also a huge Mary Oliver fan. Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving today!
Jackie - So beautiful, Amanda. Thank you for sharing.