Learning to Be Astonished

Old Lace Peony

Old Lace Peony © 2012 Bo Mackison

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

from Messenger by Mary Oliver

How lovely is the above message from Mary Oliver’s poem.

Sometimes I read a poem, and it seems as if it is a message from beyond, or from the universe, or from a secret conduit from poet’s mind to my mind.

This happened today when I read Messenger.

Yes, I am feeling no longer the least bit young, and not even “half perfect.” Not that I wish to be perfect, for that does not sound like much of a life adventure, but I might prefer to be a bit further on the path than I am. I frown a bit.

Then come her words “let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work.” The worry lines appear on my brow and I start cataloging the many to-do’s on my unwritten list entitled What I Should/Must Get Done ASAP. I fret about work and time and commitments and responsibilities and my purpose for being one of the seven million plus  human inhabitants on this earth.

Then I stop, startled, and take a deep breath, no, several deep breaths. And I close my eyes for a few moments, mentally pushing away worry, though unsuccessfully for it will not be pushed aside.

I read the next few words of the poem . . . “my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.”

Ah, so I smile a bit and relax a bit and let Mary Oliver’s words push away the worry with much more success.

Yes, I have plenty of time to work on the art of being astonished.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Sometimes she puts down her camera and reads pages and pages of poetry.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. “Standing still and learning to be astonished”. Ah, beautiful words, comforting words. I thank you that now I, too, might be allowed some bit of a smile, some bit of relaxation.
    Bo, your posts are so touching, so wonderful – the recent poppy show and today’s gentle fading peony, mixed with words for life, touch a spot deep within. Thank you, again.

  2. Bo Mackison says:

    It is a lovely poem, isn’t it, Wendy? I find the combination of photography and poetry so restorative. Thank you for all your kind comments.

  3. Her words so often speak to me too Bo. She seems to be able to cut through all the gunky stuff… and just remind us.

    Stunning portrait of the peony too!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I often find a phrase or two in her poems that I love to ponder. Thanks, Joanna– the peony is one of my more processed photos, but I love how it turned out. Rather heavy, like a vintage fabric flower.

  4. So inspiring…and – yes – words I relate to so well myself. My work. Stay focused. Thank-you for this today..

  5. Gandalf says:

    I love the look and feel of the Peony. It feels like a 25th Wedding Anniversary.

    Strong, rich and glowing, but seasoned and worldly.

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