Summoning Up Life’s Riches

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
~Mary Oliver

If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it;
accuse yourself,
tell yourself you are not poet enough to summon up its riches;
since for the creator there is no poverty

and no poor or unimportant place.
― Rainer Maria Rilke
from Letters to a Young Poet

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
~Mary Oliver from “When Death Comes”

As a child, I would sometimes spend long rainy afternoons languishing on the couch, complaining to my mother how boring my life was. 

Her typical response was to remind me my boredom said more about me than about life; I became the accused, rather than the accuser,  failing to summon up life’s riches. 

Thus convicted, my sentence followed: she would promptly give me chores to do.   I learned not to voice my complaints about how boring life seemed, because it always meant being put to work. I decided to live a life of nearly too much work and activity, missing much I could have slowed down to notice.

Some things haven’t changed, even sixty-some years later.  Whenever I am tempted to feel frustrated or pitiful or bored, I need to remember what that says about me.  If I’m not poet enough to recognize the Creator’s brilliance in every slant of light or every molecule, then it is my poverty I’m accusing, not His.

So – back to the work of paying attention and being astonished.  There is the rest of my life to be lived and nearly always something to say about it.

Night has come:
for one whole day again I’ve loved you so much,
stirring hills.
It’s beautiful to see.
But: to feel in the lining of closed eyelids
the sweetness of having seen …
~Rainer Maria Rilke

All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

“You owe

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
~Daniel Ladinsky, from “The Gift”

A book of astonishment in words and photography, available to order here:


Make a one-time or recurring donation to support Barnstorming

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is deeply appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

2 thoughts on “Summoning Up Life’s Riches

  1. Thank you, Emily, for this important reminder to Wonder in our Creator and His creation as the Pandemic lingers, as one day seems to flow seamlessly into the next, and as we age.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Important wisdom advice to remind us to enjoy LIFE — its mystery, its possibilities; its grandeur in our Creator-God’s unfailing Love for us and His extravagant Gifts to us — all of which is the importance as the bridge from here to THERE —
    with Him for Eternity. He will take care of all the rest…we need not worry; we have His Promises. That is ALL that we need.

    And.,yet, in our imperfect human knowing, we do occasionally on our Journey experience disappointments (in ourselves and in others), agonizing problems and setbacks that seem endless and unsolvable and, for some facing the brevity of some lives within our families and friends. But we are buoyed by the sure faith that we will meet again as we share in our final, eternal home.
    (It is just an unknown, unseen step beyond. Just imagine the never- before- known joy of Eternal Life with Him…!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.