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Expect to be astonished and reap precious, wild moments

Heather Lende
Heather Lende photo

HAINES -- Poet Mary Oliver says that what we must do with this wild and precious life we are given is simple: pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it. I am prepared to be astonished. I honestly am. It is the way I want to walk in this world. It's a lot more fun than watching out for another truck to run over me, you know?

But even so, I have witnessed so many astonishing precious and wild moments in the last few days that I am flattened (in a good way).

Just this morning, I have been keeping company with a black wolf. He was on Pyramid Island when Pearl and I walked out on the low tide sand flats within stick tossing distance.

I had almost chucked Pearl's stick onto the island to see if she'd swim the narrow channel and retrieve it. I don't know why I chose to fling it the other way, but I don't think it's because I sensed the wolf watching us (When we came home, Chip was tracking him in the binoculars, and noted we had been within a few hundred feet of him). Rather, I didn't want to have a wet dog on the couch all day.  

When another dog walker came by, we hailed her and pointed at the wolf, sitting out on the flats now. Her dog barked; the wolf howled. Bark and howl repeated with all of us listening in wonder and awe.

Even before that display, I had been astonished by the performances Saturday night at the Chilkat Center here; the variety and creativity of my neighbors is knock-me-over-with-a-snowball-stunning. I am so glad that Sylvia learned to play the bassoon in that intentional community where she grew up -- the one that believed spiritual enlightenment comes from making classical music. She certainly made me glow. So did Nancy and Steve's Japanese piano and violin duet. And what about Randy and that contraption he made with the drum kit and lap guitar for psychedelic hillbilly jamming? And young Mario's inspired rapping! Every single performer upped the previous one.

Then, last night saw a sweet 93rd birthday party for an old friend, during which a big, strong heavy equipment operator teared up when he thanked our old friend for hiring his dad, so many years ago, so he could buy him shoes. Shoes!

I snuck out early to help with the babies so my daughter could attend the basketball game and watch her husband coach. (More good -- though I shouldn't say astonishing -- news; the girls won.) After we made sure her little sister Ivy was tucked in her crib, Caroline and I climbed under soft quilts and rosebud-patterned sheets. ("Mommy said I'd love the pretty flowers. I do. Don't you Mimi?") I read Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” and then we dimmed the light and whispered in the dark. Caroline looked up and out the window. "I love the stars. I really, really, love stars, don't you Mimi?"

I have not earned this. It can only be grace. The kind that comes from expecting to be astonished.

Heather Lende writes from Haines. Her new book is "Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs." This post originally appeared on her blog. It has been reprinted with permission.