Immunity to Awe

When Mayor Pameri called me and told me I had been named the poet laureate of Oshkosh, I was excited.  Then she told me of her vision of that position.  She had heard Amanda Gorman’s poem at the Biden inauguration, and she wanted a position that would help heal our divide.

My response was, “You want me to do what now?” I am just a guy that writes poems about being a dad and about baling hay as a kid.  I am certainly no Amanda Gorman.  But then, this goal helped me to rise to the challenge.  All through my life, I have read self help books. I have looked into research into what happy people do.

That was when I came across the article.

13 Things That Will Make You Much Happier

The author Dr. Travis Bradberry says, “Amazing things happen around you every day if you only know where to look. It’s hard to be happy when you just shrug your shoulders every time you see something new.”

In other words, one of the tactics to being happy is to take the time to be amazed by the things around you.  It sounds obvious but it is something we fail to do.  We are so intent on checking out things on our phone, that we get bored by anything that is not on it.  This is an intentional thing built into technology and by social media.  The bright colors themselves trigger the reward system in our minds.

But if we can break away from technology, we can reset ourselves.  We will then have time to study the world around us. Reflect on the world around us.

Perhaps I am just preaching to myself because poets are well suited for observing and finding amazement around us.  The more we write, the more we try to find and record the things around us. Therefore, we find things other people miss. Then we contemplate things and try to record what we see with all our senses. We want to pick out things to tell others about. 

So, I say let’s go to places.  I want to see your pictures of the Grand Canyon.  I also want to see your poem about the experience.

Let’s also find awe in our everyday life.  The poem I am about to share came from such a day.  It was late August. It was hot and muggy, and the grass had dried up to expose dirt. I was living in the moment and happy for the nonspecial world of my lawn. My desire to record it, kept me in the moment. Which is special. In the heat of the August, I was not worrying about summer being over, the poet in me and wanted to take in all the senses.  I was able to savor the moment and then savor it again to revise it.

Yards In August

Brown crunched grass

art fairs in gardens

Blotchy unmown lawns

the long summer days

a stake, an existence

man-managed grass, yeah

under unmolested sky

the warmth of the earth

the goodness of green


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