Attention is reverence: celebrating the Season of Creation

Season of Creation 2021: Checker lily (Fritillaria affinis) King Mountain, Tiburon, California by Betsey CrawfordI don’t know exactly what a prayer is. 
I do know how to pay attention…

~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day ~

Attention is the gateway to love and awe. There is no wonder without it, whether it’s attending that stops us in our tracks or the kind we carefully make time for and nurture. It’s the gift we give back to the amazement of living, to our loved ones, to the needs and beauties of the world around us. To the steadying soil at our feet, the roughness of rocks, the crispness of leaves, the delicacy of petals, the texture of bark, the silkiness of skin, the expression deep in another’s eyes. 

Paying attention is also a gift we give ourselves. There is so much calling out to us — a barrage of news, mostly dire, the needs of our loved ones, the constant calls to tasks, to the next thing on the agenda. Releasing memory and care, however briefly, to sink into the moment — awake, aware, moved, interested, curious — brings vivid aliveness to days that can slip by in a blur of activity and reaction.

Churches all over the world set aside September 1 to October 4, St. Francis of Assissi’s birthdate, to contemplate the wonders of the earth and what we need to do to foster them. This is my fifth celebration of the Season of Creation, which was launched as a single day in 1989 by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I. Over the years more and more denominations have joined from every part of the globe. Pope Francis put it on the Catholic calendar in 2015 with the publication of his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.

I started my celebrations in 2016 with quotes from this visionary document. Since then I’ve quoted wisdom from other faith leaders, scientists, and activists. Pairing them all with photos of the wonders I’ve seen. This year I chose the distilled vision of poetry, starting with Mary Oliver, the high priestess of the act of attending. 

 Attention, she told us, is the beginning of devotion. Among the many synonyms for devotion are enthusiasm, fervor, intensity, love, passion, reverence, zeal, ardor, observance, sanctity, and spirituality. All things we invite into our lives the moment we attend. And then bring with us to the tasks we return to, connected, heart-filled, literally en-couraged, ready to create the future we long for.

California buckeye (Aesculus California) along the Hoo-hoo-E-Koo Trail, Larkspur, California by Betsey CrawfordEarth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible? 
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there’s nothing left outside us to see? 
What, if not transformation, 
is your deepest purpose?
~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Ninth Duino Elegy ~


Fall colors in Stony Hill Woods in Amagansett, New York by Betsey CrawfordThe forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner, Lost ~


Season of Creation 2021: Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla) on Ring Mountain, Tiburon, California by Betsey Crawford Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.
~ Rumi ~


Common Pacific pea (Lathyrus vestitus) along the Hoo-hoo-E-Koo Trail, Larkspur, California by Betsey CrawfordLean into me
The universe
Sings in quiet meditation…
It’s not humankind after all 
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.
~ Simon Ortiz, Culture and the Universe ~


Black crowned night heron in Corte Madera Marsh, Corte Madera, California by Betsey CrawfordLightning —
and in the dark
the screech of a night heron.
~ Basho ~


Season of Creation 2021: Tiburon mariposa lily (Calochortus tiburonensis) on Ring Mountain, Tiburon, California by Betsey CrawfordYou have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
~ John O’Donohue, For One Who Is Exhausted ~


Douglas iris (iris douglasiuna) on the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail, Larkspur, California by Betsey CrawfordAnd I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but has 
reference to the soul,
Because having look’d at the objects of the universe, I find there 
is no one nor any particle of one but has reference to the soul.
~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass ~


California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)Redwood Regional Park, Oakland, California by Betsey CrawfordWhenever we lose track of our own obsessions, 
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute, 
an hour even, of pure (almost pure) 
response to that insouciant life: 
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing 
pilgrimage of water…
animal voices, mineral hum, wind 
conversing with rain, ocean with rock…
then something tethered 
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch 
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free. 
~ Denise Levertov, Sojourns in the Parallel World ~


Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium vellum) on Ring Mountain, Tiburon, California by Betsey CrawfordTo climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light
~ Gary Snyder, For the Children ~


Fringe cups (Tellima grandiflora) in Gary Giacomini Open Space, Woodacre, California by Betsey CrawfordIf we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves,
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
~ Pablo Neruda, Keeping Quiet ~


Young spotted owl, Larkspur, California by Betsey CrawfordSomewhere in the universe,
in the gallery of important things,
the babyish owl, ruffled and rakish,
sits on its pedestal…
The hooked head stares
from its blouse of dark, feathery lace.
It could be a valentine.
~ Mary Oliver, Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard ~


Seep monkey flower (Erythranthe guttatus) at Old Saint Hilary's Preserve in Tiburon, California by Betsey Crawford…put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
~ Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front ~


Season of Creation 2021: Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) on the Muddy Hollow Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, California by Betsey CrawfordRemember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth,
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
~ Joy Harjo, Remember ~


Raven in Alaska by Betsey CrawfordI know noble accents   
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;   
But I know, too,   
That the blackbird is involved   
In what I know.  
~ Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird ~

I’d love to have you join me! If you add your email address, I’ll send you notices of new monthly posts.

Related posts:

The power of allurement,
the mystery of beauty
Pacific coast iris (Iris douglasiana) on Ring Mountain, Tiburon, California by Betsey Crawford
Transcendence on
the headlands
Coiled rattlesnake in the Anza Borrego Desert, California by Betsey Crawford
Mysteries at my feet

10 thoughts on “Attention is reverence: celebrating the Season of Creation”

  1. Oh, Betsey, pure gold, this is. Such a generous gift of collective loving earth-wisdom. I will share this in my Wednesday Notes to the Earth-Speak group, and further abroad through my facebook page. Thank you, for the words, always exquisitely punctuated with your beautiful photographs!

  2. Dearest Betsy
    I revel in the awe and wonder of your beautiful nature portraits.
    They create a deep reverential connection within in me for such beauteous diversity. Thank you so much for your sharing the soul of the earth.
    And especially for “attention is reverence “. The words echoed your photos.

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