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Attention is the beginning of devotion

Shaun Lambert writes:

It was Mary Oliver the poet who wrote ‘attention is the beginning of devotion’ in her collection of essays, Upstream: Selected Essays.[1] One of the things she does is say hello to individual trees, flowers, butterflies, because she knows them as friends. She has walked by them many times. She names them as well. This seems to echo St. Francis when he says hello to Sister Moon and Brother Sun. I think this recognizing and naming is the beginning of devotion, being attentive to the creation all around us.

Many of us are devoted to Scargill, something here has caught and retained our attention. Perhaps, we have had an epiphany, a moment of meeting with God, an experience of wonder. Wonder is a form of attention, sometimes something captures our attention, occasionally we train ourselves to wonder at even the most ordinary of things.

Next time you visit us say hello to your favourite bench, or view or tree. Find out its name or give it a name with the same sense of wonder creatures must have been named in the Garden of Eden. The estate bears repeated considerations of its beauty.

Devotion is an interesting word, and although it is used less and less in literature it is an important word. We should reclaim it. It implies loyalty, selflessness and an act of consistent attention toward something. Originally it had the strength of making a vow or promise. I have seen devotion in the community, devotion amongst working friends, devotion from guests. One thing I have noticed is that this devotion is freely given, not begrudged. It doesn’t seem to come out of a sense of duty, but because somehow the place, the people have caught the attention of our heart.


[1] Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays (New York: Penguin, 2016), loc. 166 of 1669, Kindle.

This was posted on 15 June 2024. Tagged: , , ,

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