Kathy Donchak

April 3, 2022

Sunday Letter: Attention

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"Attention is the beginning of devotion."
- Mary Oliver

Spring is a season of birth and light. A flourishing of possibility is everywhere. Much like our human journey, it can feel like the bursting of life or a slow unfurling. As we edge closer and embrace our desire to write, write, we must. To write is to become vulnerable on the page, to be open to the unknowable discoveries that will invariably appear. Trust in your own experience.

It requires attention and rewards you with a devotional practice of expression as integral to your life, as your morning coffee or tea. At least, that is how it happened to me and so many other writers I have read about. 

To write is an act of devotion to a personal desire. 

It is completely separate from sharing or publishing. It is the ultimate act of self-care and discovery. The challenge of what to write about often stops us before we begin. 

After four years of writing my Sunday Letter, I still sit down and don’t know what I will share until it appears in front of me. That seed of an idea that produces curiosity is invisible. Buried too deep for me to access. So I write more, expecting something will bloom in the bramble of my thoughts, and when I doubt or struggle with the surface chatter, I turn off the lamp at my desk and go outside to the garden or on a walk. Within minutes, the chatter quiets, impressions settle, and an idea appears. 

The bramble that appeared in my writing today is just beyond our boundary fence in an unkempt corner of a neighbor’s property. The unsightly mess beyond our greenhouse and wind chimes is a tangled form of bare branches where just this week a wild peach tree bloomed. Its branches are full of brightly colored green leaves, pink flowers, and dozens of tightly woven buds. I cut some trimmings to bring inside and this symbol of spring became my meditation this week. 

The delicate blooms became an entrance to a seasonal threshold meditation that was slowly unfurling right in front of me. It was deepening my attention with every new leaf and petal. 

I realized I had not been paying attention at all.

The tiny wild orchard was a few feet from me for weeks and I never noticed. The greening leaves, and the tightly packed buds, were all signs of life and beauty, but the label I had accepted from a previous owner had blinded me from that beautiful, persevering tree that refused to stay in the dark place of the bramble. 

It grew towards the sun.

Spring begs us to exercise our individual practice of attention. We can capture the fragments of awareness and natural attractions in our daily communion with nature and choose one to learn more about as we write.

Be well,

Kathy

P.S. This week's Sunday Letter is a prompt from our writing circle. If you would like to explore nature writing, try this activity below.

Spring Nature Writing Activity

This week, take a small notebook into a natural area and seek permission to interact. What do you notice? Take note. The meaning may appear later. I don’t know when, but attention is the first step in your devotion to yourself as a writer. 

Repeat each day. On the fourth day, review your notebook, and choose one thing to explore in your writing. Write a paragraph or a mini-essay dedicated to this one thing you chose to take into your pages.