On the Brink of Wonder


In class we’ve been using Robert Frost’s “Dust of Snow” as a mentor poem. We’ve read it and discussed it many times.

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Among other things, we’ve discussed the idea that this poem shows how a small thing can have a big effect or greater significance. That there are potential small turning points throughout the day, and an unexpected moment, or interaction, can turn a day around, from regret to joy. I love the idea that when you are open to it, a moment–just a moment–can shift the mood of a day. Like Frost, for me that shift often involves an outdoor setting (or view) and a flash of feathers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about potential and the sense of possibility that is so pervasive in nature–at the feeders, at a vernal pool, in a meadow at dusk, by the bay at dawn, outside my window. The constant wonder–What will happen next? What will I see? What beauty will unfold? It seems to me that when surrounded by nature, you’re always on the brink of wonder. Something isn’t there. And then it is. Often it always was there, but you just hadn’t noticed it, or paid attention. If you can just sit still long enough…

As E.B. White wrote, “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.” I’ve become increasingly aware that when you’re open and attentive to the world around you, there is always potential for “something to happen” or something to emerge and for a small jolt of joy to reset or enrich your day.

Yesterday, I woke thinking about the beautiful female Baltimore Oriole who’s been visiting my house lately, tempted by spring temperatures and juicy oranges. We’ve had Baltimore Orioles pass through before, but much to my delight, this one has been lingering. I wondered if and when she might appear. I settled into working, but looked out the window intermittently. Sure enough, just as I was starting to feel the weight of upcoming due dates and general year-end craziness, I looked up from my papers, and there she was, in all her glory. She perched by the orange, content to sit and intermittently dine on strands of juicy pulp. Just like that my worries receded, my heart was lifted and my day improved. A moment–just a moment–can shift the mood of a day.


Update:  As I was revising this post this morning, I was messaging with my daughter about her being sick (nothing serious), health insurance when out-of-state, and some financial stuff. I felt my shoulders tense and stress settle in.

A flash of movement outside caught my eye, and once again, there was the oriole, her beautiful orange and brown plumage glowing amidst the springtime greenery. Instantly, I smiled and felt lighter, and so grateful. I’m starting to feel such a sense of kinship with this bird!

I suddenly remembered a friend who was into animal totems. She’d told me that Native Americans believed that when you repeatedly see an animal, there can be meaning in that sighting. Impulsively, I googled oriole and totem and found this: “Oriole shows new occurrences in life and brings a sense of joy to the world. He helps discover the inner child and the relation to all things in the nature realm. Orioles have a beautiful song and will teach you to sing your own song from the tree tops.” Hmmmm….

9 thoughts on “On the Brink of Wonder

  1. Fran Haley says:

    First: I love Frost. Lines of his poetry return to me often. How beautifully you connected his words to your slice of life. Second: How true it is that one moment can change the tone of the day. I think we are meant to live in gratitude for every moment we have, never losing our awe of the life and wonders about us. Third: I love symbolism and am forever looking up meanings of images. I never tire of this; it opens endless pathways for writing. Enjoy your oriole, his reminder of joy, your inner child … and your literal child. Hope she’s feeling better soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dmsherriff says:

    I was meant to read this slice this Tuesday morning which feels like a Monday morning. Feeling the need for a reset, a “jolt of joy”, I chose a run over the gym this morning. I was hoping an endorphin producing run would start my week off right. I enjoyed the run, but my melancholy feeling remains. However, after reading this slice, I am reminded to remain open and ready for “that moment” – I am reminded to embrace my own wonders in nature and in the children I am lucky to be surrounded by every day! The oriole picture and words are stunning! Thanks, as always, for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. margaretsmn says:

    I love how you’ve connected Frost’s words to your love of nature and that joy of a single moment. The discovery of the totem wisdom of the oriole is itching to be released into a poem of your own. I wrote about nature today, too. We are in sync even in our distance. That’s what I love about slicing and connecting!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kd0602 says:

    Hi Molly,

    Your piece and Margaret piece today seem to echo each other. Your oriole, her geese and owl…nature offers so much. I love the idea of a totem or spirit animal. I wonder what the great egret represents…I know my day experienced that “jolt of joy” you spoke of!

    As always, thanks for this thoughtfulness and inspiration! If only I could get myself organized for Tuesday writing!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] about the possibility of animal totems when I read a post by a virtual friend, Molly Hogan over at Nix the Comfort Zone where she talked about the significance of some Baltimore oriole sightings outside her window. […]


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