On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my friend, Ed, gives me a lift to the university on his way to drop off his son at West Valley High School. I enjoy getting to the office early. I have time for final preparations before my 9:45 a.m. class…and at the moment, I get to watch the sunrise.

As the Snedden Chair, I have a lovely corner office with big south-facing windows. This morning I was typing at my computer when a ray of orange light slipped through the slats in the blinds, inviting me to come outside and play.

I stepped outside to watch the sun rise over the clouds topping the Alaskan Range. I faced the sun. I inhaled the sunshine and the sharp air, watching my breath fog before my face as I exhaled. The sun cast long shadows from the frosty blades of grass and the skinny truck of a young birch tree. I stood for a few moments and took it all in, delighted in the morning and the moment. Then I dashed back to my office.

In class today, I handed out a poem “When I Am Among the Trees,” by Mary Oliver, from her book, “Thirst.” I hand out poems and quotes in my class and I imagine my students are often wondering: “What’s this got to do with journalism?”

It’s got to do with life. The foundation of everything.

I had a student read the poem aloud.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Mary Oliver, Thirst

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