“Learning Little by Little to Love Our Only World”


Dear Colleagues:

I am not a huge New Year’s resolution guy, although I have made a commitment to try something new for the next 30 days.  I was inspired by Matt Cutts’ TED Talk, Try Something New for 30 days.  The goal in the next 30 days is to challenge myself to get out of my “comfort zone.”

But one thing I would like to promise myself in 2014 is to appreciate the Earth for all its grandeur as Mary Oliver so eloquently expresses in her poem, Starfish, “while I lay on the rocks, reaching into the darkness, learning little by little to love our only world.”  We live on a precious planet that while resilient in some respects is constantly being assaulted by our reckless habits.   If you’re interested in learning about the implications of our uncontrolled growth and demand for more and more things, read this piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Pollution Rising, Chinese Fear for Soil and Food.  If we continue to show little respect or love for planet Earth, where will our species be in the near future?  A world without starfish?

We need to teach our students to appreciate Earth’s bountiful gifts, and become worthy stewards of all that has been bestowed upon us.  Abusing it for our own self-interest will only endanger the starfish, and ultimately the human species.

Here is Mary Oliver’s wonderful poem for inspiration to love our planet.  It comes from her book of poetry, Dream Work.


In the sea rocks,
in the stone pockets
under the tide’s lip,
in water dense as blindness

they slid
like sponges,
like too many thumbs.
I knew this, and what I wanted

was to draw my hands back
from the water – what I wanted
was to be willing
to be afraid.

But I stayed there,
I crouched on the stone wall
while the sea poured its harsh song
through the sluices,

while I waited for the gritty lightning
of their touch, while I stared
down through the tide’s leaving
where sometimes I could see them –

their stubborn flesh
lounging on my knuckles.
What good does it do
to lie all day in the sun

loving what is easy?
It never grew easy,
but at last I grew peaceful:
all summer

my fear diminished
as they bloomed through the water
like flowers, like flecks
of an uncertain dream,

while I lay on the rocks, reaching
into the darkness, learning
little by little to love
our only world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Hope you all have a wonderful New Year!

Bob Ryshke

2 comments on ““Learning Little by Little to Love Our Only World”

  1. I feel our Bee Project directly relates to the Starfish!


    • Karen:

      I think the Bee Project is the 1st grade’s journey to connecting students to the world they live in. In why ways are bees important to our lives? Why should we (humans) work so hard to make sure bees are well cared for? So I think you are right…it is your starfish. I find it interesting that in Mary Oliver’s poem, she does even mention the word starfish. It is all about images. I wonder what kind of poems 1st graders would write about bees. Is that part of the project?

      Thanks for reading and sharing.



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