January 17, 2019

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver, Dec. 2018 in Market Square Park (Houston)
The Summer Day
By Mary Oliver

Stumbled upon "The Summer Day" on the ground in downtown Houston last month, only a few feet from a moving memorial for a woman who died on 9/11. I was so surprised to see the barely legible poem, delighted even; it was so easy to miss. It delivered a hopeful message for the somber moment. A month before, during an empowering women's summit hosted by Glamour Magazine, Ann Dowd followed her speech about success and self-worth by reciting "Wild Geese" to the audience. Another moment of pleasant surprise. Reading Mary's words in recent years have provided comfort, understanding, and perspective in times of of both joy and sadness. And when overcome by nature's beauty and unable to find the words, I refer to hers. I've only read Upstream, and intended to seek more of her works, so maybe I'll do that this long weekend: treat myself to quiet time and Mary's poetry and prose.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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