The Summer Day
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 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?
– Mary Oliver
I absolutely love this poem. Like so many of Mary Oliver’s, it calls to life and living fully, awake, present, and connected.
I have learned how to pay attention, too, and often think that’s what life is all about. Without attention and awareness, where are we? Are we really living, or are we off in some imaginary place in some crazy future or lost past, where there is no life; no present moment?
When I first read this poem, I felt sad at her line “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?” Yes, it’s true, and all too true. Maybe that’s what the Buddha was talking about in the statement: “All is suffering (dukkha).” It’s the first of the Four Noble Truths; the place to start. Even hearing that statement, it sounded depressing to me. On reflection and later learning, I’m coming to see that it’s a starting point on the path to acceptance and seeing things as they really are. Getting to that point, then life can begin.
I’m left with Mary Oliver’s life-piercing question: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
How about you?