This week’s article was written before the events of Wednesday, January 6. While we realize that feelings of shock, sadness, and unrest are more prevalent now than the sentiments expressed in this poem, we do feel that this will be a good reminder for us to choose to see with eyes of gratitude as we go through this new year.
Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day,” speaks appropriate words for us in this season of making resolutions and fresh commitments. Her poem is also germane to any of us who might get lulled into a state of sleepwalking by life’s predictable rhythms, who can live day after day without a sense of wonder, absent of awe, and failing to be fascinated by a single thing.
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?
Mary Oliver reminds me of what a gift life is, full of simple wonders, and that we may either thoughtfully redeem our days or mindlessly fritter them away. Jesus warned his friends that it is possible to gain the whole world yet lose one’s soul. So tell me, as we enter into a year full of promise and possibility, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?