I stumbled across an excerpt of “Summer Day” first via Pinterest, then investigated further the origin of the words through trusty old Google. I was delighted at the lightheartedness, thoughtfulness, and depth found in Mary Oliver’s wise words.
The Summer Day
By: Mary Oliver
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?
This poem makes my heart dance. It motivates me to try new things. To seize the day.
Mary Oliver makes me want to appreciate every little grace given to me, from the soft snores of a contented puppy to the lilac and mango colored brush strokes across the sky as a hazy summer sun sets over the Mississippi. The world needs more stopping, wondering, appreciating, smiling and gumption.
Seemingly, we have all day, summer, year, lifetime to accomplish our goals. Many people meander through their day to day business, steeped in monotonous routines that shape their words and actions. I love a perfectly good routine as much as anybody. Routines breed comfort. What I love even more, though, is breaking my routines. Newness. Learning. Beauty.
This poem, especially in the last few lines, poses a counter-cultural idea. It is not our routines, nor external factors that decide how meaningful our lives will be. Rather, it is each human who has that incredible power. Each of us has to work and play and be passionate about whatever it is that makes us feel alive. We are in charge. It is courage and the aforementioned gumption that allow us to embrace that which makes us feel fulfilled. Ideally, this calling hopefully not only brings joy to ourselves, but a love and kindness to those we meet.
Are you living your one wild and precious life?
Like clouds floating by in a crisp blue sky, each day passes us at a faster pace than the day before. I won’t argue you can stop time to figure out what it is that makes life full for you. Try to notice when you are happiest. What are you doing? Who are you with? There can be many things that ignite this fire in you. Lately, I have found joy in growing artistically through my photography adventures in this city o’ mine.
My loves, we are only given one wild and precious life. What is it that you plan to do with yours?