Thursday, 9 June 2011

one wild and precious life

In one of the comments to this post, a friend sent a link to this poem. And I just can't get some of the lines out of my head - the ones that I've highlighted below. I think it's just beautiful. 

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 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

These words ring in my ears: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I sometimes think that being as productive as possible is the goal, but I love how this poem exalts idleness as potential prayer. Paying attention, slowing down enough to really watch, praying, and listening - these are some of the things I want to do with my one wild and precious life.


  1. Rebecca - In reading your June 9 and 10 writings, I am immediately drawn to reflect on two of my own favourites. I invite you also to ponder their life-giving perspectives - (Google away):
    Poem: "A Prayer in Spring" (by Robert Frost, 1903).
    Hymn: Mennonite Hymnal: A Worship Book #572 "Prayer is the soul's sincere desire" (text: James Montgomery, 1818; music: Stephanie Martin, 1990). This text has been in many hymnals over the years, with different music to accompany; Stephanie's music is gorgeous! It's a favourite of the PMS Singers.

  2. I read the Frost poem, Mush - love it. I'd never heard of that hymn before - it IS beautiful. Love these words: "Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, unuttered or expressed, the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast." I'll have to hear you sing it sometime.

  3. Looks like we were on the same page yesterday.

    I always love this poem.

  4. those words ring in my ears, Carol.