Monday, July 07, 2008

Your One Wild and Precious Life

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?

I have read this poem over and over. Always, her last question haunts me. I too, know how to be idle and blessed, to pay attention. But, what am I doing with this precious life?

Our family spent two days in the mountains recently.

One night, after everyone else had gone to bed, Scud and I tiptoed outside to study the stars. A few nights before, we had been laying on our trampoline and searching for constellations. Scud is so excited to be able to find the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper and the North Star. So, when I pulled him outside, he was in awe of how bright the stars shone away from city lights. He marveled at the Milky Way. We found Orion and talked about how amazing it is that God created all of those stars, galaxies upon galaxies, and that He still can be so aware of us.

I took a walk with Mashuga early in the morning, watched Mallard ducks swimming and diving in a nearby pond. We stopped to admire and inspect the minutia of every wildflower -- the purple blue of Mountain Bluebells, the welcoming white cups of Sego Lilies, the flaming red bursts of Indian Paintbrush. We jumped when a red-breasted bird shot out of the underbrush and stood very still, very quiet as a mule deer watched us with curious eyes. We threw rocks and watched ripples multiply across the glassy surface of Legacy Lake. I marveled at the wonder and the promise reflected in my son's wide blue eyes.

We sang songs, reunited with loved ones, met relatives that we have never known and were so amazed to find that we are connected by so much more than blood. JDub and I talked about how wonderful it is to know that there are such wonderful people in the world and that we are connected to them, somehow.

Tomorrow night I will end a six-week series of classes. I feel sad to say goodbye to these couples that I have come to care for so deeply. It is such an honor to be part of this process of initiating and preparing couples for the transformation of birth and parenthood. I see glimpses of others' souls and am always awe-struck at the love and faith and courage I find there.

I do not hold much with the cynics who believe that the "good people" in the world are hard to find or that miracles are hard to come by. Both are present all around us.

I have stayed up late tonight to prepare for our special final night of celebration. We will do so many juicy, wonderful things tomorrow and I am both excited and nervous. I hope they will enjoy it.

My prayers on my knees have been sparse and shallow lately. I want to pray in words and conversation. It just isn't coming. But my heart has certainly been continually drawn out. My poems have been prayers lately, my breaths have come out in prayers, my joy and wonder at the world's beauty have been the silent language of my prayers.

And what am I praying? I have felt such a deep need this year to know that I am doing all I should with this one wild and precious life that God has given me. The things I do are so simple. I love, I write, I mentor, I cook, I cuddle, I teach, I read, I learn, I watch, I serve and try to be a light to others. What else can I do?

I worry often that I am missing something, that my focus is off. I worry that my passion for my writing, for my birth work is somehow leading me too far away from my family and that I will regret not having a more single-minded focus on my children. But then, I worry that subverting these parts of myself would leave me unhappy, inauthentic and with less to give to the ones I love most. I worry that I am rushing too fast, that I am going too slow.

But then I wonder what else I should be doing?

And I don't have an answer.

The only thing I know to do with this short and wild and precious life is to live it. To rise each morning swelling with gratitude for the light pouring from the east. To be wild. To be authentic. To bring my love to every moment and do just what that moment asks of me. To trust and allow myself to be fully who I was long before I came here. To nurture my connection to the Lord and let the things He teaches me shape who I am becoming.

I don't know how to do any better than this, but some days it takes a lot of faith to know that if I am living this very moment as I should, that in the culmination of my life I will not disappoint or be disappointed.

Tell me please, I'm curious. What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


Trishelle said...

I think I will call you M&M for short on this blog. Your blog name fits you beautifully, by the way. Thank you for sharing your poem.

Hmmmmm, One wild and precious life? It goes along with living like you were dying. I think I shall love everyone with wild abandon.

Your amazing, my lovely friend!!

emily said...

i have so many plans -- i feel sometimes like my life is slipping through my fingers, like sand.

i'm planning to be a mother someday and teach children how to play the piano. i think those two things would really fulfill me and challenge me -- i just need to get these darn migraines under control. ;)

Emnacnud said...

right now i am exploring the wonderful world of blogging, which i find very fulfilling, and i am learning how to tile.

Ben & Teri said...

Wow, you have an amazing way with words. I love to read what you have to write.

What to do with my wild and precious life, I hope to be the best Mom and wife I can be. I also hope to be more grateful for my abundant blessings and less judgmental of things that I don't take time to understand.

I am so grateful for your friendship. Keep Writing.