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Mary Oliver’s Summer Day in December–Presence

Perhaps it is odd to suggest reading Mary Oliver’s poem, “A Summer Day,” on January 1st, in the dead of winter. Several days ago, we in Boston were hit with a blizzard that left eighteen plus inches of snow amid temperatures in the teens—hardly a summer day.

 Nonetheless, her poem seems appropriate as a sequel to my recent posting, “The Present of Presence.” Mary Oliver knows about presence and how to be present, attuned and aware of the world both around and within her.

 Her poetry is a gift for all of us, a present that sharpens our acuity for seeing what we often neglect to perceive in the midst of our harried lives.  Her poetry is a wake up call.

 “A Summer Day,” in particular seems appropriate on New Year’s Eve, when anticipation of hopes and resolutions for living better lives fill our thoughts.  Her final line proposes the question we can all be asking ourselves as the year 2011 begins. “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

 The Summer Day

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 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?

Posted in GratitudeMindfulnessspiritual issuesspirituality on 1 January 2011
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