Friday, November 20, 2009

This one wild and precious life

I read a phrase in a newspaper article this week. What is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?
It stayed with me. Me, who usually forgets momentous concepts as soon as my brain processes them. It has been haunting me all week. So tonight I Googled it and found that it is an oft-quoted phrase that comes from this poem:

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?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

Not to spend all my blogging time outlining my angst, but I think the reason these lines stuck with me is that they carry the gist of my restlessness of late. I have been trying to find a venue locally that would love to use my donated music therapy services, say a group of moms and children in a shelter, but to no avail. I was actually turned down flat by the local branch of a national group (who shall remain nameless) because I don't subscribe to the Apostles' Creed. It took the wind out of my sails and I was paralyzed for the rest of the week.

There are a lot of things I REALLY love about this time of my life.
My time is my own, to choose freely how I spend it.
Grandchildren abound and bring joy.
Children are finding their way in the world quite nicely.
We are debt-free and happy to be that way.

However, as much as I joke about my "bucket list" and swimming with dolphins, there are a lot of things that I still want to do with my life. I have a hankering to spend some of my remaining time on this earth in some worthy humanitarian cause. There is so much misery in the world and I am only one person, but one person multiplied by many can create great change. I don't know yet how this is going to work. Heck, apparently I can't even find a meaningful way to volunteer close to home. And I have been shackled by idleness since our trip to Australia.
But my passion is out there, somewhere.
I can feel it coming.


  1. Mary dabbles in Natural Theology, an interesting topic with much history.

    That's a cicindellid, or tiger beetle, in your photo. Good luck catching one, they're fast. I became an expert tiger beetle hunter during my undergrad years. I also discovered that tropical species move a bit slower than their temperate relatives. Maybe because they need large, unobstructed, flat areas to navigate at high speed. They reportedly run/fly faster than they can process visual sensory input. That sounds fun. Try driving down the freeway with your eyes closed. Maybe I should do a post on tiger beetles.

    Commenting on your last bit, it sounds like you and dad will be planning on serving as full-time missionaries at the earliest opportunity. Am I right?

  2. Um, yes, eventually. I kind of want to do something before another ten years passes, which is when Dad will be free. Haven't told him yet. Shhhhh.

  3. I love that poem. I've heard it once before and it really made an impression. I think the right opportunity is going to come along for you. You're searching and so you'll be ready to recognize it when it does. I totally get what you're feeling though, in fact it brought back to mind a blog post I wrote once. Kind of long and meandering, but if you're interested it's here. I realized re-reading it it sounds a little depressing that I can't do everything I want to do, but at the time it was comforting to think in terms of eternity where time won't be an issue and we'll get to do so much and learn so much and experience so much. But in terms of here and now, it is nice that you're at a stage with time and more freedom. So even though you feel angsty, this post feels hopeful to me somehow, that because you're thinking and caring about it, and struggling too, that you are going to find a way and that's exciting!