Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day”

I am quite enamored of this poem, as I am of all of Mary Oliver’s work.

Judging from some of the catty Internet commentary appended to the bottom, the idea of a grasshopper as something interesting, beautiful and even holy is appalling to some. After all, it’s an insect — and one that can be quite destructive to gardeners and human aims in general. We think of plagues of locusts, not the prism of their eyes, their interesting jaws, their love of cleanliness.

We see them as use — or lack of use.

To pray, as Oliver writes it, is to walk through the field and simply notice, taking in its beauty as a lover does — a lover of the world. Everything is beautiful, complex, multifaceted as a grasshopper’s eyes. That noticing, that taking in, is our most essential spiritual work.

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?

And here is why: It is all transitory. Even if you believe in reincarnation, you are only yourself — your particular self, with your particular circumstances, just this one moment. You shift and change in the next moment and the next. When your souls go to their respective realms after your death, they do not realign into the same being. Your suld soul — to use the Buryat term — remains in the Green World as a nature spirit and does not return to the cycle with the other two.

And so, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?


About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
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