Life has such surprising left hooks sometimes, which is one reason I love the poetry of Mary Oliver. Here we are, strolling in a field, mooning over a glorious grasshopper, and then POW! She asks,
Much as it stings, it is the POW that makes the mooning all the sweeter.
Sometimes in the midst of piercing joy, the remnants of piercing sorrow reverberate so clearly. Joy and sorrow, they’re pretty close cousins, after all.
Dear Honeybees, today I hope you moon over a grasshopper, or a rock, or a poem, or another human being.
I wish you a wild and precious day. A wild and precious life.
Here is the full poem, well worth savoring line by line:
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
This poem appears in Oliver’s New and Selected Poems (read both volumes!). As always, you can find this and many other treasures at your favorite independent bookstore, or through their IndieBound online community.
Photo by Ryan Wood via Wikimedia Commons.