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 is arguably one of Mary Oliver’s most well known poems because of the last sentence, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It is a profound question worth our time and reflection. But I keep coming back to the grasshopper and the amount of detail Oliver spends describing this one particular grasshopper that is in her hand. This swing between the very small picture of our lives (the grasshopper in front of us) and the big picture (our life’s plan) is interesting. Are they separate, related, or maybe two halves of one whole?
We have a chipmunk who lives near our front porch (his name is Chippy). Chippy feels comfortable enough sharing space with us that in the mornings when my husband is on the porch reading the paper, Chippy will scamper across the porch, running over Marc’s bare feet on his way. He has paid attention to our cat Zelda long enough to know that while she stands watch inside at the front door, she never actually comes outside, so he is safe to sit in her view even if her ears try to communicate something else. Chippy makes appearances when friends come over for tea and I like that he is good with company. Chippy has very distinct striping, the lines are crisp between the black and the tan and the white. I’ve spent a lot of time watching Chippy, admiring his colors and commending him for his bravery and social skills. Is it how I imagined spending my one wild and precious life? Would watching a chipmunk merit enough importance to include in my personal mission statement? No. But…. The act of stopping and paying attention to the small picture as much as the big picture is integral to how I want to spend my own wild and precious life. May you savor the small picture today, and may it inform the big picture of God’s love and grace alive in the world.
Let us pray:
Good and Gracious God, we give you thanks for the gifts of creation. Make us wise stewards, compassionate guardians, and powerful advocates for all that you have made. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.