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
These words from Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, have been an inspiration to me since I first heard them. They are an echoing reminder that my life is what I make of it, and I’m the only one responsible for how I live, what I think, feel, and do. I can’t control or influence anyone else’s actions, attitudes or beliefs…but I can consciously decide what my response will be.
For example, I recently had a really strong gut reaction to something and knew words spoken in the moment weren’t the best way to express myself. Instead, I went to my studio and dug out this painting I hadn’t touched in months.
No worries if I messed it up – how much worse could it get?
Bypassing brushes, I squeezed paint directly onto my fingers and moved the paint and my tender feelings to a place where I could step back and see things from a different vantage point. It helps to do that when painting…and in life.
The words to Mary Oliver’s poem prompt me to be a better person – to live a heart-filled life and welcome each day with gratitude and love. I wish I was at a place where I could bypass those fear-based gut reactions all together, but I’m just not there yet. However, I can choose to react differently; to make intentional, conscious decisions about the kind of person I want to be and behave in a way that actively supports that. Genuine, loving…and forgiving.