Friday, September 27, 2013

on living my "one wild and precious life”

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?

You've probably heard that I've been mysteriously ill since February, a condition I will heretofore refer to only as the Plague. No one seems to be able to figure out what's causing my symptoms or how to treat them. Basically, I feel like I have the flu most of the time. Weak. Dizzy. Nauseated. Sometimes I pass out when I stand up. Sometimes that happens at church, as I'm trying to stealthily sneak out of Gospel Doctrine to have a coughing fit in peace.

Since February, I've lost a lot of weight. As great as that sounds, I've also lost a lot of hair. Flat warts have spread all over my face. My cognitive ability has been effected as well. Which means I've had a bad case of ADD, burning dinners, forgetting children, and creating chaos. Not to mention the writer's block. It's been a horrible nine months.

And yet.

The best months of my life, too. The Plague, along with a bony bum, brittle hair and warty face, has brought me a decadent array of the richest blessings. More than I can understand or comprehend. More time for listening and being still. More time for reasoning together. More time for reading (and discovering the poet Mary Oliver, another blessing). More time pondering mortality and the purpose of my precious life. More time to hear the wind blow low and whisper through the pines and to watch dark clouds roll over  mountain peaks and more time to sit in the glow of a rainbow sherbet sunset.

More bowing and knee bending.

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?

I don't know if I'll fully recover physically. But inside, I am brand new. For now, when I wake up, I look out my window and like Mary Oliver, I say: good morning, good morning, good morning. I'm going to put my lips to the world and live my life.

Mornings at Blackwater
by Mary Oliver

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.


  1. I've said this many times before, but you inspire me. I know this is hard for you, especially not knowing. But, I just have to say that you're attitude is so optimistic and uplifting. If this were happening to me, I'd be crying all the time, throwing fits and not wanting to do anything. Basically, I'd give into being the victim despite all that I'm learned about choice. So, thank you for your inspiration and helping me realize that even when life is hard, I can choose to be happy. I can choose to not fall victim to my circumstances. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. Don't let me fool you, Jenni; I'm still crying all the time.

  2. You are a powerful force for good! I applaud your ability to find inner strength and optimism even through the hard times. I've been loving all the Mary Oliver poetry, I can always count on you to find me a new favorite.

  3. <3 Thank you for sharing. About the plague, and also Mary Oliver.

  4. This is beautiful, Rachel, and so are you. These poems are so perfect and your determination to write your way through this world, noticing and absorbing your surroundings with the heart and detail of a writer is a blessing to all who read your words. I think healing has and will continue to come through those words. Hope today is one of the better ones.

  5. Oh you beautiful woman, you! I can't even tell you how much I love you. And love these words. And pray for you. All. The. Time.