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 —
We are in the middle of summer now, although since I become a Florida resident almost five years ago, sometimes it seems as if I’m in eternal summer!
In the spirit of summer, I thought I’d share with you a favorite poem of mine, The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. Back in the day when I was in my first career as an English teacher I found it a challenge to teach a poem in such a way that students were helped to get the most meaning from it, without dissecting it in such a way that its beauty was spoiled. And with such well-known poem as this, much more knowledgeable people than I have shared their insights.
And so, I’ll just point out to you a couple things that strike me about this poem.
The first is the opening question, “Who made this world?” As if in answer, the poet moves from the enormity of the whole world down to her very specific and personal observation of the little grasshopper she’s feeding sugar. What a miracle all life is; a miracle we often take for granted unless we take the time to pay attention. Oliver writes, “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention…” Paying close attention to the natural world, I think, is a form of prayer when we are fully present and brought to awe, praising God who has created such wonderful and intricately fashioned beings as grasshoppers, swans, and bears.
The second is the question, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Have you thought about your plan for your life lately, if ever? Or does life just happen? Your life is indeed precious, as are you, created by the same God who created this beautiful world and all that is in it. Live to the fullest. Pay attention to what is of eternal importance.
In Christ’s Love!
Pastor Candy Thomas
Christ Congregational United Church of Christ