Mary Oliver died in January but, her words and spirit will live on within me until I too depart this life. Mary was my friend. She shared my love of words, the economical use of language, and the essential power of nature. For as long as I can remember, Linda and I took our family to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard for summer vacation. Because Mary lived and worked in Provincetown, her words, already stark and magical, took on an immediacy that also ensnared my kids' imaginations. They recognized the truth of "Wild Geese" and saw the potential of the trajectories of their lives in "The Summer Day."
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?