A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Your One Wild And Precious Life

Two poems about awareness and mindfulness, and the amazing possibilities of the present moment in our sensory world...

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life -

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?


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?


I like the way Mary Oliver considers 'awareness', or close attention, as a kind of secular 'prayer'.

Both poems end with a question, which is a wake-up call to all of us.

Can we awaken our minds and senses to what the 'now' has to offer?

How do we really want to spend our lives - our precious lives, our only lives?


Rachel Fox said...

Interesting Oliver uses the word 'who' in her questions. It's certainly not the word I'd use!

The Solitary Walker said...

I think the 'hows' and the 'whats' she uses are far more important than the 'whos'.

Note she also uses 'who' also (twice) in relation to the grasshopper rather than 'which' or 'that'. She's not sure who or what made the world, but she is sure that it's precious and sacred.

Rachel Fox said...

Oo sacred...there's another word I wouldn't use. Is anything sacred..? I'm really not sure.

The Solitary Walker said...

It's a word to be used with care, for sure. But I use it very occasionally, as you know, and I'm not afraid to use it - in the right context. I think it's time to reclaim some of those words and use them in a secular way. Why should the Religious have the monopoly over the religious?

I think life is sacred.

Now I think I've used that word quite enough for now - three times in one day is enough for anyone!

The Weaver of Grass said...

I suppose one of the pluses of living in the Western world is that we have a choice, Robert. (Should there be another s in the middle of plusses?) I presume you are back home again?

Laura said...

Thank you for sharing these poems this morning. I experienced an internal "lift" with the final line in Stafford's that has made me a bit more ready to savor the day ahead. Stafford is a local poet (I live in Oregon) and it was a treat to find him on your blog.

Alistair said...

"what softened
sound from outside fills the air?"

as I read that line the sound of the neighbour chopping wood drifted through the window!

The Solitary Walker said...

'Chop that wood, carry water. What's the sound of one hand clapping. Enlightenment, don't know what it is..' Van Morrison.

Been back home ages, Weaver! Glad you're able to do a bit more now.

The Solitary Walker said...

And Laura... I'm glad I helped make your day with that poem!

kim said...

wild and precious.

{and i am with you on the reclaiming thing}