Thursday, May 31, 2012

Endings and Beginnings

The Summer Day

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?

I keep writing and erasing, trying to be clever, trying to be amusing, but right now I am neither. There are many little deaths in letting go of this, this wonderful American Dream we have lived. It pains me that I will no longer be a part of the community at this school of my son's; that I will not walk the hallways and know everyone by name; that I will no longer be hugged  and called to by a dozen different children before I reach my destination; that I will no longer watch them master a word or learn to correctly place a comma; that I won't get to listen to their perfect brand of logic, trying to keep a grave expression on my face; that they will no longer question my rings and necklaces and bracelets and earrings, wanting to try them on, wanting to know why I wear so much jewelry, wanting to know why it is all so big. 

I will miss the familiar back roads where pheasants once flew and no houses stood. I will miss the perfect rolls of hay that dot the farming landscape. I will miss the owls calling and the frogs peeping. I will miss the firework show of fireflies in the cornfields. I will miss throwing snowy clothes into the dryer and my son's cold ruddy cheeks as he drinks the hot chocolate that serves only as a vehicle for his marshmallows.

And yet, and yet, I know that I regret only the things I chose not to do and the opportunities to which I've said no. I know that I have only this one life and yet so many ways in which it can be lived. I know that I will make new attachments and find pleasure in new things: the red geraniums tumbling through the wrought iron terraces; the  smell of fresh fruit in the outdoor market; the lit candles devoted to the Virgin Mary in an unexpected crevice of an urban building; sitting at a cafe and drinking iced espresso, the dogs dreaming at my feet on the warm cobblestone. 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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