Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Your One Wild and Precious Life

Long a mainstay of college admissions processes and orientations, I recently heard about the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. (I've pasted it at the bottom of this post.) My sister, Weez, tells me that it is my great hope in life to be employed as a professional student. She's right.

I am a sucker for places that make us dream big, that push us beyond our limits, that stretch our imaginations and minds in ways that we never thought possible. I am a forever student, very much at home in the classroom wherever that classroom happens to be, whether I am up front teaching or happily seated in the front row soaking up all that glorious information like a sponge. So of course the big questions are my very favorites, and Mary Oliver hits on what may be my favorite question yet: "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Isn't that gorgeous? Makes me want to print it out 1,000 times and plaster it all over my neighborhood.

This week I have had new options unfolding for me every day. Just when I think I am set upon a course of action, some other wonderful possibility falls into my path to consider. I think I'm being tested (which is fine by me since students love tests.) I think I'm being shown a way to focus on exactly what field in life gets me most excited, education, and then also being offered a myriad of distractions that are testing my passion for it. Mary Oliver's question is like a beacon in the haze. What if we looked at every option that's thrown our way, what if we considered every road before us with this lens. What if we made choices by asking "is this what you want to do with your one wild and precious life (knowing that our lives are so short)?"

The very thought of this takes my breathe away. Our lives are so short. We have such little time here, making every day a wild and precious thing. So here is my answer to Mary Oliver, no matter how many days I have left:

To write courageously and passionately so that it stirs the hearts and imaginations of others
To give children every where the chances that I had to improve my own lot in life through education, dedication, and very hard work
To lift others up as I rise
To generate more kindness, compassion, and generosity in the world
To take these two wild and precious hands and build things that have value and meaning, for me and for many others
To travel far and wide, to experience other cultures, to see new scenery, to meet as many citizens of the world as possible
And, yes, every day I want to be both a teacher and a student

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?

The image above is not my own. It can be found here.


Trish said...

Hi Christa,

I love your blog and I was inspired to swipe this poem for a blog post of my own. I hope you will drop by and comment :)

Robin Easton said...

Dear Christa, I came here from Trish Scott's blog and I am so glad to discover you. I love the open yearning in your writing and relate strongly to it. Your writing is compelling and alive, vulnerable and bold, honest and life-filled. I admire that. Thank you for sharing in the way that you do. Robin Easton

Christa said...

Hi Trish! What a wonderful compliment. I will absolutely go to your site and comment. How did you find my blog?

Christa said...

Hi Robin,
Thank you so much! What an incredibly kind comment - I am so flattered. I look forward to being in touch!

All my best,

Matthew said...

reading this brought a smile to my face, darling -- mary oliver has such a way with words. continue to shine. much love, -matt

Christa said...

Matt - this poem brings tears to my eyes too. So many big questions to ask ourselves and answer. So glad to have people like you in my life who are so encouraging of not only finding, but living, these answers. Love you!

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