Tell Me, What is it you plan to do?

I read this quote the other day and it really stuck with me. It is from a Mary Oliver poem called, “The Summer Day.”


Tell me,

What is it that you plan to do with your one

wild and precious life?

Doesn’t that just grab at your heart?  First, how often, do you have regard for your life as “wild” and “precious.” Most folks I know live hurriedly, with a keen sense of “what is not getting done.” We are doers in this land.

Secondly, how often does someone reflect back to you how “wild” and “precious” your life actually is?

Thirdly, there is that little word, “One.  “One wild and precious life,” the line sort of hits my throat like a rock.

Nothing like a shot of mortality to support a brighter perspective, if only this worked for more than a few minutes.

I guess Mary McCarthy’s line got me wondering about myself.

Yesterday, my four-year old (probably watching her sister) refused to go to school. “I am not leaving the car,” she said, and again, looking at this unmovable child I felt this deep sigh in myself. We’d recently watched Star Wars, and so I said, “What if the Force moves you out of the car.”

“The Force is not coming,” she said, so final and sure of herself I was left wondering where my Force had gone. Where had my force gone? My wild and precious force?

Something about parenting little defiant beings makes my sense of preciousness and wildness fleeting. I don’t think its gone, mind you, but there is this feeling that it might have exited with the placenta.

Which has got me wondering, how does one grab onto that sense again? It is like grabbing onto the reins of a wild horse.

Perhaps this is the role of poetry. To remind us of alternative perspectives. Yesterday my daughter threw her underwear on the table at the Mexican restaurant, her dirty little “Tuesday” knickers next to the bowl of corn chips, which I didn’t notice until the waitress came by and had to shove the knickers aside to put the lemonade down.

Just as I was about to be flooded with embarrassment I heard that line, “Tell me, what are you going to do with your wild and precious life?” And it sort of worked. I mean, I felt a little embarrassed sure, there were underwear on the table,  but once a sense of preciousness entered my mind it occurred that someday Isla would be heading to college.



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