Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wild and precious life...

I have long been a fan of the poet Mary Oliver. It was her poems, West Wind #2 and The Journey, that ultimately gave the me the courage to leave my marriage.

(Anyone who says that poetry is boring has never been to the edge of madness and been pulled back from the brink by the "best words in the best order.")

This morning, I received (as I do each day) my e-mail from Writer's Almanac. It was another Mary Oliver poem:

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 know that my blogfriend LJ named her own blog after this poem. And it speaks to me as well.

So much of my life has been lived according to other people's rules and expectations. I have done all the "right" things---college, grad school, career, marriage, motherhood. Climbing the ladder of social and financial success. Ticking off accomplishments on my To Do list.

But my wild and precious life has been largely ignored or forgotten, except in my relationship with God. It is in that relationship that I have felt precious and cherished. Despite my many sins and failures, I have known--do know--the unchanging, unfathomable, love of the One who created me.

In the midst of the Current Unpleasantness, I do not want to forget that I have only one wild and precious life. That I owe it to God, to myself, and to those who love me, to live it with all the passion and joy I can muster. That I have the power to choose happiness, even in the midst of trouble.

I taught a combined 1st and 2nd grade Sunday School class this past week, and we talked about the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. We discussed Joshua's challenge to the people of Israel: "Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

I believe that challenge is ever before each of us. Whom (or what) will we serve? Will we focus on the anger, fear, and sorrow in our lives, to the exclusion of joy? Will we get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that we forget how to be "idle and blessed"?

Will we miss the forest for the leaves?

I will not. I will take the one wild and precious life that my God has granted me, and I will drink it to the lees. I will laugh and sing and pray and cry, and I will not allow my heart to be hardened.

Because everything dies at last, and when I do, I have decided that my tombstone will read:

She lived her wild and precious life!