Wild and Precious Life


journal page – 9/9/07

This morning, I looked over the deck just in time to see a dozen turkeys take to the air in a cacophonous flurry of flapping wings and garbled calls. After a night’s rain, they had gathered in our front garden to forage for fallen berries, and they were startled by Heidi’s bark when she spotted them. They flew into the high branches of the trees, leaving one young turkey alone on the roof of the shop at the bottom of our property. It made its way towards the edge, tentatively looking around to see where the rest of the flock had gone, clearly afraid to leave the safety of its perch. I felt like I was watching a jumper on a bridge; part of me felt sorry for its confusion and part of me wanted to see what would happen when it inevitably decided to go. When it finally took the leap, its flight was remarkably graceful, and it succeeded to reach the top of a pine tree. Later, a family of turkeys, two adults and two small ones, walked across the driveway and made their way into the woods.

The leaves have begun to come down hard with the wind and the rain, but this morning it was humid and still. Down the driveway and along the road, they fell desultorily, caght on light air currents. At one point Heidi stopped and watched as a single leaf floated in front of her. She snapped at it as it passed her nose, disappointed that it wasn’t something good to eat.

I love this time of year. I love the feeling of change, the movements of the wild creatures on our property making ready for the sparse winter, and the renewed sense of purpose I get when I think about the next ten months of structure. As much as I revel in my freely formed summer days, I welcome the challenge of setting goals and arranging priorities, and the feeling of accomplishment when I meet my expectations.

I recently heard the Mary Oliver poem below read aloud, and it touched me in way that a silent reading could not. Even so, I want to share it. It is a something of prayer… and it reminds me how important it is to “live the life you love and love the life you live.”

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?

Mary Oliver (1935 – )

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