“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”



Yesterday afternoon I drove to Snoqualmie Pass to ski with my daughters and their friend Shana, only to discover that Summit had closed at 4:00. Unbelievable! It was a perfect afternoon. No precipitation, lots of snow on the ground. Not sunny, but bright. A spring day.

The girls — I hate to call them “girls,” they’re 19, but they’re my girls — broke open our dinner and chowed down. They listened to Lady Gaga and James Taylor. Then they put on their ski bibs and parkas and built a snow-woman. They climbed up a hill and slid down (several times). They took pictures. I was happily reading away in the car, but they made me get out and help with the pictures.

We drove home around 8:00, under a big, gorgeous moon. We talked about life and some of their goals. I thought of my students, and of a conversation I’ve had with several people lately, that desire to be a writer, and that defeating response, “I don’t have the time,” which I hear so often. When we got home, they made me go to the Y with them (“You were looking forward to getting some exercise, you said so!”) and we worked out.

You have the same amount of time as everyone else, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No one gets more than that. If you have a dream to write — or paint, or run, or play in the snow — what will you do TODAY to make that happen? When you encounter obstacles, how will you choose to deal with those obstacles? If you really, truly want to write and can’t retire tomorrow, or take next quarter off, or go to a weekend retreat, could you just set the timer on your phone, dig out a pen, open a notebook, and write for 15 minutes? Come on. I’ll write with you!

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?

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