31 jul 13 The Summer Day

Yesterday Anchorage continued setting a record for the most consecutive days at 70 degrees or above -- 15 days.  This summer has seemed close-to-perfect and it's a constant topic of conversation even after two months of great weather.

Two weeks ago, as that 70+ streak started, an acquaintance of mine ended her life on the shores of Turnagain Arm.  She had worked her entire career to protect Alaska's beauty, wildlife, and ecosystems, but she wasn't always able to take joy in that beauty and wildness. 

I am saddened by her intense despondency and her death.  I am grateful that I am able to feel joy in these perfect summer days.  My yoga instructor read this Mary Oliver poem to us yesterday, and it struck me for the way this summer makes me feel and the incredible loss to the Alaska conservation community with this death.

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?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.
(I encourage you to buy all the Mary Oliver poetry books that your arms can hold.)