The Summer Day
by 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?
I recently re-read Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day" and the famous last line of the poem has been stuck in my head for the past few weeks.
It feels like for the first time ever, I am in a place where I can ponder this very question.
Ever since I was a kid, I've been a planner. Every minute was optimized. I'd craft elaborate schedules (colour-coded for school vs. sports vs. "fun" ... FYI: making those schedules was under the "fun" column). I asked my Dad to laminate "Lou's Life List" TWICE; one for my bulletin board, one to use as a bookmark. (There's a reason my sisters call me LOUser every now and then...)
As I grew older, time became my most precious commodity. Night owl-ism took over as I re-allocated sleep in order to tackle more in the twenty-four hours each day allotted.
After my first internship at 18, time started to really get away from me. I could no longer control it (slippery bugger). I almost felt as though I was programmed on fast-forward mode of virtual checkers. As opportunities presented themselves, I'd move quickly forward, no time to pause.
Life was exciting, lonely at times, but at least I felt as though I was making progress towards a few of the things on "Lou's Life List."
From student to internship to full-time job, from Geneva to New York to Boston, from school to work and back to school again, life has been a succession of next steps, neatly flowing into one another.
Now that I've completed one of my lofty far-off goals (like what?! It still feels like a dream) - it's almost as though I have caught up to T I M E again.
Except, of course, time has been chugging along at the exact same pace the entire time. It has never slowed or sped up, despite my attempts to manipulate, schedule, and tinker with it.
The biggest thing that I have come to understand over the years is that I will never be able to control it (I don't know why I ever thought I could). But I have learned that I can make it.
Since graduation, I have felt the illusion of time being paused, as I am in-between "the last thing I did" and "what's next."
What I realized is that this is a manifestation of my own making.
I have made time for unexpected conversations. For writing at sunrise. For paddling at sunset. For adventuring. For reflection. For friends. For family.
I haven't backed out because "I've been too busy" or "too tired" or "too lazy" - things I have caught myself doing before. Those phrases associated with not making time for what should matter most.
It is a luxury that time has given me to view my former "busy" self from a new perspective. I know there will be times when the work-life balance is off-kilter again. But I am grateful for this window where I can see things anew, take a break before making the next move, and truly decide what it is I want to do with this one wild and precious life.
I can make time. I will make time.