wild and precious life

summer picnic_

It was an ordinary picnic. Such a lovely picnic. We met our friend Molly, whose work I think you’d really like, and her two youngest children. Lu had been splashing in the wading pool so long she grew cold. And we were the parents who forgot to bring a towel and a change of clothes. (We’re often those parents. We planned on the hot sun drying her out.) She started to whine that she wanted to go home. But when the children appeared, and showed her the ball that turned from orange to green, and they began to run on that big baseball field together, she was fine. We spread out salami and coppa, several cheeses, and all these fat raspberries and blackberries and blueberries. It’s summer. We talked, the conversation interrupted by the desires of children for more wading, for dry shorts, for limeade. It was far too short. There were honey sticks. There was sunlight and the feeling of friendship and cheese curds. It was enough.

Driving home, the sunset in our eyes and a sleeping child in the car, I thought again and again of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, the last half that often rings in my mind, but particularly in summer.

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, “The Summer Day”