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 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
I know I've seen Mary Oliver's final, earnest question here extracted and used in all sorts of places. My guess is those last two lines are the most well-known of the poem. But tonight was my first time reading The Summer Day in its lovely entirety, and I have my personal favorite:
"I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention..."
Gosh, how that mirrors my inner discourse from this morning. The baby slept and I, the nanny, peeled away to the guest room where I worried and wondered in my head for a good hour. All that time, I felt the beckon to pray. To get on my knees and focus on God. To give him the big and little things, admitting I don't have the answers or the power to solve what's wrong in this world. The words wouldn't come. It's like I forgot how to pray altogether.
Naptime almost finished, I finally muttered a few sentences. Why is it so hard to pray for and love others? To entrust all of life to the Creator? Have I missed the point lately, failing to give people the care they deserve? There has to be more.
I don't know how to pay attention to God's voice and people's hearts, but I want to learn. So that, Mary Oliver, is what I plan to do.