Your One Wild and Precious Life

Watch out, I’m in a “waxing philosophical” mood today . . . poet Mary Oliver does that for me.

Have you ever driven somewhere, arrived safely, turned off the car and then realized you sorta don’t remember how you got there?  It’s usually the short trip: meeting a friend for lunch, running out to grab a few things from the grocery, maybe making that early morning drive-thru coffee pick-up.  You were driving, you clearly must have stayed in the appropriate lane and driven the appropriate(ish) speed and evidently didn’t offend anyone else too badly because you don’t remember any honking or other signs of frustration, but somehow you can’t remember the details of the trip.  It’s a little unnerving, maybe sometimes downright scary. 

Our minds are bombarded with so many different things so much of the time, I wonder if we don’t travel through life a bit like some of those short car trips.  This time of year I hear myself and so many others looking a bit bewildered and sharing that we can’t quite believe summer is over and that it’s time for school to be back in session.  We wonder where the time went, what we did that made it pass so quickly, and how it seems that only yesterday we were celebrating our graduates, planning vacation get-aways, pulling out those favorite shorts and t-shirts and celebrating the longer evenings of sunlight and barbecues.  Geez, I’m reminiscing about summer and it’s not even September yet.  Give me the benefit of the doubt, Choir Director Rick just texted me to ask about a date for the Grace Choral Christmas Contata – really Rick?!!?  Christmas?  Something about ordering music, planning ahead for rehearsals, getting it on everyone’s schedule . . . whatever.  Even the big-box stores don’t have their Christmas trees out yet, and if they do, DON’T tell me!

Is that the way we want to make the journey through this life – sorta not remembering how we got from here to there?  How did it happen that we moved in the blink of an eye from young adult to being chronologically gifted; from thinking we knew everything to realizing learning only started when we admitted how little we knew; from complete certainty that we could “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps” to realizing that even if we could, it wasn’t nearly as fun or as interesting as accepting that we needed help and finding the courage to ask for it?  Does all of that have to happen without us paying attention, or is there a way to be more present?  (Some really smart folk call it being “mindful”).

There is something to be said for having a long-term vision, for seeing the larger picture and wanting to walk with communities to fulfill that commonly created dream.  AND there is something to be said for embracing the presence(ents) we have in each moment.  To embrace ourselves as peculiarly unique, to see our own journey as wonderfully important in tandem with all others, and to let the deep and sometimes “brutiful” (thanks author Glennon Doyle Melton) reality of our world sink in at a level beyond the surface.  The brutal beauty of deep sorrow that only happens because of deep love; of deep courage created through deep risk; of deep hope that lives through surviving deep disappointment.  This wildly untamed brutal beauty that sometimes hurts and often heals.

Mary Oliver ends her poem The Summer Day (go figure) with this quote:  “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Not a bad question to ask ourselves, you know, on those short trips in the car to keep ourselves focused on the road we’re currently travelling . . .