Today in the Northern hemisphere, the sun will rise early and reach the highest point in the sky to set late in the evening, bathing us in sunlight for longer than any other day of the year. That deserves a poem, one of  Mary Oliver’s most famous, The Summer Day, which advises exactly what to do.

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?



Photo: The Weather Guys

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3 replies on “Poem for the Summer Solstice (Mary Oliver)

  1. I love Improvised Life. I love the poetry of Mary Oliver. BUT….
    On this Summer Solstice, June 2018, when the evil that theoretically represents us, the people of the United States – when that evil continues unabated, confusing cruelty for strength at our borders, we cannot afford to simply stroll. We must be able to answer the question “What else should I have done?” with “I did all that I could possibly do.”
    In a backwards sort of way, Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem becomes a call to action.

  2. Thank you Vaughan. So glad to know you remember that. I think daily, ‘we need to fight back with beauty’.

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