Up on the Eastern Promenade last Saturday morning we went looking for contrasts. The wind was biting at the top of the walk, and the air all but still once we reached the shoreline. The beauty of the water was marked by intermittent caps of white before us, and the buzz of the city held fast in its concrete over our shoulders. The chaos of our work and world back home was punctuated by the calm of the moment at hand.
It was fitting, then, to add to our collection of contrasts on this winter walk, to reflect on Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day”. It is a poem with two protagonists: The grasshopper, and the question.
Go read it real quick: https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html
The question is phrased memorably and beautifully at the end of the poem, asking what you’re planning to do with your “one wild and precious life”. That version of the question is where my attention usually falls when I re-visit this poem. But this time through I got caught up in the way Mary Oliver posed the question on the front end of the poem. The “Who made it’s?” at the start of the poem. Not: What are you going to do with your wild moment? But: Who is sourcing all that wildness?
I don’t think the question is strictly theological. Of course, theologians have every bit as much a right to explore the question as anyone else. But here, on the front end of this poem, I think the question - “Who made the world?” - is an invitation to explore a posture of playful and particular wonder as an end in itself. (Which, incidentally, is the same posture taken by some of the best theologians.)
I spy with my little eye: A grasshopper. A black bear. A swan. A poem. A contrast. A friend. A moment. An opportunity. How wonderful.