A Summer State of Mind

//A Summer State of Mind

A Summer State of Mind

I often ask my students, as Mary Oliver asks us in the poem below: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” As I plan for a month in the country, I ask myself this same question.

This is my prayer for today, for my life, and especially for the month of August.

I vow to be idle and blessed, to pay attention, to be a girl, to be grateful for this special gift of time, to do nothing, to just be.

The Summer DaySummer flowers

Mary Oliver

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?

(from New and Selected Poems, 1992)

By | 2016-10-22T08:21:09+00:00 July 24th, 2014|Expect Nothing|2 Comments


  1. Lee Eiferman August 1, 2014 at 9:01 am - Reply

    Ha. I just sat down to express for the first time (via fingertips on keyboard) a clear notion. What if I don’t write? What if no more screenplays? Writing for just me alone doesn’t cut. So, what if I stop? And then your email came through with that great quote from Mary Oliver which struck just the right chord. Thanks for that.

    • Nancy August 2, 2014 at 11:50 am - Reply

      Thanks, Lee, I love that poem and so glad to share it. I like to read it out loud in my classes and whenever I can. I can always use the reminder.

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