What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? —Mary Oliver
How do you feel when you read this final line from Mary Oliver’s beloved poem “The Summer Day”?
Many years ago, when I read it for the first time, a tingly Hallmark buzz made its home in my heart. Then, as I grew older, the buzz moved on. A persnickety sense of urgency took its place. With this urgency came self-imposed pressure to plan, plan, plan and work my way toward realizing some measurable display of grandeur, every moment counting for something.
But then a single conversation with my friend Beth reframed Oliver’s poem. Urgency is no more. Delight came home for good.
“You’re missing the point!” Beth exclaimed. “People take that line out of context all the time. They read ‘plan’ and start to worry. Mary’s words aren’t a wagging finger. They’re a curious question from a woman blissfully lying in a field, observing a grasshopper, paying attention to the natural world.”
I knew this, of course. I’ve read the poem. And yet.
Beth pointed out that, for those of us living in a society obsessed with scarcity and efficiency, it’s natural for Mary’s words, when removed from context, to read like a case for worldly success born from meticulous and calculated days. No wonder we panic.
“We’ve got it wrong,” she said. “The question is not supposed to be a burden. It’s a playful invitation to simple intentional living.”
Beth wins. Case closed.
So, what is ‘simple intentional living’? There is no single right answer. The definition is personal, but here are a few observations I’ve made from people who have chosen their way.
An intentional person steps away from hustle and lets their imagination lead. They slow themselves to hear their heart before all else. They choose to fasten meaning to each endeavor, even if—especially if—those endeavors appear mundane and irrelevant.
Their days are marked by gentle paces, composed thoughts, suitable words, sturdy posture, strong relationships, peaceful surroundings, and thoughtful purchases, for starters. Who knows? There may even be some grasshoppers in there.
If you like the sound of this way of life, our latest issue offers welcome company from people who live for a living. You’ll hear from a world-renowned author, a bright-eyed poet, and a woman whose calling carried her miles from home. You’ll pick up simple ideas for meaningful family time, intentional fitness, and designing a thoughtful home from scratch.
Before Beth and I parted ways that fateful day, she left me with another indelible remark about Mary’s words. “You and I may only live once, but that doesn’t mean we get one life. We can deliberately choose a new one each and every day.”
She’s right. Given the right headspace, inspiration, conviction, and commitment, anything is possible.
May this day be a moment to slow down and search inward. May urgency dissipate and delight remain. May inspiration abound, and may you choose well as you journey forward, one deliberate decision at a time, into all your wild and precious weeks ahead.
With you in the tall grass,
Elissa Joy Watts
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