Wednesday, July 28, 2010

to live everything.

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign tongue. Don't search for answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

--R.M. Rilke

Saturday, July 24, 2010

what is it you plan to do...?

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver (from New and Selected Poems, 1992)

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?

Friday, July 9, 2010


The summer thus far has been full, to say the least. A lovely start to these weeks of warmth, of sidewalks and parks filled once again with people, of farmers markets and sundresses, of friends in town to visit and trips to get away, of daylight that lingers until late in the evening and new beauty that overwhelms.

In my little pocket of the world, these early summer days also brought a rather heightened dose of life in all its fullness. I have experienced loss and the resulting heartache, and I have felt some incredible joy and delight and newness.

And of course, such is life.

My grandfather passed away on June 21, peacefully slipping out of a painful last few months and into something much more beautiful. I went back out to South Dakota for the funeral, my second visit of the summer, and it was a hard but good time of coming together with family to remember well, to cry together, to love one another.

This time also provoked a lot of reflection. Death reminds me of the importance of living well, and my grandfather did just that. He was fully present. He worked hard. He loved faithfully. He sacrificed for others. He was steady.

And as my mother said eloquently of her father-in-law, he didn't have a lot of words. I, on the other hand, do have a lot of words. Clearly. I have a blog, for crying out loud, and my friends and family can attest to the fact that sometimes I talk far too much. But I can learn something very significant, I think, from that difference between my grandpa and me. Because even with few words, his life held so much meaning, and it meant something very good indeed.

And so. May all of the words tumbling out of my mouth and off the tips of my fingers be measured and meaningful and intention-filled, and yet may they never distract me from the meaning of my actions. May my life speak, and may it speak of beauty and hope and truth and love.

Oh, living well is no small thing, my friends.

And so the month of June ended, taking with it the life of one I loved. But just as endings come, so come beginnings, and on July 1, my dear friend Nicole and her husband Dickie welcomed a little one into the world. He is beautiful and perfect, tiny and fragile and full of potential. Holding his tiny, swaddled, two-day-old form last weekend reminded me of hope, of possibility and life and mystery.

All of this life is a good thing, and the intensity of what I've felt this early summer simply serves as a reminder that I am alive, just as heat and glistening skin remind us of the nearness of the sun. As a dear friend and I sipped homemade iced chai and nibbled on scones this afternoon at a favorite spot of mine, we talked about the mystery of life, the confusion that threatens to cloud its beauty, the grace that blessedly slips through anyway.

I hope that grace is slipping through into your life. I hope you're feeling alive in each and every moment you're living.