“Idle and Blessed”

The one thing about being “idle and blessed” out here in the country is I have more time to read poetry again. Maybe it isn’t so much that I have more time (you can always make time). Maybe I have quiet—no car alarms, no traffic helicopters, no police sirens or the rushing of the Bart train hurrying people to other, more important destinations. I’d almost (but not quite) forgotten how much certain poems made me feel more alive, more vibrant.

Someone asked me about Mary Oliver. I’ll just let one of her poems speak for her.


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?

Mary Oliver

I love this poem. I love the permission it gives me to “stroll through the fields” and how it demands that I pay attention in order not to squander my one “wild and precious life”.

There is a great site to check out if, like me, you want to bring more poetry into your life. It’s called Poetry 180 from the Library of Congress.

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