July 26, 2012

Idle and Blessed

A couple of weeks ago the New York Times had two articles about one of the odd and troubling aspects of modern life. One, in the Review section, was about how busy we are, how being busy has become a mark of meaning, a sign of importance and worth. We are too busy to see friends, too busy to take a day "off," too busy to step out of the ratrace even for a moment. The other article was in the Travel section and was about how hard it is to unplug on vacation. The ubiquitious email, the "bing" of messages, the vibrating phone -- all those divide our attention. We keep one ear listening for the sounds of work in case we miss something important. And what happens is that we risk missing that which is truly important, and we are never fully present where we are in the moment. Children are laughing, old people are telling stories, young mothers are singing babies to bed, the ocean is washing the cares of the world away -- and we are busy listening for the latest office email.
I have been more intentional this year about giving my wholehearted attention to the place and the people where I am. I have been spectacularly un-busy. I have had fascinating conversations with a three-year-old, and have listened to the prayers of tiny toddler. I have sat on the beach and dozed. I have napped. I have cooked with my mother and brother, read the paper every morning with my father, and shared a bed with sister just as we did when we were little.
I have been idle and blessed, and it has been like an unceasing prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving for all the bounty of this life, this family, this time. Amen.
The Summer Day by 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 Beacon Press, Boston, MA    

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