One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems is “The Summer Day.” I copied it down on a piece of notebook paper and memorized it on morning commutes during a hard and uninspiring chapter in my life. The poem ends with these famous lines:
Tell me, what else would 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?
Life is precious. Life is short. We know all of this. And yet, if we lived up to the cliché advice such as, “live each day as if it were your last,” I think we would all end up insane. Constant existential reflection on our morality is rarely sustainable. And sometimes, in a world oozing with bigotry, genocide, abuse, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and unspeakable atrocities, it can feel there is little worth celebrating in the margins between horrific headlines and gut-wrenching tragedy. Humans are responsible for some pretty un-celebratable things.
But we can find reasons to celebrate. We must celebrate. We need to pause and turn our attention to the abundance of good in the world. Having the courage to step outside our comfort zones and connect with others is a sure way to discover it. Acknowledging goodness is also a powerful way to fight the bad.
Through stories, we have the power to honor the quiet heroes and draw attention to the beautiful. Many of the pieces in this month’s issue focus on moments of euphoria, often in a foreign place. Sometimes switching out our old familiar stomping grounds for some fresh views renews our perspective and heightens our sensitivity to our “wild and precious” lives.
However, we can tap into this awareness wherever we may go and whenever we may need it, no matter how unromantic those moments during the morning commute or in the hospital waiting room may seem. We inspire and lift each other up by noticing. And as Tolstoy said at the end of War and Peace, “Where there is life, there is happiness.”
Quite appropriately (and in the spirit of Mary Oliver), we are thrilled to introduce poetry as a medium to our theme this month. Thank you for sharing your voices and solidarity with us, and for daring to celebrate this baffling, audacious thing called life.
Photo by Richard A. Bruschi.