Andrew Lang - The Wednesday 1-2-3

Mary Oliver's One Wild and Precious Life: The Wednesday 1-2-3

Published 2 months ago • 1 min read

Happy Wednesday Reader!

Here's 1 teaching, 2 questions, and 3 resources to explore this week:

1. Teaching

In her poem “The Summer Day,” Mary Oliver wrote perhaps her most famous line:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

If you’ve ever heard this quoted by someone before, I invite you to think back to the context of that moment.

For me, I've mostly heard this quote used by others to be inspirational – something akin to Robin Williams’ carpe diem monologue from Dead Poets Society. And this is great: when used at the right moment, it can be extremely hopeful and lead us to envision the future we want for ourselves. It can embolden us to “seize the day."

But it's worth noting Mary Oliver's own answer to this question wasn’t to "seize the day" – at least in the way we usually think of.

It wasn't to achieve more, produce more, take control, or create some big and elaborate strategic plan for fixing the world. Her answer to what she would do with her one wild and precious life was, as Jessica Kantrowitz says, to “stroll idly through the fields noticing things.”

Here's Mary Oliver's famous quote in fuller context:

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?

2. Questions

  1. How has your answer to this question changed over the course of your life? What might it have been when you were 16; 28; 35; 50; now?
  2. When you think of your life, how has "wildness" been present? What has your posture been toward that wildness?

3. Resources

⏪ If you missed last week's email:

I shared a teaching from Resmaa Menakem with seven ways our body experiences the world.

Sending you good vibes,


A Guidebook for Our Inner Work & Communal Healing

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Andrew Lang - The Wednesday 1-2-3

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