Summer is upon us! The longest day has come and gone. The birds begin their wake-up call outside my bedroom window at 4:30 in the morning. When I have the presence of mind to answer the call I’m grateful for the opportunity to help them welcome a brand new day. Mary Oliver writes:
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?
I find this is a great time of year to practice paying attention — finding time to be idle and feel blessed. I am so grateful to live in such a beautiful place! I get to spend time walking Maine’s beaches, paddling my kayak along the Maine Coast, and riding my bike down country lanes covered in canopies of green.
And because I am so blessed I am especially mindful of the need to pay attention to the impact that humanity is having on the environment. The enormity of the suffering happening on a planetary scale that’s been caused because we’ve forgotten our place in the interdependent web of life is overwhelming. From wildfires, drought, flooding, killer storms, mass extinctions — it’s big, scary stuff and the clock is ticking. But I believe that we are called to begin where we are — paying attention to the beauty, bearing witness to suffering, grieving the loss, and taking action on behalf of all beings to advocate for change. Yes, I have to believe change is possible. It starts with remembering that we’re part of an interconnected web — that what happens to any one of us, happens to all of us. It is my hope that in the coming year we can live more fully into those connections.
There are many ways to explore our connections with the natural world. A favorite for me during the summer months is reading. One of the books I plan to read this summer is The Overstory by Richard Powers. Here’s what a PBS book review has to say about it:
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is told through several narrators whose lives are progressively shown to be interconnected through their reverent relationship with trees. One life touches on another and then another, as would occur in an ecosystem, wherein lives are bound together in ways that at first seem unapparent but are vital for mutual hope of survival. In Powers’ book, qualities of life, intelligence, and society extend far beyond the human story, as they also do in our own living world.
Here are more suggestions for books related to climate change.
Have a great summer! Revel in all the beauty that surrounds us. Pay attention! Cultivate wonder and gratitude! Explore — learn about all those connections. And when we gather in September, bring it all with you. Bring what you’ve learned, bring what you’ve experienced, bring what you’ve felt to share — and let’s find ways to use all of it to learn and grow together in service to a more sustainable, just, and peaceful planet.
Together, let’s ask, “What can we do, what will we do to protect all of this ‘wild and precious life’?”