Poem for the Summer Solstice (Mary Oliver)

Today in the Northern hemisphere, the sun will rise early and reach the highest point in the sky to set late in the evening, bathing us in sunlight for longer than any other day of the year. That deserves a poem, one of  Mary Oliver’s most famous, The Summer Day, which advises exactly what to do.

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?



Photo: The Weather Guys

5 Responses to Poem for the Summer Solstice (Mary Oliver)

  1. Becky Schaefer 06.21.2018 at 10:17am #

    I love Improvised Life. I love the poetry of Mary Oliver. BUT….
    On this Summer Solstice, June 2018, when the evil that theoretically represents us, the people of the United States – when that evil continues unabated, confusing cruelty for strength at our borders, we cannot afford to simply stroll. We must be able to answer the question “What else should I have done?” with “I did all that I could possibly do.”
    In a backwards sort of way, Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem becomes a call to action.

  2. Vaughan Greene 06.21.2018 at 3:56pm #

    ‘Dobbiamo combattere con la belleza’

  3. Sally Schneider 06.22.2018 at 8:50am #

    Thank you Vaughan. So glad to know you remember that. I think daily, ‘we need to fight back with beauty’.

  4. Peggy Markel 06.24.2019 at 4:08am #

    I’m so happy to read that Sandro’s beautiful and heartfelt response has gained traction in the ethers. It was 2001 the day after 9/11, that I walked into the deeper chambers of his small Tuscan bakery in Donnini when he spoke the words “dobbiamo combattere col la belezza!” He had cakes, pies, breads of every sorts and shapes and an American flag draped over his mixer. My small group had been invited for breakfast. He had the sensitivity of an opera singer, which he was, a noble heart and a deep understanding of beauty. A true Renaissance man. This statement woke me up in that moment to realize you don’t fight back to cause pain, you fight back by offering a tremendous display of generosity, showing the world is after all, still a generous place.

  5. Sally Schneider 06.24.2019 at 9:26am #

    Thank you Peggy for reminding me of how that all came about, and for introducing me to Sandro. And for giving me that heartening message when on 9/11….

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