Last weekend my husband and I escaped to a charming bed and breakfast along the Mississippi River to celebrate our anniversary. The town itself isn’t much to speak of—it has seen better economies, better days, better centuries even. But Ed and Sandy, the owners of the B&B, have created a little sanctuary right there in the heart of the town—a place of respite amid the busyness of life.
After a breakfast of pancakes loaded with plump blueberries, hot coffee with real cream, and fresh sweet strawberries, Daniel and I sat on the huge wrap-around front porch, serenaded by the songbirds and gurgling fountains that grace the property. Butterflies flitted from flower to flower, apparently as enticed by the aroma of the purple phlox as we were.
Then Daniel pulled out his guitar started playing right there on the front porch, and as the morning sun filtered through the trees onto my neck, I wished I could bottle the moment and keep it all year. Summer in a jar.
At one point Daniel looked over at me and noticed that my book was uncharacteristically closed on my lap. I was just sitting there, silent, taking it all in.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked, no doubt concerned I’d slipped into a food coma after all those pancakes.
I couldn’t quite put it into words. But Mary Oliver captures the moment in her poem “The Summer Day.”
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?
Sometimes prayer is about structure and discipline and articulate words. But sometimes it’s simply learning “how to be idle and blessed.” Sometimes prayer is sitting on the front porch soaking in this wild and wonderful world God has made.
Sometimes prayer is just paying attention.
So as summer slips into September and kids don backpacks and the days start taking shortcuts toward dusk, I want to take time to seize these final summer days. I don’t want life to slip by as I rush through my busy to-do list.
This summer day, this gift from God—what will I do with it? What will I do with this one wild and precious life?