“Your One Wild and Precious Life…”

Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day ends with this couplet:

 Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

I love this question, and I love the whole poem. (It’s printed in full below).

As I read it, I feel like Mary Oliver is asking us to step into the possibility of being fully alive.  Alive to the wonder and mystery of creation itself.  She asks,

“Who made the world?…

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…


Poetry asks us, and helps us, to pay attention to that wonder and mystery.

As a writer, you, too, have been given a special capacity to help others wake up to what matters most about being alive. Your task is not to write the poems that Mary Oliver has already written, but to write what’s been given you to write.  And share it with those who need what you are here to say.

To do any kind of writing, and do it well, is an act of sustained attention that’s possible when you come to it with love.  The kind of love Mary Oliver demonstrates, over and over, in the poems she’s left for us.

Yet this poem also reminds me of another quote I love—a quote that speaks to how difficult it can be to actually trust and choose what you really want “to do/ with your one wild and precious life.”

This quote comes from a letter written by choreographer Martha Graham to the dancer/choreographer Agnes de Mille.

Agnes de Mille found herself in a place of doubt about her work and reached out to her friend Martha Graham for counsel.  A portion of Graham’s response has become an oft-quoted paragraph that many writers and artists need to hear:


“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. 

The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” 

                                  —Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille


Martha Graham emphasizes that the work of the artist is to create.  To keep the channel open.  Not to judge and compare what comes through you.

And yet…for most of us, that’s exactly what stops us.  We judge and compare ourselves mercilessly.  And in so doing, we block the channel through which the writing comes.

Our own fears and doubts become so powerful that they stop the creative process inside us.

That’s the reason I’ve created the kinds of programs I’ve been teaching for decades.  Programs that combine deep healing with solid creative writing instruction, so you’re finally able to move forward on your creative dreams.

Is it time for writing to take center stage in your life?

Time for you to heal your relationship with your writing, so you can finally do the writing you came here to do?

What if what’s been holding you back is actually an invitation to transform at the deepest level?

Who would you be, if you stepped toward that invitation?

I’m offering a new private mentorship program for writers who are ready to know and trust their voice in writing, and realize their dreams.

If this sounds like you, I invite you to have a conversation with me to learn about this opportunity to “Restore the Holy Ground of Your Creative Self So You Can Finally Do the Writing You Came Here to Do.”

This three month program is an opportunity to dive deeply into my most powerful Soul Writing Journey processes, including

  • Rest Until You Remember What You Love
  • Walking Barefoot on the Earth and
  • You Are Holy Ground
  • While getting very clear and laser focused on the writing project that you’re called to do now.

You will make progress on your project while restoring a foundation for your writing life that is truly based on self-love and self-acceptance.

Interested?  Curious?  I’m finalizing the details for this program right now. As of next week, I’ll be opening up spaces for people who are ready to have a serious conversation about this mentorship opportunity.  If you’d like to secure one of those spots, email me now and we’ll set up a time to talk.

For this week, I invite you to carve out some time to spend with Mary Oliver’s poem  “The Summer Day” and let it guide and inspire your writing practice.

Your Writing Practice:

Here’s my suggestion:  set aside 15-20 minutes when you won’t be disturbed.

Read “The Summer Day,” out loud if possible.

Then choose ten words from the poem that you like, and write them down.

Take the last lines of the poem as your first line, and write it down on your page:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

Write for 5- 15 minutes  (it always helps to set a timer for your writing practice.)

Simply let your hand move along the page, letting the words come as you respond to the poem, and those lines.  Try to use at least five of the words you chose in your own writing.

Enjoy your writing practice!

And…if it’s time for you to get serious about your writing dreams, please contact me to learn more about my three month private mentorship program  “Restore the Holy Ground of Your Creative Self So You Can Finally Do the Writing You Came Here To Do.”

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver  

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?