Monday, May 21, 2018

Your one wild and precious life

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 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?
          
 Mary Oliver
The Summer Day

This is the time of year when you are likely to sit through boring commencement speeches. Though there have been some winners—Neil Gaiman, David Foster Wallace, John Waters (A career in the arts is like a hitchhiking trip: All you need is one person to say “Get in” and off you go. And then the confidence begins.)

The above poem reminds me of something one might hear at their graduation, the question:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Actually graduation speeches are lost on graduates—it’s the parent who can more easily resonate because now they have the rest of their life—one albeit abbreviated compared to a recent grad’s—to figure out what they want to do. Hopefully their kid won’t be coming home to live in the basement and freeload. Hopefully they can save money since they won’t be facing those college bills, yearly tuition that resembles the cost of open-heart surgery (times 4!) They have some time left before disease, old age, other limitations befall them.

At least how I figure it—I’ll be turning 60 this year. I’m thinking about my one wild and precious life—and this is what has motivated me to take up long-distance cycle touring. Regardless of the facts:
1)      I’m poor. I’ve learned that it doesn’t take a lot of $$ to travel, just a lot of chutzpah.
2)      I am a solo woman traveler. This fact alone might be enough to dissuade most people. I go hoping I’ll run into other cyclists and that we can ride together. It happened for 2 days in England. Not at all in Nova Scotia (Maritimes tour). Nevertheless, I wasn’t lonely. Riding can tend to be solitary anyway. If bored I just plug in my iPod and listen to a Podcast. At night in my tent I play Solitaire or read on my Kindle.

The crux of the matter is that once you realize you have a bucket list you also realize you don’t have a lot of time to begin checking things off. That time is now. The time to start is as soon as possible.

That’s why I’m embarking on Scanlandia.


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