The Summer Day. by Mary Oliver. A Commentary. A much loved poem of Meditators

A friend and meditator in Europe emailed me on the support she received from The Summer Day as she explored her current experiences and priorities.

Mary Oliver is a patron saint of the Sangha of Meditators

Born in Ohio in 1935, she died in Florida in January 2019.

The Summer Day is one of her best loved poems regularly read out in a Dharma talk.

Meditators love the last two lines for reflection, inquiry and as a meditation.

Followed with commentary.

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 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?

Commentary on The Summer Day

The poet wanders into a theistic thought.

Who made the world?

Then her eyes rest on the grasshopper

Who spends life wandering in the fields

And floating through the air

Resting with trust on the hand.

We share much in common with the white swan,

the black bear and the vulnerable grasshopper.

We can pay attention and wander through the fields,

Which we do all day.

Without knowing how to pray if there is a Creator.

We are not living our life.

Life is living us.

Life makes itself happen moulded through the ‘voice’ of eternity.

Life moves us.

We have become available to take part.

Life moves our feet, heart, mind, consciousness and presence.

We listen beyond our ‘self.’

What would the Buddha within say?

What would God say to us?

What is the voice beyond our limits?

We do not know how to do something.

We are always wanting to know how to do something.

Meanwhile the swan glides, the bear strolls and the grasshopper jumps.

Let us remember to glide, stroll and jump

Even as every lives and dies while knowing our brief existence.

So we gaze upon this world with enormous eyes,

And not be shy of addressing its complications,

so we remember we are already living this wild and precious life.

Thank you, Mary.

You have made a precious contribution to our appreciation of life.



  • Thank you Christopher. I love Mary Oliver. My husband read Trees at his mother’s funeral. This is such a beautiful poem too.


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