One Wild and Precious Life

I hear this opening phrase often:  “Life is too short . . .”

The blank is usually filled in with phrases such as “to fold fitted sheets” or “to drink cheap beer.”

I know–in theory, at least, if not always in practice–that it really is too short to spend it obsessing over things that don’t matter.  It’s also too short to spend it being upset about things I can’t change.

But mostly, it’s just too short.  Period.

Frederick Buechner said it in a much more eloquent way:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

To me this means that life is too short not to pay close attention.

I find joy in secret glories of the days, such as finding a queen butterfly caterpillar in the antelope horn milkweed near the creek last week:


My friend Cindy’s discovery of a hummingbird nest (pictured in photo at top), its eggs the size of pinkie fingernails, while we were horseback riding here in the Texas hill country a couple of weeks ago was an obvious moment of grace.

But, according to Buechner’s logic, so was the moment a year ago, when I found a featherless baby hummingbird on the ground in my garden, evidently fallen from a nest somewhere in the branches above.

What could I do?  I picked it up, saving it from the ants already gathering, hoping to find and reach the nest–only to feel its tiny heart stop beating in my hand.

If Buechner is correct, life is too short not to observe and to feel fully the poignancy of that moment as well.

Life is too short to forget that as we invite life into the garden, we also invite death.

It’s too short to forget the closing lines of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”:

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?

Writing Practice

Complete the following:  “Life is too short _____________.”  or  “Doesn’t everything ______________?”

Describe some reminders of life’s brevity.

9 thoughts on “One Wild and Precious Life

  1. Sometimes life is too short. Over the past few months I have learned to enjoy the bright blue sky more than I ever have. I have also learned how to be a better friend from those who are always there for me.

    • It seems that in the “pain of it” which Buechner mentions, we can learn valuable lessons for living more fully. You have lessons to teach us (and your future grandchildren!), Sue, and I hope you have a very long life in which to do so. I have already learned much from you, including humor and grace in stressful situations. Hugs, dear friend.

  2. I love your words, always inviting me to live more fully. It reawakens my higher self. Life is too short to sleep it away in the daze of the lotus eaters. To short not to more present. To say yes to the caterpillar and yes to a heart going silent … Yes to waking to it all

    • Oooh–I love that phrase “in the daze of the lotus eaters.” Too often, that’s how I spend time, focused on “doing” rather than “being.” Thank you for your words. Hugs to you, Linda.

    • Hi, Judy! I was just thinking of you when I was writing this post. The topic reminded me of you guys and Art’s mom and her attention to life. I hope you’re doing great. Your encouragement means a lot to me; thank you for reading. 🙂

  3. Grateful for this time, rereading some of your old posts this morning with my coffee. Thanks as always for your illuminating words and for the reminder to be present for it all. 🙂

    • Thanks for engaging in this conversation, Chris. It’s a wonderful and wonderfully deep one and we wouldn’t be human without it. This was exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks for sharing inspiration through thoughtfulness.

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