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It was 2:45 P. M., the world has abruptly changed its perspective: sky shimmers with dark lightening, droplets engorge themselves as they coalesce and careen down drains, and thunder like tom-toms echo across valleys to neighboring tribes: some explosively loud. A siren wails. Distress weeps. Rivers of mud obliterate trails. Where are we?

Such images implode my world when suddenly swamped by grief, seemingly unrelated to the humdrum task of scraping remnants of baked cheese from casserole bowls in the sink. The heaviness—unannounced, undesirable, unwanted—trounces my psyche rendering me numb and staring into space until the heaviness begins to dissipate. I want to cry, the sadness is so trenchant, but the tears remain locked within doorless-rooms.

It is 3:25 P. M. Only the severity of winds, rain, thunder and lightening lessen against the slate-gray sky. Like the remnants of the baked-on cheese, it takes work to remove them. Like prayer, steel-wool helps. More sirens pierce the afternoon’s emerging stillness. And then it is over—until the next untenable intrusion.

Yet with repeated cleansing, the deeper purification.

This is it, I said to myself, closing the front door behind me. My cheeks flushed, my breathing quickened. The second look confirmed my decision to lease this two-bedroom bungalow, despite having no experience caring for a house, despite my seventy years of age. Now that I was retired, I needed a quiet place to finish my book. This was 2006.

But I looked around again. The space I could handle, but the rest of the brick bungalow was an eyesore: the appliances, old; the walls painted in the drab colors of nineteenth-century peasants, with the exception of cherry red for the dining room; the hardwood floors, were scuffed and stained where once carpet had lain; discolored blinds, some blades bent, covered the windows. The infrastructure also needed renovation, together with a new roof.

Mature shade trees and perennial flower beds enhanced the exterior, however. Still, I heard myself say, “This is it!”

And the bungalow still is. Everything about it was a challenge from God: to replace the unlovely with beauty; to seek contractors for major repairs; to learn how to care for my bungalow until I’d arranged a circle of helpers. Every room contains multiple stories and when put together, express the woman I have become and who has actualized much of her birthright, before making my transition.

With the renovation of my bungalow complete; with my closets and drawers largely emptied, save for what I’m actually using; with my on-going psychic work protected with solitude and silence; with the bare minimum of loving helpers, most days, I feel deeply content and grateful for new growth. And my simple bungalow serves admirably as the container: God’s preeminent gift.

What could He have in store for me? For all of us?

Poet Mary Oliver speaks at the 2010 Women’s Conference in California.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

The concluding question of Mary Oliver’s short poem, “The Summer Day,” prompts another response. Viewing my life as one wild and precious deepens with the lessening of the denial of my terminal illness: one, in the sense of being unique; wild, in the sense of dreams for fresh learning; and precious, in the sense of God’s unconditional love for me.

Many significant teachers, past and present, have helped me to this self-knowledge, in union with their own participation in the Sacred. This new learning engages this summer day and sets it aglow, unlike any other day that I’ll ever have. Even the poem’s title, “The Summer Day” emphasizes the primacy of the present moment. Note Oliver’s use of the adjective, “The,” in place of “a”—It’s not just any old day. Each day bears its own fruit, with its deepening commitment. Despite still much to learn, I no longer dwell upon the length of days allotted me.

So, the challenge to the able-bodied and the chronically ill prickles under the skin: No day is to be wasted for the build-up of the Kingdom of God. Our world depends upon it.

Even in the face of daily shootings and consequent mayhem, Mary Oliver offers spirit-support through her poems, “The Summer Day,” being among them.

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