What is it you plan to do…?

This is one of the most poignant and beautiful poems I know.

The Summer Day

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?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.

All rights reserved.

Cardinal vs. The Gays

My Bilerico article on Cardinal George and New Ways Ministries is here.

If you haven’t already, please register at Bilerico and join the conversation!


I watched a film biography of Thomas Merton last night while I was folding laundry. I like to watch slow, thoughtful things while I do menial tasks, and I will sometimes save up all my laundry to fold when there’s a short movie or something on TV I want to catch- something that I can listen to and fold at the same time.

I’ve always been attracted to Merton because of his earthy, practical and deep sense of life. His spirituality transcended his Trappist Monastic situation and embraced all forms of life and prayer: Hindu, Buddhist, Islam/Sufi, Native American to mention a few. Plus, he was a poet, a really excellent poet- and much of my inspiration poetically comes from him, Auden and William Stafford.

His Prayer of Abandonment has always been a favorite of mine, and after hearing a monk read it again last night, I was moved to post it here because it works on so many levels. It still speaks to me, maybe it will speak to you.

Wishing you a peace-filled weekend,

Thomas Merton’s Prayer of Abandonment

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following you
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does, in fact, please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

~Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude

Of Manners, Waiters and Grace

“Saying ‘Thank You’ is more than good manners. It’s good spirituality.” ~Alfred Painter

I’ve always been one to think manners make the man, er, person. If there’s a tipping point between liking and respecting someone for me, it usually comes down to how the person treats others. I guess it’s not so much manners per se, it’s a type of respect.

Dave Barry once said, “Anyone who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
I agree.

Whether it’s about intentionally making someone else look inferior in order to feel superior, oblivious rudeness or just plain meanness, they’re all still behaviors that bespeak a lack of awareness, grace and respect-  not character traits I’m attracted to.

I’m much more drawn to gracious persons- people who go out of their way to be kind and gentle, generous, honest, passionate and funny (and not at the expense of others). There’s so much strength there. And, I suspect, a life of grounding gratitude- and that, my friends, is Grace.


It was a pretty good day yesterday.

I drove to Bozeman and had a half-hour with Ken before he went to work at 1 and I went to lunch with a friend. I then spoke to first year medical students from the WWAMI program with two wonderful Lesbians (I was the token gay male HIV+ therapist). And then we had a fantastic HIV+ support group that night, kissed Ken goodbye,  and drove back to Butte,  getting home just in time to walk Sars to bed. A whirlwind day with not a lot of time between events.

A good day.

It was all good, but I have to say, talking and listening to those medical students warmed my heart. They listened to us talk about our experiences of sexuality and prejudice,  complaints about medical practitioners, and our own health challenges. They listened to us as we honestly shared what it was like for us (and some of our friends) to walk into a doctor’s office and be treated poorly or treated with respect and dignity. They were all attentive and respectful, and a few even contacted me later for a few extra questions. They did this with all the openness of real students, students interested in the truth, interested in people and, in the end, interested in my and my friendly lesbians’ experiences.

That made me happy.

I told them how I loved that they’re listening, that they’re genuinely interested in making a difference, that they want to HELP. And I do. Love that, I mean.

Because that’s what links us all.