this wild and precious life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver


Kano Motonobu - Zen Patriarch Xiangyen Zhixian Sweeping with a Broom


after decades of wondering what I’d be
when I grew up,
what I’d do when I found my ‘real’ work,
what I’d contribute to life that might be of worth,
I tossed the questions to the stars
and gave up

is this typical I wonder?
a symptom of seniorhood?
or does it eventually occur to everyone
that while life is unbearably precious
and untameably wild
it isn’t yours or mine nor ever was

so with hair gone silver and eyes a-twinkle,
I whisper to the beloved poet:
this wild and precious life was never mine to map;
it always had its own agenda, dancing itself
across infinite webs of thought and feeling,
back to its own vibrant womb

and the role it gave itself as miriam
was that of sweeper of the space,
one who clears the mind-droppings, ensuring
no concealment of that fierce Grace
shining, shining through the world’s sorrow and joy
(and the sweeper’s too)


And what will Life do I wonder, with its one wild and precious You?


Image: Kano Motonobu –  Zen Patriarch Xiangyen Zhixian Sweeping with a Broom (detail)
Muromachi period 1336-1868.  Ink and color on paper.


19 thoughts on “this wild and precious life

  1. Ah miriam…you’ve done it again…..SUCH Pure Child Sensitivity and Ancient, Original Wisdom all at once! Always SO Appreciate and am Deliciously Infused by what and how you Share…

  2. A delightful question, miriam. And I am glad I’m not the only one to be or have been temporarily confused by this notion of ‘real’ work… also glad to be setting it aside in favor of movements less planned, more playful… 🙂 And I think the combination of twinkling eyes and silver hair is lovely– a resonance with the starry skies. It is fierce grace, indeed…


    1. Dear Michael – we are so indoctrinated to believe all sorts of lies, particularly those that serve the purveyors of systems for “betterment.” Imagine how empty our bookshops would be without all the material “needed” to find out who we are and what we ought to be doing?
      I’m delighted to know your confusion was temporary – brief too, I trust. I’m waving hello with my broom from the other side of the playground… 🙂

  3. Such a beautiful sharing. Thank you ML. I too have spent many years wondering what it is I am suppose to be ‘doing’ with this life, only to notice recently that the question seems to have naturally expired its use by date, and I find myself happily chuckling at the thought. Love you Mx

    1. My dear H, you unleashed a torrent of childhood memories with your use of that word “besom”… see, I grew up in the Edinburgh of the South – Dunedin, New Zealand. It was a word oft thrown at one in scorn or scolding. I decided to look it up (see how you influence my lifelong education?) and look what I found:

      (biz·um) Dialect, chiefly Scot -n.
      1. obstreperous girl or woman; female upstart (as in “Dinnae pou’ yer brither’s hair, ya wee besom“)
      2. woman of low moral standing; a hussy (“Thon yin’s a right mucky besom“).
      3. a broomstick or scourge; any broom made from loose twigs
      4. a comet or its tail.

      What a joy to find all fit to perfection! I’m seriously considering a name change. Meanwhile. Cackling… “mucky besom” indeed!

      ❤ ⭐ ❤

      1. Thank goodness I added the clarifying ‘broom’ to my use of the word, which I only did as an afterthought. I shall need to be cautious with my use of the term when next I cross the border here in Britain! 😮

        Lots of love to you dear Miriam-Louisa-Besom, H ❤

  4. Powerfully reminiscent of Kahlil Gibran’s meditation on children; you have applied this beautifully to ourselves, as well:

    “Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

    1. Thank you for sharing Kahlil Gibran’s wisdom Cate – “Life’s longing for itself” is an exquisite response to the question of our very existence. There’s such sweet release in this. ❤

  5. sweeper of the space – how beautiful – I also think of you as a fierce and funny fairygodmother
    I love you very much

    1. “a fierce and funny fairygodmother” !!! I love that – especially the fgm word, which rolls all the important words into one. Chuckling.

      No, *cackling* (as per my new identity) and loving you to bits. 🙂

  6. Well, tried to post a jpeg of Shi Te, Han Shan’s hermit companion, with a broom, but it looks like it didn’t come through, so in any case, keep sweeping, Sister! 😉

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