when i am twenty-three

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

I end my work day fifteen minutes early so that I can go for a run in the woods. I’m so angry I think I can’t quite see straight – angry at myself first, because I fell for a story that wasn’t coming true, angry at how when I preached him as a wild gift to my closest friend in the car one afternoon at a red light, God was whispering the truth and I didn’t believe it. But my feet move my heart. The prayer, anger to desperate to confused, finally makes it way to the still waters. “God,” I pace before, palms opened skyward, “I promised You that this life was Yours. Here. So take it back from me, this life for You, take it back into the mystery of Your will.

Tell me – 

It is the first time any reader I didn’t know from my college days ever emailed me a question for dear hilary. I am sitting on my bed thinking about how I need to probably try to write something again, because it has been weeks and didn’t I say I would be better, and not get so discouraged, and not let the poems fall through my fingers because of my fear? They tap out the email with a gentleness, a trust, and in the blackened night blanketed with stars I hear a glimmer that maybe I shouldn’t forsake writing – maybe I should just wait.

What is it 

She and I find five hours on her couch with tea not enough time, because the things that pass between us are so widely varied, journeying among us, our stories keeping us company as afternoons fade to evening, as I look at her in surprise, again and again, because her wisdom is gentler than most. We talked once about the space in conflict, how mediators must create the conversation’s parameters but not participate, and we wonder together about what kind of heart you must have to do such work, and I tell her then, that a part of me is so hungry to do just that, but how could I begin? How could be a builder of spaces and homes for conversations? She smiles, shakes her head, reaches for her teacup. “But of course you already do this.”

you plan to do 

And somewhere, in April, in a bar where I stole a reserved seat at the bar from a couple who apparently decided to wait, or at least, I hope that’s what they did, over the rim of my martini glass, I told her in hushed laughter and surprise that this man, I was falling for him, had been for a lot longer than I had admitted, and now what was I to do, feeling the way I did, him so far away and me here, drinking this, in this bar? And she laughed bright in the crowded space, her hand briefly closing over mine. “You tell the truth.” We laughed and laughed that night, about the way that I brought Lizzy Bennet to life, about how love is always out ahead of us, beckoning us forward. In the car that night on my way home, I whispered, “I see a little better who you might want me to be, I think.” And God said, “Hilary, you are Mine.”

with your one 

There aren’t words enough for the way this year has unfolded. Perhaps there will never be, and I cling to the older, better question because it is a kind of promise, on its own, that I don’t ever stop asking or need to stop asking about this life, all tangled by belonging and wandering and returning. And I cannot stop wondering, not now a year later, about what we inherit from our former selves and what we give them in return, about how we love, and where, and untamed spaces we go running into all for the sake of love.

wild and precious life? 

Oh, it is a wild and precious life, Mary Oliver, and I’m grateful alongside you.



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