It is a Tuesday and I have cleared  my diary so that I can work in the garden with the man who knows trees.

‘It’s 2/2/22’ chirps the fruit and veg man and we both wonder if we will live to see 3/3/33, what difference will 11 years make.

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

Mary Oliver asks and I wonder what the next years will hold.

Then I go into the garden and spend the next six hours working with the man who knows trees as he saws and cuts and I burn and haul.  He makes a wood shed which we populate.  He shows me how to turn wood into charcoal for the compost.  We clear light so the apples can grow.

It is also imbolc, the pagan ceremony of the first light of the year returning; half way between the winter solstice and Easter or the spring equinox; a time for clearing out and making space for new life to come in.

I am nothing but clearing and cleaning these last two weeks; emptying shelves and re-ordering them, throwing away, stitching, washing, scrubbing, painting balanced perilously on old ladders while the cat scoots beneath the plastic sheet protecting the floor.

Then these last two days my energy has gone yet I am restless. Feeling the urge to focus and yet nothing holds me for long.

So this afternoon I read and snoozed with the cat on my lap, in the middle of the day, alone in the house and I felt myself back in a time when I first bought this house, decades ago, when I lived here alone, and I can see that time approaching again and I saw the circle of empty, full to empty.

I had bumped into an old friend earlier today, not seen for a few years, she is younger than me and a grandmother and I wonder, as I lie, cat covered cosy, if there will be another filling of family in this house, with grandchildren, before I circle off.

‘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 in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.

I do not know what else to do than feed the birds, stroke the cat, sit in the sharp still winter sun with cold hands wrapping a warm bowl of soup embracing the space, which includes aloneness and loneliness and I make my peace with both and let them be.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Cut wood, store wood to make the house warm to live and eat and nestle. There doesn’t seem much more important a thing to have done than spent a day with dirt under my nails with my shoulders aching in gentle movement and conversation as we gather the abundance for next winter’s store.

Or today I wondered by the river and thrice glanced slices of glittering peacock blue zipping along the river.

Or listen to the birds cheer as darkness lifts.

Or kneel in the damp, soft earth to welcome the snowdrops home.

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

I see the circle of this home from single, pregnant, birthing, raising, leaving, single once more.  It is what matters.  I am not thinking about work, or promotions or money, but the people whose lives have joined with mine, for life, for a while or just a few times.

‘It passes quickly’ said my mum. She, who taught me to stop and stare, the feed the birds and talk to trees and watch the clouds.

I am cleared out, clearing out, emptying to let the light and a new phase in, to see what next may grow.

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

What will you do?  How will you spend your days, your wild and precious moments of your finite days?

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 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?

Mary Oliver
The Summer Day

Thanks to Stella Bella for your beautiful photo.