Every year on my birthday, for the last decade or more now, I read two poems. They have become anniversary presents to myself. Prayers of thanksgiving for life. They are reminders of my past and at the same time a call to stay in the present moment and be grateful for the chance to be here yet again in another year – each moment, each year a precious gift.
Dylan Thomas’ Poem in October reminds me of growing up not only in Massachusetts, but spending summers in Mattapoisett on Buzzard’s Bay, just before Cape Cod juts out into the Atlantic. There were more swirling seagulls than herons priesting shore, and what birthdays I spent there were in Spring not Autumn, but this poem has always felt like it sprang from a similar vein from a familiar heart. Poem in October helps to slowly count the years as well. It is now my 43rd year to heaven. I began the tradition of reading this annually on the morning of my 30th birthday.
Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day is my great prayer to stay grounded. That in itself is enough work on most days. Sit down, be quiet and pay attention. The Summer Day reminds me of the scale of the very great and the very small and that they are one and the same and that they are both within me and surround me. I too will eventually die at last, and too soon, whenever that happens to be, although hopefully many years from now. All life, including mine, is precious. What will I do with it? What am I doing with it? Good questions to ask myself, at the very least once a year. Have I knelt down in the grass lately? Today is a good day.