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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Wild and Precious

<e is a boulder on the south side of Lyman Lakes with a plaque that asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The words are from Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, who wanders through the woods, observing the grace of egrets and the wild brutality of snakes shedding skin, and then compresses the images into her lyrical, evocative lines. It sounds like she has found an answer.

As for me, my somewhat foolish answer once was: Everything. I am going to do everything with my one wild and precious life. It is so
valuable that wasting one moment is an irrevocable loss. There is so much in the world to learn and to experience, and so much good to do, and I want to throw myself into all of it, fully.    

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. Wasting time, doing things over, getting stuck at airports and behind trains, falling ill, becoming distracted, becoming lost, filling out forms, writing sentences that are too long, putting in additional clauses that don’t add to the article, are all things that just happen to people (like me) regardless of diligence and enthusiasm. This frustrates me. I want to, to quote the inspirational sign on my friend’s wall, “make every moment count,” and I can’t.

So, what I plan to do with my life is to give my passions and talents to the world to the fullest extent that I am able, while reconciling myself to that fact that I will be limited by time, by circumstances, by my own failures, and by the sheer inefficiency of the world.  I want to be a journalist, a Cape Breton Island fiddler, an environmental lawyer, a philosophy professor at Carleton, and, heck, a member of the United States Supreme Court. I want to get married, to raise a child, and to live in a small house with each room painted a different color. I want to stay close to my family and to have a few true friends. I want to look back at my “wild and precious life” knowing that it did not contain all of these things, and know that it was enough.  

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