Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

The Summer Day

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A person sitting next to me noticed that I was working on my blog. Upon learning that I was writing about science, he challenged me to read a poem, so this is the one that I chose. He had never read it before, and loved it very much, so of course, I thought I’d share it with you, too.

Carolina Grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina.

This insect is sometimes called the Carolina locust. It is less destructive than most other species in the genus. One distinguishing characteristic is the high, narrow ridge down the center of the pronotum. They are found throughout North America.

Image: Cirrus Image [larger].

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

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 down 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?


  1. #1 Tabor
    June 18, 2007

    I didn’t expect to find such Zen at your website. I usually get this breathing in and out at some of my other bloggers. Thanks!

  2. #2 Oran_Taran
    June 18, 2007

    Tell me, what else should I have done?

    That is exactly what I feel about science/nature. How can anyone not be simply obsessed with it? Life is amazing and beautiful. Once you’ve seen the world through the lens of science, you can never look at the world the same way again.

    Great poem.

  3. #3 The Ridger
    June 18, 2007

    Lovely. Thanks so much.

  4. #4 "GrrlScientist"
    June 18, 2007

    i am pleased that you enjoyed the poem, especially you, tabor, you — who has been with me since the beginning.

  5. #5 biosparite
    June 18, 2007

    Your poem found me in Houston tonight listening to Gulf Coast toads calling in the woods behind my residence. The rains came over the weekend, setting off the anurans into a frenzy of yelling for a mate. On Saturday night several people, including me, received tour-guide training in the midst of two preserves of the Katy Prairie Conservancy. The katydids, frogs, and toads merged into a roar of renewing life out there in the darkness. We sugared four stakes and brought in moths from their patrols in the night. Eastern narrowmouth toads buzzed all around us. A fingernail moon looked down on the riot of life. Your poem puts me in mind of all the wonder around me.

  6. #6 Luna_the_cat
    June 19, 2007

    Thank you. That’s wonderful.

    If you’ve never encountered her before — another poet you should check out (especially as a scientist!) is Sarah Lindsay.

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