shells and rabbit skin

photo: Martha Dallas


There is a poet named Mary Oliver, and in the end of one of her most famous poems, she asks a question, which is: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver believes that life is a wild and precious thing. She believes, as I do, that there is some kind of meaning about why each of us is here in the first place.

And I’ve been thinking and thinking about what it matters what we do with our one wild and precious life. And I think the reason it matters is that we are all going to die someday. And that can feel scary to think about, can’t it. Death can feel scary, or if we know about death, or know someone who has died, we feel sad about it. But you know what? Death is nearby a lot of the time, even if we don’t realize it.

This morning I brought with me some things that remind me of death and of life at the same time. Because these are what is left of animals which were once alive. [Pull out items one by one and pass each around for children to feel and hold.] Here is a seashell. What once lived inside it? A sea animal. We call seashells live when they are part of a living creature and that creature walks around on the sandy ocean floor….

What do you think this is? [Turkey breastbone is tricky to identify.] This is a bone from the body of my Thanksgiving turkey which strutted around and gobbled when it was alive…. Here is a turtle shell. A turtle lived inside it and crawled through mud and leaves and swam in the water…. Here is a rabbit skin. This skin was once part of a rabbit who hopped around and ate sweet greens.

So when Mary Oliver asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I think she is challenging us to make the most of every moment, to live fully right now!


Props I used: rabbit skin, turtle shell, seashells, turkey bone. You might have other items that remain from once-living creatures.

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