Current Issue

Parabola Volume 44, No. 2, Summer 2019: The Wild

“Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The beloved poet Mary Oliver posed this question in the poem “The Summer Day.” It became a call to attention for countless appreciative readers long before her death earlier this year. What is the wild and what makes it precious? Our Summer 2019 issue, on the theme of “The Wild,” commemorates the extraordinary life and spirit of Oliver. It is an enduring honor to us that for years she contributed poetry to these pages.

“The root of the word wild, which comes from the Old English and Germanic languages, is self-determining,” writes Eleanor O’Hanlon in her interview with Staffan Widstrand, widely recognized as one of the world’s most influential wildlife photographers (his photograph is our cover) and a founder of “Rewilding Europe,” an innovative conservation project: “Our relationship with the natural world has always been, and must again become part of our identity,” Widstrand says here. The articles in this issue explore in various ways how this can be so. From a revealing visit to the Amazon Rainforest to dwelling in a tower in the wilderness in the Great Salt Marsh of the northeastern United States, from a mindful trip to the movies to composer Laurence Rosenthal’s revelatory trip on LSD, in stories from ancient times to the present, this issue reveals that attention is the key to understanding and preserving our wild nature within and without.

“Attention is the beginning of devotion,” wrote Mary Oliver, who understood that we cannot save what we do not love. In this issue the poet Lisa Starr, a close friend who was with Oliver in her final days, describes Oliver finding a snapping turtle in the city and releasing it in a pond, later writing: “Because nothing is important except that the great and cruel mystery of the world, of which this is a part, not be denied.”

The work of “rewilding” nature, including our own nature, involves letting go, allowing ourselves to glimpse our part in a greater whole. May this issue serve that aim.

—Tracy Cochran

Cover Description: A female Tibetan Macacque, Macaca thibetana. She is red in her face to signal to the males that she is in oestrus. When you see a primate up close, it is easy to tell that we are not that far apart. Tangjiahe Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China. Photograph by Staffan Widstrand.



Tell me, what is it you plan to doMary Oliver
The choice is ours to make

Sentience Julie J. Morley
Nature, alive and awake

The Courageous Mary Oliver Lisa Starr
Remembering the beloved poet

Rewilding Eleanor O’Hanlon
A conversation with wildlife photographer, author, and conservationist Staffan Widstrand

Watching the Wild Things Tracy Cochran
Going to the movies, mindfully

Window Guest Stephanie Kaza
The author shares her home with an unexpected tenant

Three Lessons from the Amazon Rainforest Ocean Malandra
Finding hope in the South American jungle

The LSD Experience Laurence Rosenthal
A celebrated composer hears celestial music

Before Creation Keith A. Buzzell
Imagining what was before the world began

Tasting the True Spirit of the Grain Edward Espe Brown
The blessing of simplicity

Attention John Fuchs
Climbing a mountain, feeling the force of attention

Like Talking to a Stone Lillian Firestone
Past and present speak at a sacred site in Armenia

Precious Perils
Boethius, rendered into modern English by Thomas Powers
Wisdom from the classic CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY

Forest Murmurs Claire Thompson
The woods are mysterious, dark, and deep

The Tale of Alexander Selkirk Woodes Rogers
The astonishing story of the real Robinson Crusoe

A Strange Thrill of Savage Delight Henry David Thoreau
The sage of Walden succumbs to the wild

A Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett
A hidden place where marvels grow


The Seven Swans The Brothers Grimm / Fairy Tale
Retold by Betsy Cornwell

Romulus and Remus Anonymous / Roman
Retold by Betsy Cornwell

Sarabha-miga Jataka, The Noble Stag Anonymous / Buddhist
Translated from the Pali and retold by Margo McLoughlin


Bear With Me Lisa Starr


Christiana Morgan and her Tower in the Wilderness Patricia Llosa
The remarkable life and art of Carl Jung’s compelling pupil


Gurdjieff Reconsidered: The Life, The Teachings, The Legacy
Roger Lipsey / reviewed by Jeff Zaleski

The Stillness of the Living Forest: A Year of Listening and Learning
John Harvey / reviewed by Jan Cheripko