Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese

It is tradition for me to read this poem on the first morning I hear the geese migrating for both winter and summer. Even though I primarily work remotely now, this is the first morning that I’ve heard them pass over my home. I’ve been wondering where they are – as if perhaps all these changes in the world seem to have flora and fauna a little off kilter as well.

I have found these words to be grounded in redemption and grace – a reminder that even in the shadow side of my humanity, there is light to be found – in my soul and in nature.

“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.                         
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Listen to her read the poem at On Being Studios.

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