With the weather turning (finally) toward spring, and with everything reaching toward the light, I felt it was as good a time as any to share one of my favorite poems of all time.
I love Mary Oliver, and I love “Wild Geese” because it expresses so much about what so many of us go through every day: feeling like we have to strive, to suffer, to be busier, better, more stressed out than everybody else. The way we push ourselves rather than being ourselves, and the loneliness and lack of belonging we can feel as a result.
Oliver asks us to return to our bodies, and to the things that bring us joy, hope, and fulfillment. And per usual, she does it in a way that is never cloying, sentimental, or precious. Nevertheless, it makes me cry every time. It is what makes her one of the greats, and what makes me share it with you.
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.
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.
-Mary Oliver, from New & Selected Poems (Harcourt Brace)