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.
Why am I so obsessed with this poem?
Well, other than its simple beauty, as a person who is recovering from a self-destructive past, it speaks to me in many different ways: the power of redemption, the peace found in nature, belonging, fellowship, etc. It especially touches me regarding the power of nature to restore my spiritual balance. I have found real peace and moments of true connection when I spend time in nature. When I am disturbed, it is my first refuge. I go to the woods and seek God. And I always find Him there. Today, in fact, I spent a couple of hours in the woods with one of my closest friends, and we were moved to get into some deeply spiritual conversations. At the end of that walk, we saw the geese in the pictures above. (At least we think they are geese. It works with this blog post, so I’m going with the idea that they are geese.). I was inspired to write this post because of the sighting of those “geese” (birds? Who knows, just go with it…). Divinely inspired, I believe. I’ve been giving this poem space in my heart all week and it worked. It spoke to me and, then, I see wild geese with my own eyes when I take the time to connect to my source in the most natural setting of all — the woods. I challenge you to let it speak to you as well. Who knows what it will allow you to see?
I also found this interview with Mary Oliver on SoundCloud through the show “On Being,” which I highly recommend. If this poem speaks to you at all, I think you will find the interview and her reading of her own works to be well worth your time.