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Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

Cannot stop adding bits, today, to this chronicle of my little life. Early this morning, I opened the curtains to see a flock of geese in their V, heading north, and thought, I have seen that sight all my life, as have all Canadians. I felt my place in the family of things.

And I thought about my Eli, yesterday, stopping with an exclamation to pick dandelions – so many, so pretty, he wanted them all, and gave their picked heads to all of us. It has been many years since I exclaimed over dandelions. But now I see them with fresh eyes.

A woman who has always seen the world with fresh eyes is the poet Mary Oliver. Here’s one of her best-known, haunting poems:

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.



2 Responses to “Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow. What a stunning poem. It really spoke to me. Thanks for posting it.


  2. beth says:

    If you can find it, there's an audiotape of her reading it which is also beautiful, Juliet. Happy Tuesday to you.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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