Beyond Ideas of Wrong-Doing and Right-Doing

flock of migrating canada geese birds flying at sunset

Almost a year ago I saved a poem by American poet Mary Oliver titled “Wild Geese”. From the first reading the words touched me with their directness and clarity.

I felt certain the poem would be a good item to include in a future G.M.G. installment. Going back to it several times there was never a morning when it seemed to fit exactly into my thoughts. Today Mary Oliver’s poem surfaced again from my hard drive and I gave in to my desire to include it here. Instead of continuing to wait for it to fit into my writing, I have chosen to include it in place of my thoughts.

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.

I long suffered with “trying to be perfect”. My future was held hostage by holding my past to my head and firing it into my brain over and over again. Mary Oliver’s poem tells me I don’t always have to be good, nor do I have to repeatedly repent until it hurts me. She goes on to assure me that it is okay to love who and what I love. Her words about a changing landscape are a reminder how quickly things change and how fast life passes by.

Then there are the Mary Oliver’s words that ring with the most comfort: “Whoever you are, not matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination…announcing your place in the family of things”. With an emotional uprising in my chest each time I read those words, there is assurance I belong to this world and it to me. I am grateful for the peace that promise brings.

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing
and right-doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”