Mary Oliver said in an interview once that she was in a classroom, composing a poem for students on the white board when a flock of geese flew overhead honking. She incorporated that event into the poem she was writing for them on the fly; the poem that later became “Wild Geese”. I shared this story with a friend who loves Mary Oliver’s poetry and “Wild Geese” in particular. My friend was not pleased. She preferred her own imagined story that the poet had been inspired by one of her many walks in nature.
It matters not where we are,
we’re always in the natural world
Be open to its inspiration
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.
by Mary Oliver
Photo courtesy of goodreads.com