Abstract: Wild Geese

When I was in high school, my English teacher introduced me to Mary Oliver. I loved her poetry then and felt an even stronger connection to it later when I was struggling in college. As I was thinking about myself and my goals, I kept coming back to her poem, Wild Geese, and the way it made me feel, especially the line that says, "You do not have to be good." Another favorite poem,Sometimes I am Startled Out of Myself by Barbara Crooker, also references wild geese and says, "You do not have to be wise." Reading these poems reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from American author, John Steinbeck, who says in the book East of Eden, "Now that you do not have to be perfect, you can be good." 

I know it's completely contradictory to say that you do or don't have to be perfect or good or wise, but I love these statements because really, they tell us that we don't have to be anything at all! I think that too often the pressure to be something I'm not keeps me from finding joy in who I am. This blog is a document of the journey I'm taking this year to fight that pressure, to find wellness and inner peace, not by doing anything too drastic, but by creating greater happiness in the life I already have. I am inspired by the wild geese and I want to "announce my place in the family of things."

Here is the text from both poems, courtesy of The Writer's Almanac.

Wild Geese
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.

Sometimes, I am Startled Out of Myself
Barbara Crooker

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.

They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.