Late summer and fall remind me of one of my favorite things–the migration of the wild geese. Years ago, when I was going through one of the hardest transitions of my life, I was out raking leaves in the backyard and flock after flock of the wild geese passed over me honking. How many times had they done that? A thousand? A million? And I didn’t really take notice. But that day they were able to lift me with them. I stopped raking and stood there for a long time, smiling, and every since that day I’ll run out of the house if I see them coming or I’ll stop whatever I’m doing, if I happen to be outside. They never cease to bring me a sense of…hope.
Mary Oliver is on my short list of poets who remind me most of Emily Dickinson. She may be the closest, in spirit, to her. She was influenced by another of my favorite poets who I’ve loved for many years, Edna St. Vincent Millay. (My favorite of her poems is Wine From These Grapes.) Here is a poem for this season by Mary Oliver, Wild Geese.
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 your 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.