By Norah Christianson
For Mary Oliver (American, 1935 – 2019), there is no boundary between nature and ourselves. We are part of the natural world and we are strengthened by it. In “Wild Geese,” she is telling us to just BE, to leave guilt and regret behind and simply love the “soft animal” our bodies. Yes, we despair. Yes, we may be lonely at times. But nature will carry us. It calls to us, reminding us that we belong.
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.
Mary Jane Oliver was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is inspired by nature, rather than the human world, stemming from her lifelong passion for solitary walks in the wild