The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

Mary Oliver’s ‘Wild Geese’ and Medicare

on October 8, 2014

Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese and Medicare

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 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.

New and Selected Poems, 1992, page 110.

I have read Wild Geese by Mary Oliver maybe a hundred times. While poetry is not my go to literature, Mary Oliver’s poems resonate with me in a place that other venues don’t touch.
I believe the focus of this poem is ‘announcing your place in the family of things.’ This month when reaching the supposed over-the-hill milestone of 65 and signing onto Medicare, I am in full realization that my youth is gone. I’ve been reviewing some of the many doors I’ve chosen to open and some of the ones I have left closed. And because I am more attuned to trusting the wisdom I’ve gained through these years of experience and study and vision, I grow more comfortable announcing my ‘place in the family of things.’
I am more able to become like the ‘wild geese,’ to rise above that which I cannot control and to rise above any persona I now know I am not and above things I am no longer interested in. My focus is on ‘heading home.’ Certainly, I am getting closer to going literally home when I cross from the earth plane, because, we all know, nobody gets out of here alive! I am going home into the heart of me, into the heart of who I truly am. The Susan I am getting to know and understand more fully each day. This is my truth that calls to me ‘harsh and exciting’ and is for me and only me. And ‘no matter how lonely’ (because our journeys are ultimately for ourselves) ‘the world offers itself to my [blossoming] imagination.’
So, I ‘do not have to be good’ or ‘walk on my knees’ in repentance for those things out of my control or things someone says or believes about me. I only have to trust myself, to allow ‘the soft animal of [my] body [myself] love what it loves’. And at this stage I so much more know what I love and I am so much better able to leave the rest behind.
However, I will share my ‘hundred miles through the desert,’ my ‘despair’ with you and listen to yours so that we can connect within the ‘family of things.’ So we can connect within the oneness on the earth at this moment in time. Just as the ‘wild geese’ fly in sync, as a community, as individuals creating the whole, I am a functioning independent unit working for myself within and for the whole. We are each individuals with joy and despair discovering our own sense of who we are.
‘Meanwhile,’ the living Universe and the living Earth with wisdom and knowledge creates, allowing sun and rain to nourish the landscapes, representing the processes of all life events. The prairies symbolize the times life runs smoothly, a straight walk forward with clear vision; the deep trees when I can’t see clearly; the mountains when I climb and work for what I am seeking; and the river when I am in the flow and letting go with ease and support (except, of course, in the white water!).
And when I leave my ‘despair’ behind, my imagination is free and unencumbered to explore the bounteous world with a bird’s eye view of the prairies, the deep trees, the mountains, and the rivers. So, I become wild and free like the geese, ‘to love what [I] love’ and proudly ‘announce [my] place in the family of things.’
So here I am – the best ME I can BE in this moment!!! Welcome to 65 Susan Rea.
It is my wish that you read this fabulous poem a hundred times and delight in your own translation letting the soft animal of your body feel what it loves in the flow of the words. Take my musings and use whatever resonates with you and toss the rest.
In gratitude I dedicate this post to Mary Oliver.
Also, I dedicate this post to my brother, Bill, the poet, for introducing her poems to me.

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