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 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.
It’s our first day of class sitting together going over the very first piece of classroom material. We are told we will discuss two poems written by Mary Oliver. Each student is asked to participate by reading each poem out loud. After everyone has had their turn, we all discuss the underlining meaning or message that each poem attempts to convey. I enjoyed each of the poems because they were both special and unique in their own way. However, for today’s writing, I will interpret the message that I received from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese.” The poem starts out reminding us that it’s okay not to be perfect by saying, “You do not have to be good.” Here Oliver is saying, it’s okay not to know everything you feel like you’re supposed to know or do and for us not be ashamed or feel bad about it. “There is no need to repent” because we are living, breathing creatures just like other animals throughout the land. We are living, we are existing, we are simply being that which we were created to do. “You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.” Basically, it is okay to make mistakes. We all want to be accepted. We all want to be forgiven. We all crave validation. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Here I interpreted this part of the work as simply saying we should look within ourselves. We should practice self-love and go easy on ourselves. Before seeking acceptance from others, we should first seek acceptance of ourselves. The poem also seems to suggest that regardless of whatever hardships we may face, we should not get stuck in that particular moment because time does not stop for anyone and that life will keep moving and forging ahead with or without us. We can make the choice to let go and move on, not allowing any pent up hurts to hinder us from progressing. We are now more open and accepting of ourselves.
Instead of focusing on what we don’t want, we need to focus on what we do want, especially those things we love. “Tell me about your despair and I will tell you mine.” Everyone has a story mixed in with some good and some bad. We all need each other at some point in our lives. Discussing our hurts with another person can be the foundation needed for true healing by bringing harmful issues to the surface instead of letting them simmer deep within us. “The sun and the pebbles of the rain”…I see clearing, healing and the refreshment of spirit. Throughout all the twists and turns of life, there is a challenge to overcome and we must look outside of our current circumstances. Here we must be open and vulnerable to situations and things beyond our control while knowing that everything will be okay. “Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.” Here I interpret this as saying, one cycle has been completed only for yet another cycle to begin-rebirth-beginnings and endings, the cycle of life. Not knowing but knowing that you are exactly where you need to be. 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.” Meaning, you have a place in the world, you have a purpose. You have the ability to shape or mold your experience through your imagination. Sometimes, it’s not what you experience but it’s more about how you perceive what you experience. Life can be a lesson or blessing, all depending on how you choose to define your place in reality.