September 17, 2014

Wild Geese And The Family Of Things

"Goose" - Illustrated by Ash Troberg

Yesterday I was doing dishes and looked out the window hoping I would see the woodchuck in the field across the road. I did not see the woodchuck (which is one of 14 types of marmot, which are large squirrels), but I did see a family of 7 geese taking a rest and eating grass.

Later in the day I discovered American poet Mary Oliver's poem called Wild Geese. I have never seen her writing before, but was struck by how much this poem resembles the work of Zen poets.

It also reminded me that we are never alone in the world - we are part of everything around us. We are all members of the family of things, and like everything else we have our part to play.

Just like the woodchucks and geese.

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.


  1. Gam Kau9/18/2014

    I always get a little dose of serenity when I wander over to your blog. Thank you. :)

    1. Gam,

      I am pleased that you are finding this a peaceful place. The world could use more serenity.

  2. At this time of year and again in the spring, we have a big skein of geese that fly over our home, out to the river in the morning and back again in the evening to roost (or whatever geese do at night!) Their honking cry is one of my favourite sounds and always brings a lump to my throat. It's good to think of friends across the big pond enjoying the same things!

    1. Charlotte,

      On the west coast the geese would overnight on the low tide sandbars outside our front door. Often we would wake in the night and hear them honking noisily is large groups. I prefer hearing natural sounds from home rather than traffic, emergency vehicle sirens, or the general hum of big cities.

  3. Anonymous9/18/2014

    Very resonate with the insights, thoughts and feelings shared in your posts. Thanks for freely sharing your gifts.


    1. Terri,

      Fall is in the air, and we have had to fire up the pellet stove. Very cozy. No more geese though.

      Thanks for sharing YOUR gifts with us. You make this a fun place for Linda and I (and others I am sure) to come and hang out at.

    2. Anonymous9/24/2014

      I'd enjoy watching the flames in a stove. Fall surely arrived here today, it's much cooler here today than it was yesterday.

      Enjoyed this post and love the poem. I looked up Louise Gluck and enjoyed reading some of her poems.

      I'm back here checking comments, I love reading comments from others and your responses. I often return. I learn so much here.

      Will leave you with this, song lyrics about geese and other things written by one of the all time greatest songwriters:

      Restless, ©1993 by Gordon Lightfoot

      There's a kind of a restless feeling and it pulls me from within
      It sets my senses reeling and my wheels begin to spin
      In the quietude of winter you can hear the wild geese cry
      And I will always love that sound until the day I die

      There's a plain and simple answer to each and every quest
      From every quiet dancer who might be a special guest
      In a movie made for TV or a late night interview
      You might even find them on the "Young and the Restless" too
      Do ya get that restless feeling when you hear a whistle blast
      Like an echo from the past
      Of an old engine flyin' down a road that's ironcast

      The lake is blue, the sky is gray, the leaves have turned to gold
      The wild goose will be on her way, the weather's much too cold
      When the muskie and the old trout too have all gone down to rest
      We will be returning to the things that we love best
      Do ya get that restless yearning when you think about yer dad
      And the scrimshaw that he had
      Of an old schooner rovin' 'neath a sky that's ironclad

      There's a kind of restless feeling and it catches ya off guard
      As we gaze off in the distance through the trees in my backyard
      I can feel the restless yearning of those geese as off they roam
      Then trade that for a warm bed in a place I can call home
      Will ya get that restless yearning when you hear the wicked blast
      Of a specter from the past
      Of a cold diesel rolling down a road that's built to last
      Still I get that restless feeling when I hear a whistle blast
      See an image from the past
      Of an old schooner flyin' down a sky that's overcast.

      I too, "...will always love that sound (the wild geese cry) until the day I die."

      And I'm 99.99% certain, you guys love Gordon Lightfoot. His songs are masterpieces.


    3. Terri,

      We have to enjoy simple things that we often take for granted, like the sounds of birds calling (or crying). I can't think of a more depressing thing than a silent planet.

      Thanks for sharing. We do indeed love Gordon Lightfoot. Now I have a restless feeling - must go for a walk today.

  4. Anonymous9/18/2014

    This is one of my very favorite poems of all time. :-) Check out Louise Gluck. I think I spelled that right.

    1. Kendra,

      Thank you for sharing L. Gluck. I chose to start with her poem "Celestial Music" which fits right in with things I have been pondering since my "Siddhartha moment" in the hospital recently. Gluck is very accomplished, and very deep.

      "The love of form is the love of endings."

      At some time we will all need to face the formless. It doesn't have to be hard if we start now, like Gluck and her friend in the poem.

  5. Anonymous9/19/2014

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem by one of my favorite poets.


    1. Kathryn,

      I just discovered Mary Oliver and I will be going back to her wonderful words.


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