Monday, November 26, 2007

Poetry: Remembering to Open My Eyes

One of the things I resolved when I came to seminary was that I would keep up with my reading of non-required material. I knew that that would be a difficult goal to achieve, so I aimed for poetry as my daily sustenance -- short, contained, manageable.

Even that minimalistic objective proved impossible to meet as I sank into the mire of Greek. But here I am, it's the first day of a new quarter, and I am optimistic again.

I've been reading Mary Oliver for a long time. It helped that several years ago both my daugher's English teacher and the professor who was to become my spiritual director were enamoured of her work; she kept popping up, all over my life.

I don't know of anyone who better captures the sights and thoughts that accompany me on my late autumn walks around the Little Lakes, where I spent a considerable amount of time over the past vacation week. Add to them Lake Chautauqua, along which I also walked at both midnight and early in the morning, and the resevoir that is my usual destination here, and you get a very Mary Oliver time of year.


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.

Clarence Stewart

Redheads Lifting in Fog


mompriest said...

Oh, another wonderful poem of MO's...I agree she has a potent way with words...

Mrs. M said...


I discovered this poem at a week-long seminary this summer, and was glad for it then. Thank you for the reminder.

"PS" (a.k.a. purple) said...

Wild Geese was my first introduction to Mary Oliver. It would be hard to name a favorite.

Wayne Stratz said...

Mosaic woman used to be poet woman, but gave it up since it is much more fun to cut one self on glass than paper....I am familiar with her poetry but not this one.

I need to be by water, but tend to be drawn to flowing water.

We saw a great show by geese the other day... a large flock flying really high trying to form many V's.

Jan said...

Thank you. I love her poems, and this is an especially good one. And you sound so happy and optimistic! That's a good way to start the quarter.

Virginia said...

That's one of the poems marked in my "Earth Prayers" book.

On the page right after that:

When despair for the world growns in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Barry

Gannet Girl said...

Virgina, that Wendell Berry poem is right at the front of one of my journals!

emmapeelDallas said...

This is BEAUTIFUL, and I'd never read it before.

Thank you for posting this...

Lisa :-] said...

"Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination..."

This is for me...

RevDrKate said...

Thsnk you...this is so very very lovely. I had head it a while back and forgotten it. It joins the rest on the bulletin board.