Monday, 8 April 2013

Wild Geese

Photographer unknown

In the past five years or so I’ve done several MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) courses, and this poem by Mary Oliver always seems to come up in them. I fell in love with it immediately; even the first line is a revelation. For me it says something about how our conditioning complicates our life with unnecessary struggle and suffering. It feels like a window into another life I previously never knew existed – full of light and air and movement, and of course freedom.

Having a chronic pain condition and spending much of my life these days indoors (no longer able to run, let alone fly!) gives it an extra poignancy for me. But the world still ‘offers itself up’. The cry of the wild geese may be ‘harsh’ at times, but it’s still life – and all of us, whether we feel we belong to it or not, we really do!

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 up 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. I too love this poem! Thank you michael

    1. Thank you, Catherine - I'm so happy you love it too. I find it very comforting, and also a kind of reminder of what I want my response to life to be.

  2. Yes! I love Mary Oliver, too, and this poem is very powerful.

  3. Wonderful, Michael! Beautiful poem.