By 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 your 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.
Mary Oliver passed away today. She was in many ways a people’s poet, making the craft more accessible, putting into careful, simple words the wonder so many of us feel in the natural world. “Wild Geese” is one of her most known poems and one I have often meditated on, especially during times of confusion and sorrow. You only have to let the soft animal of your body//love what it loves. Thank you, Mary, for everything. We never met, but I feel like I walked by your side many, many days.
And here are the holiday cards I made this year, partly with Mary, her geese, and this poem in mind.