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Wild Geese

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. I find her poems call me to spend time, reflect quietly, and read them anew many times. I think what I consistently get out of her poetry is that we are not alone in the world.

We live together, but it is not just a human world. It is a world full of other beings, objects, and roles that shape our lives and we, in turn, shape the world. Most of the time, our relationships with the world, others, and things is unconscious. The world exists out there somewhere in taken-for-granted ways.

When we are mindfull and present, we notice the world. Mary Oliver uses the words harsh and exciting, but we are not accustomed to the novelty that continuously emerges and, when it calls, it seems harsh. As we live more fully, the world calls to us and we hear it. The harsh sounds help us remain attuned to the world.

The world excites us with its refreshing newness. We discover the extraordinary in the ordinary; what we have taken-for-granted.

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.


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

17 responses »

  1. Beautiful reminder. She has a gift that can shift us into this moment and the truth.

  2. Reblogged this on The Good, Bad and Ludicrous and commented:

    • Thank you for the re-blog.

      • You betcha and no problemo, whatsoever! These things are IMPORTANT! declare I – BUT – apparently, either my local ISP, or nightly updates of software, CDNs – yours, mine and/or platforms – mean – I can’t just immediately reply and have posted my answer to your notifications – (trust me, I have gone through the ‘ringer’ of those tech support people who think I just need to know how to ‘clear my cache” AND realize those in the know would really like it if I just invested some $$ in updating my personal router, instead of waiting for local service provider to make good on their promotional copy – – fighting multiple, what I see as, battles, just now, and have been for some time – but posts such as yourse remind me, what I’m fighting for – even if I’m wrong and have to adjust my thinking – sigh – LOL

  3. Mary Oliver is my favorite poet as well. I feel a special kinship with her words the way she looks at life.

  4. Yes, a favourite of mine as well. Likewise Wendell Berry: The Peace of Wild Things. Thank you for this.

  5. Thank you for opening up a poetry new to me.

  6. I love her work, too, Ivon, and this poem in particular. Perhaps I already told you that I choreographed a dance piece to this long ago? Thank you for reminding me of the beauty and combined fierceness and gentleness of these words.

  7. This is one of my favourite poems. Wild geese really do have a beautiful, soulful cry. I am lucky enough to live near a park and hear them often early in the morning or late at night.

    • When I am here in Spokane, the geese congregate on the Gonzaga campus. They have already returned from their winter homes. I don’t know if that is early. In Edmonton, they had not arrived as of last week. There was ice on the ponds and rivers.


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