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Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

via Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Yesterday was a day of riches as this wonderful Mary Oliver poem was posted by Dawn and re-blogged by John and Kenne.

There are prayerful and questioning qualities in Mary Oliver’s poetry that challenge me to think about the universe as a place where each sentient and non-sentient being thrives and flourishes. We grow mindful of our needs as they relate to the needs of other living and non-living being. Living is a practical and ethical way of standing in the world. Practical and ethical ways of living are essential to growing spiritually and acting with care towards sentient and non-sentient beings.

Wendell Berry has a poem entitled The Wild Geese asking me to be thankful for the gifts that come to me each day. What do I take-for-granted? What do I overlook and treat as ordinary that I can celebrate as (extra)ordinary? As Mary Oliver asks, “how does my body ‘love what it loves?'” How do I notice the universe and let myself find its way home each day?

Here, is a video of me reading the two poems about geese and the poet’s reminder of being present to what is here.


The Wild Geese

Wendell Berry is a great poet and writer. Several contributors to one of the texts we use in Eco-Ethics , Rethinking Nature, refer to his thinking. I call it deep thinking and takes us to another level of consciousness where there is an awareness that we are part of something much bigger.

I read Wendell Berry’s work and enjoy it immensely. He does not suggest I think like he does or live like he does in a low-tech world. What he proposes is I take time and think more deeply. I read somewhere that Berry, when he was much younger during the 1960’s was asked to write an anti-Vietnam War poem. He responded that he would not. The person asking was surprised as they had always believed he was opposed to the Vietnam War. He responded by saying he was not opposed to that particular war, just war in general. He wrote an anti-war poem with no reference to Vietnam. When I take time and engage in thinking at this level, I come to a different level of awareness than I usually do. It does not mean that I would things differently than I currently do. I become aware of the values I hold and act accordingly. Obviously, it is tricky. What if my values sanction war? What if my values sanction a view that nature is for human consumption? I think what Berry and others get is when we go deeper and look inside we see that we live in the world and not outside it as spectators.

When I read a poem like The Wild Geese, I am struck by the message of the last line: “What we need is here.” It likely always was. I need to open the persimmon seed to find the tree which is not separate from the seed. I am not separate from daily life or the world. I am in it. I need to go deeper to find it, recognize it, and cherish it.

Horseback on Sunday morning,

harvest over, we taste persimmon

and wild grape, sharp sweet

of summer’s end. In time’s maze

over fall fields, we name names

that went west from here, names

that rest on graves. We open

a persimmon seed

to find the tree that stands in promise,

pale, in the seed’s marrow.

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them in their way, clear,

in the ancient faith: what we need

is here. And we pray, no

for the new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in the heart, and in eye

clear. What we need is here.

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