“You do not have to be good” — Mary Oliver, 1935-2019

I won’t even try to eulogize the fabulous Mary Oliver — too many people have already done it for us. But here, just in case you missed it, is NPR’s tribute, and the poem that adorned my office door back in my teaching days:

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.



photo by Denis Linine, via pexels.com

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  1. […] into my journal this morning: “This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know,” says Mary Oliver, “that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attentiveness.” But we live in a […]

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