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There are few poets whose words settle into my soul the way Mary Oliver’s do.
I can’t tell you the number of scraps of paper with her words scribbled on them that I have tucked into books or shoved into coat pockets or left sitting on my desk just so I can make sure whatever reminder her words gave me that I so needed were never out of arm’s length.
A few that I know I’ve scribbled from more than once: “When Death Comes,” “Invitation,” and “Don’t Hesitate.”
But there is one poem I return to over and over. (And over.)
When my heart is unsettled. When my breathing is heavy. When I’m in the dark depths of loneliness. These are the words that carry me, that settle me, that bring me back home to myself:
“Wild Geese,” 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.
[…] 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.
Read the full poem here.
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