Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Wild Geese": Mary Oliver's Lent?

Today marks the beginning of Lent* in the Catholic church. This period of forty days, evoking Christ's time in the desert, is one we are all invited into. As a Christian, I think of it as a period of intentional contemplation - in the name of recognizing our utter humanity, and utter connectedness. I think of the many lenses a Catholic, or someone in another faith tradition, might perceive this period, and it gives me pause.

What is a forty day period of reflection about?
What gifts might we glean?
How many faith traditions practice such reflective periods - that include fasting? What do I encounter in the desert of my soul?
What if I encounter rage? Or demons? Where is love within?
I wonder what this Jesus fellow experienced in His time? How are He and I related?
I wonder about Mary Oliver and her Lenten dance? Did she ever walk through a desert? What does she know about being "Good" or being labeled as "Bad"?
I wonder how her poem "Wild Geese" was born?
What does she know of repentance? Of love? I wonder how the natural world might have spoken to Christ during his lifetime?
Could this be similar to you and me?

I wonder a lot of things. I offer Ms. Oliver's poem as another way into this season of reflection, love, forgiveness, transformation. Amen.


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.

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.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

published by Atlantic Monthly Press

© Mary Oliver


*The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days' fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season.

7 comments:

Sr. Mary Frances, VHM said...

Hi, Beautiful Lady....I absolutely love the Mary Oliver poem with which I am very familiar....I will print off your ????'s and use them for my beginning....OUR theme here at the monastery is building the City of God as our shared common humanity....come and see!!!
Love, Mary Frances

Lori said...

What do I encounter in the desert of my soul?
What a wonderful opportunity for a forty day visual journey.

Thanks Melissa.

Love your wisdom,
Lori

Margaret said...

This is one of my very favorite poems! Thank you for sharing it today. (I first heard it when I had a poetry dinner and everyone brought a favorite poem. I adopted it!)

Julie said...

Oh Melissa this poem is one of my favorites!
And even those of us with no faith tradition..or at least a spiritual connection with no name, ...love the meditative quality of this time when Christians honor...
See you in March!
Julie

Sr. Karen, VHM said...

A beautiful poem and reflection, dear Melissa!
I have been reading Oliver's "Why I wake early" book of poems. Do you have it?
love and joy on the lenten journey,
S.Karen

Jim said...

Love your reflections and questions, and love Mary Oliver! Thanks for the
great gift of yourself, Melissa.

Happy Springtime of Lent to you!
Jim

Jim said...
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