Birth: in the family of things

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.”
― Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

In Georgia, at least in the metro Atlanta area, we have resident geese who are with us year round. They are known not only to pass overhead, almost anywhere at any time honking away, but they might just land anywhere–roadside, middle of the road, front yards–to see what they can see.  Many folks consider them a nuisance, but ever since I first encountered Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese”, I’ve decided to let them remind me of my place in the family of things.

Your birth was required for you to have a place in the family of things.  The circumstances of your life, today, may feel like they are conspiring against you leaving you tired, or depressed, or angry, or bitter.  Find a friend who can listen a bit.  Offer to listen to someone else who is also feeling a little too trodden upon today.  That act alone has incredible healing potential.

And listen for the wild geese.  Or, listen for any other noise of nature that is ever present in your world.  Once, for me, it was the mockingbirds who nested near our house.  Now, it’s the geese, or the adolescent owl in our back yard.  Listen for the predictable sounds of nature, and choose to let them be your reminder–of your place in the family of things. Today, on hearing their announcement again, becomes the next beginning place of what you do and who you are in the family of things.

Bob Patrick

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