Eco-Poetry: Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”

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.

There are a number of poems that I’ve read over the years that I feel encapsulate some of the spirit of ecotherapy. It’s not just the nature-based imagery, though that is certainly an important element. I also look for poems that speak to healing and solace, and perhaps a bit of unconditional positive regard. After all, ecopsychology in action is meant to improve someone’s overall mental health, with nature as a crucial guide along the way.

When I was thinking of poetry to share on Watershed Ecotherapy, Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” was the very first one I thought of.

Read the rest here.