Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (Life List)
You’re about to find out that I’m on a Life List kick of sorts, and I’m about to tackle a longish project: memorize 10 inspiring works of poetry. I’ve been putting it off, worried it would feel like school and who has time for that? I’m running a business here. Then I found inspiration in the form of a kid with some flash cards in the grocery store, and something clicked.
You don’t just sit and memorize poetry like a math drill. You read it, line by line, carefully carefully, over and over, until it sinks in, and then some more until it’s there forever, so you can pull it forward whenever you need it (and maybe even after that). It’s not a day-or-two-and-you-have-it sort of thing. It’s a process. You don’t even have to block out time for it, either – you can use it as “time grout”, and weave it into the little moments you have free, like while you’re in a waiting room or, in the case of my young inspiration, waiting for your dad to pick up a deli order.
This is number one, by Mary Oliver, because, my god. It speaks to me. (And, also, because I’m sort of cheating. I have this one about half-way committed to memory already. It still counts.)
Have you tried memorizing stuff as an adult, simply for the love of it? Also, do you have any suggestions for poem number two?
Happy weekend, friends.
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 your 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.