Over Christmas break I found myself in a small, local bookstore located in Park City, Utah, called “Dolly’s Bookstore.” The windows brimmed with books beckoned me to join them inside. As I perused the shelves, I came across a collection of poetry by Mary Oliver, titled “Devotion.” Mary Oliver is a famous American poet whose works highly focus on the sanctity and intricacies of nature. I enjoy reading poetry and could not resist bringing this collection of Oliver’s best poems into my personal library. The book is divided into sections based off of different books of poetry by Oliver; each section is composed of famous, handpicked poems that showcase Oliver’s brilliant understanding of words and the spirit of the natural world. Her poetry speaks of faces and souls in every part of nature; each stone seems to have a personality; each ray of light serves a unique purpose. The more that I read Oliver’s poems, the more I notice the faces in the trees; I wonder if the stones in the river feel my eyes on them; I wave back as the leaves wave at me.
There is one poem in particular that a dear friend of mine shared with me freshman year that I revisited in this book. It is titled “Wild Geese.” When I read the first line, which expresses, “You do not have to be good,” I felt relieved and at peace. There are many unspoken expectations within society that can make any human being feel worthless, beaten down and lonely if they do not succeed in a specific way. As the poem progresses, Oliver expresses that as we feel despair and grief, the world continues to move forward; the geese continue to migrate; the rain continues to fall. The tone of this piece does not communicate impatience or judgment of an individual’s occupation with their struggles. Instead, it speaks with a tone of comfort and reassurance. She softly whispers that when we feel isolated or paralyzed, there is still a voice that beckons us to join the movement of the world. Oliver leaves her reader with this thought: “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.”
It is easy to feel lost in this world, to wonder where you belong or who notices your absence. When those thoughts begin to descend, I want to challenge you to examine the nature that surrounds you and heighten your senses to even the smallest of plants or the butterfly that flutters across the front lawn. Perhaps you may see a wave from a nearby tree or notice the serenade of a bird overhead. And perhaps that sound, that rustling of branches, is the Spirit beckoning you back into your place in the movement of things. There is no shame in taking care of yourself and pausing before entering back into the movement of things. When you are ready, I hope that you walk with the knowledge that you have a purpose that transcends any societal expectation or requirement. You are a human being, connected in some way to the life that pulses in the earth; therefore, you belong here and are imbued with importance and worth.