Friday, March 1, 2013

Wild Geese

Wild Geese

Now wild geese return...
what draws them
crying crying
all the dark night?


It is that time of year in Vermont (Late February, March, April...) when the body, starved for sunlight and warmth, begins to curl inward and when bad TV as escapism doesn't cut it anymore. Walking becomes a necessary daily activity for me lest I shrivel up and slip through a worm hole.

I point out the wild geese and ducks to Moses as we walk the lake path. The shore is lipped with ice, but the lake is mostly open water. He points and babbles. As much as possible let us hold on to this cyclical sense of living, I think. Atrocities come of human want for eternal life, for endlessness, fame and fortune--the linear hope that we are evolving into better beings within our lifetimes. But as anyone who has a child understands, in the beginning, we are so tender and true, so open and filled with genuine love for the world. How could we grow better than this? Of course, there are those of us who believe these qualities are better traded for toughness, thick skins, finagling, scheming, calculated risk taking... I do not walk among them most days.

In this movement towards spring, into light, the cycle of thawing, I think of what in me needs thawing. Last night I crept into the bedroom where my son slept in our bed on the floor and knelt beside the bed. A sat in stillness waiting for my body to open to the silence. First the shoulders relax downward and back, the chest moves forward and up, the head realigns on the neck, the heart points out--an openness can be felt there, a thawing.

I was trying to remember what it felt like to be loved as a child, to will my mind to remember the way my mother's embrace felt, my father's happy laughter and playfulness. I have no specific memories of anything until I was about three or four. Mostly, my memory is watery and restless. I have one memory, actually, from when I was about two. I may have been older, but I think I was two because of the location and the way I thought about what I did. It is not the most pleasant memory. My father punishing me for drawing on the back of the bedroom door.

I remember the feeling of joy I had when looking at my red and blue scribbles, of pleasure. I believed I had done something wonderful. And then my father coming in, disapproving. Me, not understanding why he wasn't pleased. I don't like this memory now especially because I worry I will do something like this to my son...I am sure I will someday. And of course it will be what he remembers.

I sat a long time, but did not, could not remember the feeling I was searching for.

What draws the return of the wild geese? We know they are made with internal clocks, something in them telling them when to go, when to return and how to get there. We too are triggered by the angle of the sun, the length of daylight, and warmer weather, here in the north. We walk to the lake to watch the thaw and feel in ourselves a great breaking open. Our greatest pains are laid bare near the end of winter, on the brink of spring-- that here truly doesn't arrive until May. But we spend these months--as though in migration--flying back. The raw pain we have all known colors the sky; the wet smell of spring, the newness, the promise, offers reason for gratitude. If we are lucky we find it.

We love to complain about the winter and talk about the ever changing weather here in Vermont. But most of us would never leave the seasons behind for blue skies and year-round warmth. Most of us love the drama of it, the emotion, the cycle and migration.

Wild Geese

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.

Mary Oliver

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