“wild geese” . . .
One of Mary Oliver’s poems, “Wild Geese” may be a universal favorite and is often quoted, as it is here below. But first, I wanted to reflect on why it is so popular.
I think it might be because many of us women are used to blaming ourselves for everything under the sun when someone we know is unhappy. Especially, if we also happen to be mothers. We will go to inordinate lengths to make others feel all right again even when we are bruised ourselves.
But never mind. The most important thing to do is to brush away crumbs of conflict. We put away our little heart-shaped box of true feelings that escaped for awhile ~ as though we didn’t really have a right to have them in the first place. If I’m the only one who experiences this phenomenom, then please tell me otherwise.
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 ~
That is the first time I have heard of this poem–thank you for sharing. And no, you are not the only one. Women are deeply socialized from our birth to care more about others than ourselves. And for that, we have been called “deficient” in comparison to male development. It’s why Carol Gilligan’s work on moral development for women was, and still is, so important–the discovery that at some point, we move to being able to ask if it’s okay to consider our own needs while considering the needs of others.
Thanks for your comment, S. But I don’t think that we should have to “ask if it’s okay” for our feelings to count as much as everyone else’s, do you?
No, I don’t. But when Gilligan began to do the research in the 70s, that was unheard of. She calls it a transition, from doing what is expected, to beginning to question if it is okay (as opposed to selfish) to consider your own needs, and then moving beyond that. I think the “okay” was about when we decide that it is okay, as a woman, not when someone else says it is okay. Not that we need permission from others, but that we give ourselves permission–something that too often that women do not do.
I agree with your observations. But doesn’t it make you marvel with amazement that you and I are having this conversation in the year, 2012??????
WHEN we will truly free ourselves: one by one?
Dammit, I want to write a book about this! What shall we call it? Any suggestions?
Yes, it’s amazing, all right! My colleague and I were having a conversation about the women in STEM meeting at our university, and being told to be kind and encouraging–something that they would never tell male faculty to do. The double standard is still absolutely prevalent, and it harms all of us. I am all for being kind and encouraging, and more men should try it, but the notion that someone would say that to professional women–intelligent, well-educated professional women–in 2012 makes me turn around and look behind me for June Cleaver in her high heels and pearls, making Ward’s pot roast.
How about this for a book title: “Never too late”!