Counting 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 : Wild Geese


I memorized this, my favorite poem, over a year ago. It has become my ritual at night when I close my eyes to repeat it in my mind over and over until I can sleep. Some nights I make it only half-way through before dreams arrive. Some nights I lose count.

What’s your favorite poem? I’m looking for a little inspiration this week. Please share.

(picture by my pilot husband. somewhere over Laos)


  1. I don’t have a favorite poem, but you may inspire me. I am quite fond of Haiku, so perhaps there I will find one. My nightly ritual is that of reciting a Sanskrit Mantra – Om Mani Padme Hum. Per the Dalai Lama : “Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[…]”. I also have a personal primordial sound mantra given to me by Deepak Chopra for use in meditation. However, the one above just seems to resonate best while drifting off. Finding a favorite mantra may be a part of our path. Namasté.

  2. What a beautiful poem – thank you for sharing it. And for asking for us to share our favorites. It’s an easy answer for me:

    The Guest House
    by Rumi

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    As an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    I am grateful for you and your blog, Rachel.

    • Oh how I adore this poem Kelly. During a particularly hard day recently, I was focusing on my negative thoughts and trying to allow them space, acknowledge them and look at them without fear. I didn’t quite figure it out yet but I’ll be reading this poem often.

  3. We can stick anything into the fog
    and make it look like a ghost
    but tonight
    let us not become tragedies.
    We are not funeral homes
    with propane tanks in our windows,
    lookin’ like cemeteries.
    Cemeteries are just the Earth’s way of not letting go.
    Let go.
    let’s turn our silly wrists so far backwards
    the razor blades in our pencil tips
    can’t get a good angle on all that beauty inside.
    Step into this
    with your airplane parts.
    Move forward
    and repeat after me with your heart:
    “I no longer need you to fuck me as hard as I hated myself.”
    Make love to me
    like you know I am better
    than the worst thing I ever did.
    Go slow.
    I’m new to this.
    But I have seen nearly every city from a rooftop
    without jumping.
    I have realized
    that the moon
    did not have to be full for us to love it,
    that we are not tragedies
    stranded here beneath it,
    that if my heart
    really broke
    every time I fell from love
    I’d be able to offer you confetti by now.
    But hearts don’t break,
    they bruise and get better.
    We were never tragedies.
    We were emergencies.
    You call 9 – 1 – 1.
    Tell them I’m having a fantastic time.

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