The call of the wild

There’s a chill outside, heralding the sudden end of summer, a chill that made me put on an extra layer yesterday. What should be balmy, lazy, outdoors weather is better associated with the last days of October. It’s also raining, and gutters have been overflowing and spattering water onto the concrete paving below. I’m working from home today, which is cosy, so I won’t complain – but I could. And yet, there was a sound earlier, against the background combustion hum of London, that I found reassuring.

The sound reminded me of a favourite poem, by the American poet Mary Oliver, which surprises me just how well it manages to put things into perspective every time I read it –

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles in 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.

The sound I heard outside my bedroom window was the rasping honks of geese flying directly over my roof; I live on the top floor, so they seemed especially close. They may not be departing for a warmer clime just yet – they may just be practising – and if they are going, it’s untimely. But I found the geese reassuring because they signify the wider world breaking into (my consciousness of what I too-often experience as) a wholly human domain – the city – and being near.

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One Response to “The call of the wild”

  1. Jak Says:

    i too am not excited about the chill that comes with the summer’s end, although the changing of seasons often brings writing ideas for me. and i am deeper south this year than I have been for a few years, so the chill will be later and not as brisk.

    nice writing, thanks for sharing.

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