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Running Wild

When writing inspires us to find our place in the world.

While Mary Oliver is a well-known poet — in fact, we’ve quoted her before on the Daily Post — she’s still new to me. By sheer coincidence, her famous poem, “Wild Geese,” popped up in my inbox, blog reader, and Twitter feed multiple times over the past few months. Perhaps it was one of those seeming proofs of collective consciousness, but as I kept re-reading her words, I fell in love more deeply with the poem.

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’m also working my way through Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a collection of folk tales that explore womanhood, intuition, and our relationship to nature from a Jungian perspective. I revisited “Wild Geese” after reading the chapter on “The Ugly Duckling,” that famed story about a young swan born into the wrong family and struggling to find his place in the world – and, subsequently, his self-worth.

Works like these emphasize feelings of otherness, inadequacy, and isolation, as well as our determination to move past these feelings to find where we belong. Today, take inspiration from Mary Oliver and tell us, what is your place in the family of things? If you are lonely, do you hear the wild geese? If you are surrounded by your metaphorical kin, how have you announced your place in the world?

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  1. A goose once chased me down and I found myself sliding on my ass in goose waste while it nipped at me. My older brother had left the tire-swing behind and grabbed the large bird by its long neck and rid me of the beast. 😉 A true and fun memory.

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  2. What a thought provoking post. Mary Oliver’s poem is striking. At times I am lonely; living alone and being single will do that to anyone. But at times, I do hear the wild geese calling and when I hear its harsh cry, I am one among many, and I am content. 🙂

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  3. A beautiful poem! Thanks for sharing. I can definitely relate to being lonely, and while I can hear the geese calling, sometimes it is hard to reach out to them. That’s the thing, I think – we can hear them, but we don’t always join them. Sometimes we need a push. Thanks again for sharing this poem!

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  4. What a thought provoking post. I didn’t know the poem which is very powerful, but I have read “Women who Run With The Wolves” and found that very powerful too. What a lot of power going on! But that is the thing with words well used resonating at a time when we are ready to hear them. The human condition is one of essential aloneness I guess. We come in alone and we go out alone and in between if we are lucky we make meaningful connections. I have always had a fear of aloneness which has led me to sometimes make bad connections out of fear of being alone. My hope now is that I can learn to be comfortable within myself and also to make connections. That would seem like the best of both worlds, but it has taken a lot of chronological years to reach that point. I hope others will reach it more swiftly.

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    1. Corrine,
      I too have read, reread, underlined and highlighted, and then studied Women Who Run With the Wolves with my best friend. As a child I had my mother read and reread The Ugly Duckling to me. I didn’t know until I was grow and read Women Who Run…. that I knew at an early age I did not belong in the family I was born into. But I intuitively knew how to find my “own kind” early on. A blessing, grace from God, not of my own doing. Oliver’s poem is new to me, but represents my own experience. In answer to Erica’s question, I wrote my coming-of-age memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, which helped me announce my place in the world finally in 2014.

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  5. When I am feeling lonely, a walk in the woods- surrounded by and feeling protected by the tree’s always fills my soul. Maybe it is in the vastness of wide open spaces that I feel a part of everything and less alone.

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  6. Well, a wonderful poem. But after reading the comments and thinking about life, in general, I realize even more that maybe the geese found me Im 69 and have had a happy life, albeit some bumps and ups and downs, but overall, a nice life. I think my blogfs reflect it when I write about family, fun times and a bit of nonsense. I think my short essays will brighten everyone’s day. Try me at ‘srbottch.com’ or ‘http://srbottch.com’. I’m going to read that book, too.

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  7. And consider how the geese each take their turn at the front of the migration….and their turn at the back. Much can be said about geese. (including how my pet goose, when I was aged 3, was swiped by a neighbor to be “enjoyed” at Thanksgiving….and how my father and I marched to his aid before the evil deed was done….and brought him home on the end of a string…..and how he promptly nipped my little behind to remind me to take better care….Yes, much can be said about geese!)

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  8. What a thought-provoking post! I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never heard “Wild Geese”; however, reading it today gave me a chance to reflect on how I fit in the world. I am just now coming into my own, and can’t wait to continue on this journey!

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    1. I don’t know what you saw on Amazon. The poem comes from Oliver’s book, Dream Work. The paperback copy I have on my bookshelf cost $10.95. I have most of her books, and none of the paperback versions cost more than $16.

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  9. It is so funny to see this prompt today. No doubt an excellent and a thought provoking one. But truly extraordinary at least for me, as only today I was pondering what a difference blogging on wordpress has made to my life. Blogging has not only provided me with an avenue to share my thoughts and poems but has helped me build confidence. Something I never knew existed. The geese have called and I am still trying to make sense of their cacophonous message. But as long as persist to decode and answer back it would be a life well lived. Sorry got a bit emotional there… 🙂

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  10. Lovely, supportive words from Mary Oliver. I’d like to share some William Blake words that also marvel at life:
    To see a world in a grain of sand
    And heaven in a wildflower
    To hold infinity in the palm of your hand
    And eternity in an hour …

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