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.

Twenty years ago, Mary Oliver published the poem Wild Geese, inviting us to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves only to promptly issue a second invitation to: Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine

Isn’t it interesting that immediately after inviting us to love what we love Mary Oliver then asks us to tell her about our despair? 

At first glance, the invitation to love what we love may seem diametrically opposed to speaking about our despair. How can a person act on what the soft animal of their body loves if they feel no hope? If despair engenders fear and nothing feels safe or meaningful, then what is the point in taking action?

Exactly. There is no point in taking action if you feel despair. Without hope, people give up. Mary Oliver understands the necessity of speaking about what scares us, of telling each other who makes us feel unsafe, of speaking about the pain that overwhelms us. We need to have conversations that focus on our feelings, so that our feelings do not remain stuck in our bodies. We also need to remember that the world goes on. 

To remember that the sun still shines and the rain still falls. To remember the vastness of the world we live in and all the living things upon it. To remember that we, too, have a place in the family of things

I revisited the poem Wild Geese because I needed a guide for how to navigate the growing concern that I and others have about the current political and social climate in the United States. After the recent presidential debate and supreme court decisions, a lot of folks – from both sides of the political spectrum – are worried understandably. The question I ask myself is: What can I do, what can I say, that will not widen the divide but rather help heal it?

I brought this question to a group of changemakers with whom I have the pleasure of consulting. While each person acknowledged the difficulty of fostering hope for a better tomorrow in the face of so much pain, each person also offered hope in the form of personal practices and community organizing. 

Just like Mary Oliver invited in the poem Wild Geese, these changemakers told me about their despair and listened to me tell them mine. And just like the invitation in the poem, we shared what the soft animal of our body loves. We spoke about making delicious food to share with friends and family, and we spoke about asking others to do “errand hangs.” (Errand hangs are when you invite someone to keep you company as you complete unglamorous but necessary tasks.) Errand hangs are a wonderful way to practice asking for help or support. How much more fun would going to the post office or the dry cleaners or the grocery store be if you had some friends with you? 

Since we are a group of changemakers, we also talked about building infrastructure to support local needs. In other words, we cannot wait on people who live and work far away to create programs and policies that help our communities. We have to create safer spaces which give people the opportunity to think through all the possibilities, and as one changemaker said, “to connect with those whose eyes light up.”

I felt so much better – more connected and calmer – after spending time with people who acknowledge the pain and suffering and keep seeking solutions which are inclusive, equitable, and healthy. I feel the same way after gathering with people in the Shakti in the Mountains’ community. Spending time with you, cooking and eating delicious food with you, and listening to and sharing stories serves as a hope booster. 

If you are needing a hope inoculation, then please come to one (or more) of our upcoming events. Give yourself permission to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week!


Kim Bushore-Maki

Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where people could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.

Kim is a licensed professional counselor and a yoga teacher. She completed the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy program as well as the Shake Your Soul Yoga Dance program. Kim is very interested in somatic expressive therapy, archetypal psychology, gardening, herbalism, astrology, wisdom traditions, and regenerative economics.

Kim continues to build and to support inclusive, vibrant communities. She spends most of her time mentoring leaders, guiding healing programs, and providing mental health counseling.

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