Monday, March 08, 2010

Wild Geese in the Morning

I sometimes find Monday mornings a bit of a chore. (Doesn't everyone?)

Sunday was wonderful; the weather was sunny and really warm, and not only did I find worship at Mount Toby especially satisfying, but friends stopped in unexpectedly in the afternoon, and we all hiked in the woods together. In the evening, I read, did my physical therapy exercises, and watched television with Peter. It was calm and lovely, and maybe trying to cling to the day a little bit, we both stayed up a little too late.

Morning felt like it came much, much too early, and I had to remind myself how much sleep deprivation feels like depression to me. Probably, I reminded myself, I didn't actually hate my job, living inside my own skin, or my life. Probably, I reminded myself, drinking my coffee, waking up, and resolving to get enough sleep tonight would fix 90% of what felt hopeless at dawn.

So I packed my lunch, wolfed down my bagel, filled my commuter mug, and headed off to work.

My drive is about twenty minutes long, and normally I drink it in as I go. I drive through rolling woods, past three waterfalls, five working farms, and one village center that is so quaint that, if I were to post a photograph, you'd probably accuse me of doctoring it. It's hard not to love my morning commute, but this morning, I managed it, gloomily obsessing over every complicated deadline or annoying routine I expected to meet at work this week. I really, really wished it was still Sunday--or already Friday, take your pick.

And then, mindlessly driving past the empty flat field of one of the farms along the way, it happened: in my peripheral vision I caught a flash of movement, just enough to bring my attention up from the cellars where I had stowed it and into the present moment.

Where there was a flock of Canada geese, curving like haiku in front of the quarter moon, still shining in the south... where there was the glint of red-gold on the suddenly gleaming stubble left in the corn field, and black limbs of the trees that fringed the field caught the fire of sunrise to the east.

I was not looking to see, but the beauty of that moment was so perfect and so profound that it insisted; it would not allow me to pass it blindly. And while I continued to drive my car, I found myself quite unconsciously breathing in and out with the same panting rhythm they taught us in childbirth classes.

All that beauty, falling like that onto my unprepared, even unwilling soul, stung like hot water running over fingers that were cold to the bone. It hurt to be so suddenly flooded with joy and with the return of memory: oh, yes! That's right--I'm alive. And grateful.

What do you know?

And Mary Oliver was right.

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.


dmiley said...

bird song this morning at dawn.

Yewtree said...

Beautiful imagery, Cat. I love that Mary Oliver poem too.

Andrew Lightheart @alightheart said...


I was having a grumpy Monday evening (!) and this really really helped.

Grateful again for the world around me right now.


Erik said...

Lovely... thank you! And well timed - I almost emailed you last night to see if you were OK, after noticing the date of your previous post... :)

Mary Ellen said...

It's sometimes hard to remember these small epiphanies when the next sleep-deprived morning (gray, rainy day... overloaded work schedule) comes along. Thanks for such a lovely reminder.

kevin roberts said...

You got the moon wrong in your picture. It's second quarter right now.


Michael said...

Thank you.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

It's interesting... as I was writing this, I had certain regular commenters in my head. And lo and behold, here you are--a few surprises, but several of you I literally imagined as the audience for this particular piece.

Isn't that odd? And kind of nice.

Kevin, I was just happy to find a Wiki-media photo I could post with no copyright issues that featured a geese and a moon in any phase. Wait a couple of weeks--it'll be right eventually. *smile*

The geese, as might have been predicted, are still in the area. They may well be non-migrators, such as we get hereabouts sometimes. They also do a lot of flocking and flying in the fall and spring months.

I saw two of those same geese on my way to work yesterday, and then again today, walking calmly among the rows of corn stubble, like an avian version of Ruth and Naomi gleaning in the fields together.

David P. said...

That Mary Oliver poem is used as a responsive reading in the UU hymnal. Our congregation uses it once every year or two.

Liz Opp said...

Go, Geese! Go, God!

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Nate said...

I'm luckier than you, Canadas use the field behind my house a LOT, and a lot of them! Yesterday, I had 4 snow geese, unusual.

Good thoughts

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