Here's a confession. I had never heard of Mary Oliver. It wasn't until just a few years ago that a friend pointed her out, bringing me into the fold.
Here's another confession. I think if you combined Thoreau and Whitman into one transcendentally inspired, massively bearded crafter of words, he would still fall short of Mary Oliver. She's that good.
I'm not revealing any secrets here, of course. She won the damn Pulitzer Prize. But the amount of wonder and wisdom she fits into every passage, into every word, is truly inspiring. Her power-to-weight ratio is off the charts.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
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 your 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 turned 80 last month. She's tended to avoid interviews, preferring to let her words do the talking. But here is one she did with NPR not too long ago: