On remembering my place in this world . . .
I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging. And I keep stumbling into the particular anxiety of wondering where I fit. Like I’m perpetually trapped in a high school gymnasium, comparing my poly-blend dress to the other girls’ jeans skirts and wanting desperately to be chosen by some boy as his dance partner.
Talk about No Exit. I think that one of the circles of hell must involve getting stuffed into an awkward teenage body and placed with other anxious teenagers in a hot gym with an Air Supply soundtrack cycling through on repeat.
But this week, my question of belonging got a beautiful answer, with not a basketball hoop or vice-principal chaperone anywhere in sight. During some adventures into the Oregon landscape—gazing at the epic silence of Mount Hood, letting the water from the base of Elowah Falls rush between my toes, watching the Clackamas River surge over mossy rocks—I felt something: reassurance. All of the Big Nature seemed to sweep me into something grand and breathtaking, to scoop me up into the vastness.
And as I found my breath and my footing again, I couldn’t help but think of Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, a brilliant balm of a poem (please give yourself the gift of reading it), starting with the declaration, “You do not have to be good,” and ending with a flock of honking geese, “announcing your place in the family of things.”
During the last year, when I’ve felt especially lonely and lost, I’ve wrapped my arms around my shoulders and patted myself on my arm, whispering the words, “I’m still here.” I’ve felt so much like I’m disappearing, like in this moment without a partner that I might not exist.
But that’s not true. Last Friday, a mountain of evergreens told me I was part of the club, and I believe them. I am still here, in the family of things.
This weekend, as a meditation, I took Mary Oliver’s poem and wrote my own lines as an echo of each of hers. I found it to be a powerful exercise and highly recommend it with “Wild Geese” or any other poem or piece of writing that speaks to you.
Below is what I created. May it be a reminder for you of your own place in the heart of the world.
Conversing with Wild Geese
I don’t have to be anything
No one has to pay for this pain.
Between spring and winter, no seasonal space for retribution.
Just need to bliss-follow. What I love—
Me. Him. You. This life.
Flowers blooming from a spine of sadness.
Bare feet on Laurelhurst Cemetery dirt.
Custard-filled, chocolate-iced donut from Helen Bernhard’s Bakery
What happened to you?
I had my heart broken.
Morning and noon and evening. Middle of the night have to pee. Back to bed three hours. Sun through glass. Up for coffee. Down with tea.
Light and water moving.
Home for dinner. Home to family. Home for rest.
Waterfall says, “I am here for you.
I’m falling for you.
Don’t you wonder where we’re going?”
makes boy yell and beagle bark.
Phone on silent all day.
All of it sounding like: you belong.
Without doing a thing,
with only common
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