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 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.
Over the years, I have fallen in love with our ‘seasons’ and cycles. I believe that just as there are seasons within a calendar year, there too are seasons within our own life. My current season of life as a partner, mother, and business owner is much different now than when I was young and single. My current season of life as woman in her 40’s is already far different than when I was in my 30’s.
Change is constant, and it’s important to remember that we are not separate from Nature. Nature is not something outside of us. We are deeply connected to and a member of Nature. We breathe the world, and the world breathes us.
Living in the Pacific Northwest offers so many gifts from the natural world. And getting outside is such a simple practice in reconnecting us to it all.
Ideally, this is a practice we all strive for. An ideal non-negotiable that we spend at least 20 minutes a day outside- as a member of Nature. This could be through a walk or hike, enjoying a local park, or simply drinking your morning tea or coffee on the porch.
As I write this, November is coming to a close. The last of the leaves are still clinging to a few trees. The tall grasses are shifting from green to golden, and the wild geese are flying overhead. The preparation for rest, retreat, and dormancy has begun.
I love the term ‘Wintering’ and have borrowed this from the writer Katherine May. Her book “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” gave me such radical permission. I recognized the many times I felt introverted, withdrawn, moody, or dark. No longer do I view these as aspects of myself that need to be judged or corrected anymore. I now see these feelings as a natural part to my rhythm. I now know that these are a part of my cycles and seasons- just as retreat, quiet, and rest are a part of all beings in Nature.
Through our time outdoors, we experience the deep sensations of being connected to something larger than ourselves and can also begin to see the rhythms and patterns around us. The certain smells and sounds that not only each month or season bring- but that also occur in different times of each day.
Getting ourselves outside brings us into deeper presence and awareness. It fills our soul, fuels our heart, quiets our mind, and grounds our body. It “announces our place in the family of things”.