The Geese Aren’t Decorating Trees

When I walk in the woods, I understand things. There is a natural rhythm to everything around me — birth, life, death, seasons.

Being in nature resonates with me — it connects me to this world and this life in a way nothing else does, save for my writing.

And so, when I get stuck, when I don’t understand, when I can’t glide easily through a situation or a moment — I look to the woods.

I walk. I breathe. I think. I stop thinking. I talk out loud. I laugh.

I move.

And eventually, I find my way out.

Perhaps it is age. Or the velocity of the times we live in. But something has shifted for me.

I am connecting on a different level with this world, and at the same time, I am disconnecting.

The new connection is…amazing. But the disconnect is a little unnerving. It is especially so at this time of year, when the world seems to march like toy soldiers to the beat of the little drummer boy and I…well, I hear “a different drummer.”

And so I go walking. Every day.

I see how the trees have shed their finery in exchange for more simple wear. I note the repose of creatures who take this time of year to slow down. I feel the chill in the air — and in my bones — and know it is telling me to slow my own pace as well.

So, I’m taking my cue from the woods this year: simple, quiet, slow.


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.

― Mary Oliver


Photo ©2011, Jen Payne

12 thoughts on “The Geese Aren’t Decorating Trees

Add yours

  1. When I walk in the woods, I am anxious.
    When I read Mary Oliver, I try to understand but ultimately remain baffled.
    And yet it is profoundly satisfying to me to read your describing your repose and contentment in the woods, and your enjoyment of Mary Oliver.
    A mystery? Perhaps. An enlargement? Definitely.

    1. I was speaking with some women just this weekend about walking in the woods and…feeling anxious. I think it is part of the experience, being slightly wary of…of?

      Perhaps I should read more of Mary Oliver? She seems to think and write in the same circles as Thoreau and Dickinson – two of my favorites. And we seem to have some affinity about our walks in the woods!

      So, an enlargement for me, as well!

  2. Love the poem! :-)

    The holidays should be a time to relax and enjoy. The crazier we allow them to be, the more stress we bring on ourselves (and that’s nothing to celebrate). :-)

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