This morning, as I closed the pasture gate, I heard them beyond the woods at the edge of our hay field. Their honks heralded their arrival long before their graceful necks cleared the tree line.
Canada Geese. An animal that has been – as long as I can remember – an icon of beauty for me.
When we were little, Dad would point out their Vs as they sailed across the sky, and I would gaze upward, marveling because Daddy did. This is how we learn awe, I think.
Then I lived for a few years on the tip of the Chesapeake Bay and witnessed curves and arrows and straggling flocks make their way north each Spring. I’d walk out of to the parking lot after hours grading or teaching and hear the bustle of bird horns above. A breath, a look up, a long, soft exhale.
In Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor says, “it was the wild geese that were calling to me.” I understand that calling. I know what it is to find myself filled by something that simply shadows me from overhead, to know how 20 minutes in a windy forest can push out the wrinkles in my spirit. I know how nature heals.
A few years back, a friend sent me Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” and this line still sparks the tears of joy in me:
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Part of me still resists the simplicity of this poem, wants to find something more mentally challenging, something that requires me to understand allusions and references, to need to break apart a rhyme scheme or rhythm to get it. That’s the part of me that has been trained to think the mind more important than the heart. . . I almost wrote “art.”
For many years I missed spring because my body was tucked into the pages of books and essays, a pen ready, my head down. I was answering a call to something I thought I wanted – to be an academic, to surround myself with learning. Something I did not really want.
What I wanted – what I still want – is to see, to find myself opened up instead of narrowed down. I want to live with my wings flung wide.
I want to live in the awe that my daddy taught me. Look up. See it. Let it sing me all the way home.
What inspires awe in you every time?