I want to tell you a story. It moves me and I’m hoping it will mean something to some of you. It is the true story of how it was meant to be that the word Wild has become my one word for 2018. In subsequent posts I will talk more about how I will make my word visible in order to reflect upon it and use it creatively throughout the year.
Waiting for the bus to the library early on Saturday, the penultimate day of the year, I heard a goose call nearby, and the sound stirred my soul. It is not usual to hear geese in my village. I am not saying it is unheard of but they are a rare sight to me. The calls were followed by the sound of wings flapping and then I had the privilege to see a flock of a dozen geese silhouetted against the dark wintry morning sky. They were heading north. I had to smile – the birds had reminded me of a favourite poem of mine by Mary Oliver and I yearned to read her life affirming words again. Rather than find it on my phone on the bus or on a computer at work I noted in my planner to read the poem in my book at home upon my return. I did not think about this again while at the library.
I did, however, ponder on ideas for my word of the year. My word for 2017 was Thrifty. It did not really go anywhere for me. I had excellent reasons for choosing the word and perhaps I could have made it work if I had not been so focussed on being more creative and sociable, which were goals that really took hold and made a difference in my life. This time I wanted to choose a word to aspire to but that already represented me. A word that will enable greater knowledge of myself and the confidence to be more myself than ever!
I looked up synonyms for the word Nature. I can never get enough of going into nature as this activity does wonders for my mental health, allows me to bond with loved ones and it inspires much of my artwork so I was keen to tap into that for this project, but none of the words, including Nature itself were quite what I had in mind. It’s funny because it was really nagging at me that what I was searching for was related to Nature but it wasn’t coming to me, neither in my mind nor in the thesaurus! I decided to start jotting things down, any words that came to me throughout the morning, in my planner and on my hand, just in case they stuck.
I was liking Wild, Wild was becoming my favourite and connected to nature of course. And then later on that day while walking past a building with a boarded up doorway I saw a photograph pinned there. It was such an odd place to pin an unframed photo which made me look and depicted there was a flock of birds flying in a sky filled landscape.
And I had to smile. Straight away I was back to thinking of Mary Oliver’s poem for the second time that day and I knew that Wild must be my word for 2018 because the poem is called Wild Geese… Back at home I documented in my traveller’s notebook all the words that had nearly made it along with the one that has:
And finally I ran up the stairs to the bookcase on my landing and pulled out a poetry anthology, sat right there on the top stair, leafed through the pages to that familiar place and savoured every syllable of 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 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.