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The wild geese are leaving home, and a part of me wants to go with them.

The truth is, I love autumn; the changing leaves remind me that letting go is natural and that dying well is the most vibrant, beauty-making thing I can do. But I also know that winter is coming soon, and its pale and lifeless beauty is much harder for me to bear.

The truth is, my body beckons me toward another season of endings and stillness and quiet. But it’s hard to trust what my body knows while the unnatural world insists my worth is found in movement and production, and in loud, impressive noise; it’s hard to trust that I will continue to grow and be well when I’m not making a lot of noise to prove it.

The truth is, my body tells me I belong here, in these seasons of dying and waiting. But a part of me fears I’m wrong to stay.

The wild geese are leaving home, and in my mind I hear 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.

The truth is, the most natural thing is to know that I belong. I belong, in busyness and in quiet; I belong, in living and in dying. I don’t have to prove that I belong; I only have to need what I need, and to love what I love.

And the world, and the seasons, will go on.

Right now, the wild geese know that they must leave – and one day, they will know to head back home. While a part of me wants to go with them, their call reminds me that I must follow my own wild rhythms. I must follow the wild geese by trusting that I belong wherever the seasons of my life call me to be.

And I belong, wherever the seasons of my life call me to be.

Right now, I belong here. And even here, I belong.


You can find “Wild Geese” and other poems by Mary Oliver here.

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Mandy Hughes

Mandy Hughes

Mandy is a licensed professional counselor. She counsels adults, adolescents, and groups and has a particular interest in helping survivors of trauma and abuse navigate their stories of harm with self-compassion instead of shame. Mandy is passionate about empowering her clients to live more integrated, vibrant and hope-filled lives.

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Mandy Hughes

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