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 does. 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 rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whomever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls you to the wild geese, harsh and exciting
Over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver

You Do Not Have To Be Good

Some people can live without nature and wild geese; some people cannot. I cannot. It has always been that way for me. I had a lot of time to spend by myself when I was young, despite having two brothers and three sisters! For the two brothers were 4 and 5 years older than me, while the two sisters were 4 and 5 younger. A final sister arrived 15 years younger than I.

Being alone was generally an advantage.

I learned to be an excellent observer of nature, the farm animals, the trees, flowers, grasses, sky as well as an excellent observer of human nature. I had time alone with each of my parents. Good times. That was an advantage as well. Mom and Dad mentored me. My Mother taught me sewing, cooking, baking, preserving, housekeeping, child care, how to speak and sing in public with poise and how to be a public servant. (She was a census taker and worked at the voting poll. Those days for her were vacation from a family of eight!) My Father taught me milking, haying, combining oats, detasseling corn, how to listen to football on the radio when working outdoors, how to drive a tractor and a truck, and a great deal about the good and bad of politics. He took time from his businesses (dairy farming and a hybrid seed business) to take me to two local fairs, and the State Fair, with blue ribbon Holstein yearling cows. One has to learn how to show or exhibit animals, it’s a technique and mannerism to learn. Dad too, always supported voting. Both parents read the newspaper every day.

They had patience with me. The other children, especially those close in age to one another, may not have experienced as much patient guidance from their parents, especially my Dad.

I learned to think independently. I thought a great deal.

Being born with no siblings close in age to me was a handicap in one major way: When there came a crisis in our family I had no one with which to discuss what I observed. I had to work things out in my mind, but usually I was left with little understanding and by myself.

I never discussed my thinking or worries with anyone. My dear neighbor friend, whom I’m still in touch with daily, did not hear of our family’s dilemma – of my father’s major depressive disorder (MDD) – from me. Nor did my siblings, grandparents, school friends or guidance counselors at school … if there were guidance counselors back then. Nor did friends of my parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, or the Pastors of our church.

I was left confused, greatly saddened, and sometimes very lonely. Very, very lonely.
I played in the sandstone by our barn.
I played under the sumac bushes of our neighbors field.
I played in the huge front lawn and swung on the swing in the back side lawn.
I laid awake at night.

Nature was and is a solace.

For any of you reading, listening and hearing, and especially those who find themselves in circumstances similar to mine growing up, playing out the concerns over and over in my mind, I hope you find solace and peace in the poem which began this posting: WILD GEESE by poet Mary Oliver.

You do not have to be good. I thought if I was good, as a child and as an adult, my hurt and episodes with MDD would be fixed or at least lessened.

You do NOT have to be good.

Thank you kindly,
Gail Louise