wild geese.

“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.

Atticus in June

Mike and I had an opportunity to go to the Wild Goose Festival on Saturday, and even though we were only able to be there a few hours, we had a really amazing time. We saw a bit of Andy Gullahorn, got to hear Brian McLaren, walked around for a bit and enjoyed the atmosphere. There were so many people we would have loved to hear: Ed Dobson, Ian Cron, Over the Rhine, Jay Bakker, Phyllis Tickle, David Wilcox, David Bazan . . . the list goes on and on. Even though we are sad that those didn’t work out, we did manage to wrangle our schedule so that we could see Jennifer Knapp.

While she was playing, I joined the parents who were pacing and dancing with their kids in the back. (Atticus should have been napping, but he was too entertained by the music and everything going on around us.) She opened with one of my favorites, played a lot of her new stuff, and then, when the opening sounds of “Whole Again” filled the air, people started cheering. Atticus and I swayed with the song as people all over the field (including me) started singing along.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, there in the hot sun in the middle of a field not 20 minutes from where I grew up, tears were filling my eyes. I have been looking so hard for a place, and I had gone to the festival with an unspoken hope that my heart might be softened. Instead, I was given a gift, because those people singing along? They are my people. We aren’t satisfied with the answers we were given when we were growing up, but we can still gladly sing along with the best that Christian music had to offer in the 90s. The song means something different to me than it did back in 1998, but it’s still one of the cries of my heart: Can I be made clean by this offering of my soul? Can I be made whole again?

(And then Sarah Masen came and played a song with her. Sarah Masen, y’all. I love her so much, too. Please let the two of them record albums for me to listen to. All the time.)

It would have been more convenient to go without Atticus, but I am glad we took him. He won’t remember it, of course, but it reminded me of many of the things I wrote for him in November, particularly that all we have to offer him is what we have managed to work out on our own. We want to surround him with people who are doing the hard work of wrestling with their faith, and we want to be those kinds of people ourselves. On Saturday, we spent a few hours in a field with people who care (in wildly differing ways) about “justice, spirituality, music and the arts,” and I realized that there’s more than one kind of home. I haven’t been making space in my new life for the home in my heart, and it needs some attention.

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