Sunday night reflections: Canada Geese, hope and poetry

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting…”

~Mary Oliver

It was an awesome sight–hundreds of Canada Geese bobbing up and down on the ice-cold waters of the Ottawa River today.

IMG_8008One by one, groups of geese took off and flew overhead in V formation…honking as if to say “Have a good winter, we’ll see you in the spring!”

None of this is by chance: Scientists believe that geese choreograph the beating of their wings to save energy. After all, they have a long way to go–some as far as Mexico–and face many obstacles on their journey.


There is something very reassuring and hopeful in this annual migration. I am not sad that they are going, because I know they will be back. And with them, warmer weather.


It brought to mind this beautiful poem by the American poet Mary Oliver:

Wild Geese

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.

~Mary Oliver


  1. Beautiful poem and reading. I saw flocks of Canada Geese too this past week here in Calgary… plus some more. I wish they can linger a while longer.

    • In recent years, the geese have been hanging around town for the winter…but this year they seem to be leaving in droves! Must be a sign of a cold winter ahead. I loved your Nov. 1 bird photos. That blue sky just pops. Such a beautiful fall we are having.

  2. photographs are great . does give you hope. glad that paul and john had a nice visit . wishing you a great week. i put the bird feeder up and the birds are back. love mom

  3. I needed to hear those words – that poem ought to be a country’s manifesto or an oath of some kind to remind us how little is required of us to remain beautifully human. Your post made my day, thanks! 🙂

  4. Sigh what a beautiful post, the photos are lovely and the poem so moving. It is so true, you saying that the geese will leave but already show the promise of spring because you know they will return. Thats what I love about all seasons, the circle of life!

  5. Your photos are very beautiful especially the way the light reflects from the wings of the geese. Every year I wonder what will take place between the time I see the geese leave and their return. I recommend you read an unusual travel book entitled The Snow Geese by William Fiennes. After his recovery from a serious illness, Fiennes goes on a voyage in North America to follow the snow geese as they travel north to Canada in huge flocks. Clearly a metaphorical journey, but not in the genre of Heart of Darkness (thank goodness). This is not your average travel book.

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