Meanwhile the world goes on

When nature and a poem strike you

The ducks in the reeds suddenly jumped, and I heard the flock of pigeons behind me take flight. Turning around, I saw that a bird of prey had pounced on a pigeon, pinning it down.

It brought to mind a few lines from Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”:

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.

While despair isn’t quite the right word to describe it, I was certainly preoccupied with personal thoughts at the time. Seeing the world go on pulled me out of that quagmire, at least for a time.

This is why I go to the park and the river almost every day: to remember that, while my own thoughts and feelings and life are valid and so forth, I’m just a small part of a much larger context, of countless creatures and forces pursuing their independent logics.

In writing this, I realize that the end of “Wild Geese” captures precisely this sentiment:

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.

Meanwhile the world goes on.