Monday September 21, 1906 – Louis W Staudenmaier
Today is my father’s birthday. When sifting poems for this morning’s post, he came to mind. He died of cancer when I was 40; it was time enough for us to become something more than a son and his dad; we became soul friends. Dad was good at that. He blended intelligence with the gift of welcoming the people who entered his life. I remember thinking during his wake in our small northern Wisconsin mill town, how proud we kids were that judges and attorneys were not the only sort of people who came to say goodbye; mill workers and farmers, women and men, ordinary people felt at home with him, told him their troubles, traded jokes, listened to each other.
While he was dying, after pancreatic cancer gone to the liver made him thin and jaundiced, one day he put on a business suit, now too big for his body, and went one last time to the little city bank where he had been president for years. He stopped at each person’s work place, told each person goodbye, that he was proud to have worked with them, shook hands, and came back home where we had moved his bed into the dining room for his last weeks.
A man who enjoyed the ordinary human condition and respected the women and men who lived it. He would have liked this poem. The poem likes him I think.
Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.
Today’s Post – “Wild Geese” 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.