if you search with all your heart
Nature teemed. Not only the insects, birds, and flowers moved into life, people sped by in cars or on foot in the early morning hour. It was my birthday and I had chosen to begin the day by walking the labyrinth at the Mission of the Atonement.
There are many ways to enter a labyrinth. In the past I have entered the labyrinth seeking relief from difficulties, I have joined with women after long weekend classes in the joy of dancing, and I have used the labyrinth as a time for prayer.
This time I was seeking God. The wondering formed into a question. On the surface it seemed naïve: How do I experience God’s love throughout the day?
Releasing the question to the One who created me, I stepped onto the brick path. My body walked and weaved, following the stones into the belly. Soon words replaced breath, and I lapsed into a reverie of gratitude.
Suddenly a harsh cry from above broke into my prayers – an arrow of geese were announcing their yearly pilgrimage. And because my mind remembered it, and because my heart loves it so well, Mary Oliver’s poem unraveled itself while I paused to watch:
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 from New & Selected Poems (Harcourt Brace)
A smile of understanding fell upon my lips. The subtle magic of the ancient problem solver had worked its magic yet again. The query grew more meaningful when turned inward:
How can I increase my daily capapcity for recognizing God in all of creation?
How is it possible that I am not constantly aware of God's love when all of creation cries out the many names of God?
God, the All-Seeing! God, the All-Knowing! God, the Most Wise!
God, the Creator of all Beauty! God, the Best Beloved!
God, the Most Great Unifier!
* Video of Mary Oliver reading, "Wild Geese"