Posted in Publisher Proof

Spring And Being Your Authentic Self

I’m continuing my series with Rachel Kelly’s collection of poetry for each season of the year. Today I want to share with you another poem from ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ because it speaks to me about being authentic and I know how liberating that can be.

Wild Gees 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.

In You’ll Never Walk Alone – Poems for Life’s Ups and Downs. Ed. Rachel Kelly. Yellow Kite. November 2022.

I love that we come to this poem in the middle of a conversation. Editor Rachel Kelly suggests that it might feel odd at first, to hear this voice telling us we do not have to be good – a lesson we are taught from being a small child. In order to be loved these days we are told we must be good, but also to behave in certain ways and look a particular way. We must have no body hair, thick lustrous hair on our head, the perfect figure and whitened teeth. But this poem says no, a goose only has to be a goose, the natural way a goose is meant to be. It follows it’s inner instincts, to fly to warmer climates in winter and back home in the spring. It isn’t trying to be something it’s not. It is unapologetically itself.

At this time of year I can go out with a cuppa into the garden and I identify the different clumps of leaves, what will become the aquilegias, daffodils, tulips and even foxgloves. Every year they are in the same place in the garden and will bloom at their set time, bringing bursts of scent and beautiful colour into my world. Even when I’m struggling with pain and I can’t walk far, I can get into my garden and enjoy my flowers. The consistency of their blooming brings me so much hope: of warmer days coming, having the doors and windows open, reclining in my garden chair with a good book – usually with a cat or two in my lap. When I did an authentic self workshop this was one of the activities when I felt most like my true self, just being outdoors with my animals and enjoying a good book. Nature is the backdrop to this and is grounding in a way. ‘The natural world unfolds anyway’, Kelly tells us not because it was told it must or should be a certain way. She goes on to talk about the metaphor of the geese, flying freely, following their instincts and but also being part of something bigger. It’s a powerful message, that we have a place in nature and can return to it any time for sustenance and to quieten that constant noise we’re bombarded with.

To listen to your inner self I ask clients to get out a notebook and write down the times in life when they’re at their most comfortable with themselves. ‘When you’re not questioning how to be or whether you’re wearing the right thing. When you feel totally in tune with what you’re doing and in the present moment’. This will be different for everyone but my first list was:

When I’m with my dog walking on the beach or in a forest

When I’m at a concert, caught up with the singing and the crowd

Sitting in the garden with a good book and my cats with me

At the theatre watching a ballet or a compelling play

Watching wildlife

From that I could pick up certain patterns, such as I like quiet or activities where people aren’t expecting conversation. I like solitary activities or being in a crowd that’s in tune with each other. I like to observe more than participate or perform. I find animals and nature soothing. This meant I could lean more towards activities that felt natural rather than activities that made me anxious or feel out of place. I will look back to this poem from time to time and probably use it in sessions, because it does remind us to take time in nature but mainly to stop trying to be what others tell us we should be. Be who you are and love what you love.

Happy Easter everyone.


Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s