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  • Jo Clement

Wild Geese


Minutes ago, this line of geese flew over my glass roofed office, loudly honking as if in conversation with each other about the bitter cold and spitty North Shields rain. 


On writing this, I was initially going to refer to the geese as a gaggle but I wondered if the name changes when the birds are in flight. Indeed it does. When flying in formation like this, the gaggle becomes a skein, a team or a wedge. Isn't that brilliant?! Team is quite obvious but what about skein? It must come from the long lower line of geese that floats along like a thread from a jumper in the wind, the kind is snapped off and that ends up in a beak then a nest. Skein suggests the connectivity of the birds, held by an invisible thread, flying in each other's slip stream. Wedge could come from the arrow like shape the upper birds take and is an interesting choice of name, giving both strength and height to the group. It puts me in mind of a door stop, small but powerful.


Birds, once again, take me to a poem. Mary Oliver's 'Wild Geese' will always be a comfort:


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.




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