Quote of the Day: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (hear her reading on Youtube)

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 small 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.

I had intended to use Mary Oliver’s poem that ends “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life,” but this one popped up first, and it is the one that marks the end of a tumultuous year, and rings in the hope of a new one. She acknowledges our despair and reminds us that we have a place on this Earth, that “the world offers itself to your imagination.” 


My word for 2021 is Adventure. Yes, I’m craving adventure, that goes beyond the confines of my house and neighborhood. While 2020 has taught me to appreciate what I have, where I live, my kind neighbors, and safe neighborhood, it has also shown me what is truly important. The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry (thank you very much, Robert Burns and John Steinbeck). I was in the midst of planning my theater visits, making summer plans, running here and there, stretching my timeline thin, when suddenly the world came to a screeching halt. The car sat neglected in the garage, and we sat dejected on the couch. It felt like the whole world was being grounded for the misbehavior of a few unruly classmates, and yet, we all share in the responsibility. I picked up my knitting, again, and made a “Quarantine Stitch” prayer shawl, truly the most monotonous pattern you could do, literally knit one, purl one, repeat, repeat, repeat. I got reacquainted with my kitchen, finding new recipes, continuing to bake bread, and adding my mom’s amazing cinnamon bread and buns (with high praise from my sons who said, “It tastes just like Grandma’s”). I watched so much TV.

Art by Reilly Fitzgerald, a gorgeous calendar for 2021!

I embraced new ways to connect. I immediately started doing piano lessons online. It’s not ideal, but it can work. I was so proud of the students who made adjustments, asked questions, worked through difficult sections, figured it out, and succeeded. It taught me to be less hands on and allow students the important process of discovery. I’ve learned how to play games with family online. We don’t all live near each other, so I believe we’ll keep up this activity even after the pandemic.

While my physical world shrunk to house and neighborhood, my ability to connect grew. I watched productions from theaters far and wide over the internet. I enjoyed Fringe Fest for the first time, and loved it. I made connections that would not have happened pre-pandemic. I found a way to expand my outreach, and help other artists reach a more global audience.

View from above. Drone Photo by Eric Rude

And, I’ve dreamed and imagined and set lofty goals for 2021 and beyond. I am honored to be the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. I have grand plans for my Youth Theater workshops and outreach. I’m writing a travel novel, in part to satisfy my own wanderlust, and I have plans to leave my safe nest and explore in the new year.

My boys were here at Thanksgiving. Eric brought his drone. I love these two pictures, two different perspectives, one from up above, showing us standing on the ground. The other from the ground, my four young men looking up. A moment when we’re all together.

Look up and out! Photo by Mary Aalgaard

May your New Year give you moments of looking up and out, finding adventure near and far, and quality connections. If I’ve learned anything from this year, it’s that we can plan and dream and scheme, but it can all change in a moment. Being with people is important, and we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, each other, and Mother Earth.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Who would you want in your quarantine pod, even for a short time? What is your word for the year?