After spending my morning with a massive flock of snow geese in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, I returned home with a vague memory of having recently read a poem about these winter visitors. Suspecting that it might be a poem by Mary Oliver, I looked through my volumes and found the poem below in Oliver's New and Selected Poems: Volume Two (Beacon Press, 2005). It is such a privilege, as Oliver reminds us, "to love what is lovely, and will not last!"
by Mary Oliver
Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won't.
It doesn't matter.
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.
You can hear a reading of Mary Oliver's poem, "Snow Geese," by clicking on the following Youtube link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=zAxN9Zu6hfE