Live Virtual Group Session: 7pm EST March 30th 2020

Thank you SO MUCH to all who joined us for our first virtual group session!! We had 66 people on the zoom meeting — there were folks from New York and New Jersey but also from Texas, North Carolina, California, Georgia, Alabama, and other countries all over the world — China, Morocco, Argentina, Greece, Brazil, the UK, Poland, and more! Wow. What an incredible thing, to get to come together and feel the collective energy in that virtual space.

The poem that we read together was “Wild Geese,” by Mary Oliver. We spoke about how the poem seems to juxtapose the idea and feeling of loneliness with the concept of the “the family of things,” and how it offers different ideas of intimacy with “the soft animal of your body” and “the world offers itself to your imagination.”

The prompt we wrote to was: “Meanwhile, the world goes on.” We were only able to hear three pieces, but what we heard was incredible — each piece speaking to our current moment, and each piece full of hope. One response, written as a poem, was unfinished due the time constraint for the writing, and it was observed how this was representative of our current moment — we are constructing a response to this global situation, but are not yet finished.

Please, those of you who were on the call with us, we encourage you to share your work with us in the comments below, and to respond to one another there and keep up the conversation. The full text of the poem is below, and please join us for one of our next sessions: Tuesday March 31st at 7pm EST and Wednesday April 1st at 7pm EST, with more times to be announced soon.

Again, due to the wonderful turnout for this first session, we encourage you to join as promptly as possible: After a ten minute grace period, we will be closing the Zoom session to preserve the integrity of the session for those joined. If you try to join past that time and are unable, we encourage you to join the next session! More times and opportunities will be announced soon.

We look forward to seeing you all with us again!

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver
Originally published in “Dream Work” by Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986.

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.

7 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 7pm EST March 30th 2020

  1. Andre Lijoi

    In the shadow of Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
    Columbia Narrative Medicine Virtual Group Session
    March 30, 2020

    Prompt: Meanwhile the world goes on…

    Meanwhile the world goes on
    amidst this plague of contagion that shrouds the world
    hearts and minds filled with angst
    worried will I catch this, I don’t want to
    will it catch me, I don’t want it to
    will we have enough PPE
    ICU beds
    will we flatten the curve

    Meanwhile the world goes on
    people want to reach out to others, to touch
    people notice, unlike Brueghel’s plowman or shepherd
    but we keep our distance
    communities come together on their sidewalks
    to be together
    heroes march into the face of danger
    they get close

    Isn’t it ironic that the crown, this corona reminds us of
    how close we are in this common humanity.


  2. Meanwhile, the world goes on. The trash still floats to the grass on the sidewalk in my neighborhood. My ovaries still pump pump pump estrogen, oblivious to the news, saying baby, baby, baby. Meanwhile, cars still crash and people die from other things, the kid still come into the ER with DKA, the boys with schizophrenia still see their demons. So it can’t be the end of the world yet. Not yet. Meanwhile, I’m still breathing, even inside the raspy papery yellow mask, breathing the same nitrogen in and out, in and out, in and out, dry and humid at the same time, stinky, and when I step outside the hospital after 13 hours and take it of, I never knew a breath of air could feel so fresh, so delicious, so full, so complex.


  3. Nellie Hermann

    Hi all! (Thank you Andre and Rebecca for sharing these beautiful pieces!) Just to share – the book that was mentioned on the call was “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson,” by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. – Nellie


  4. Meanwhile the world goes on,
    time stands still – paused in song.
    Supermarkets crash while people dash
    and we cower at home, hoping it won’t last.

    We watch the sun in rotation with the moon,
    praying for this to be over soon –
    get up every day, everything is the same…..
    wish we could somehow break out of this crazy game!

    I know, and you know, and we know that feeling,
    that inevitable terrifying jolt towards the ceiling,
    bracing ourselves as it approaches

    (Since I spent the first 30 seconds of our writing time getting my hoodie, I went ahead and finished the poem last night after our session. You can hear the full 16 bars on my Instagram @couragesagesse1 . Thanks for this session!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trisha Parsons

    Mary Oliver, Wild Things (poem)

    Prompt: Meanwhile, the world goes on

    You died.
    And the world, went on.
    The grief, despair, the lonely nights,
    crouched alone on your bed with
    my newborn tucked beside me.
    My father spoke of his wish to speak at your funeral,
    the priest wanting to speak for you,
    and the balnce between.
    The world went on,
    without knowledge of what happened.

    The world goes on
    We are expected to continue
    Even though the moment of our leaving hangs on a door handle.
    The fate of our children rests on the care of our man stocking shelves.
    The turn of a phrase could calm or continue.

    The world goes on,
    trees grow in the the shade of our struggles
    leaves rustle
    grass resurrects itself from the death of the fall
    birthing something new for our common tomorrow
    A Phoenix rising, a new earth
    covered in dirt, forgiveness, and hope


  6. erika nelson

    Meanwhile the world goes on…
    I go on. I don’t know how.
    At night, night for night,
    oh the night.
    The nights are especially rough
    and long and lonely,
    lonely because nights are so infinitely silent
    without him,
    without the world
    I had grown so accustomed to,
    now more silent without his smile,
    without his laugh,
    his incessant talking about everything
    and nothing and all that is in-between,
    the way his presence filled the room,
    his presence next to me, saying nothing…

    I hold the stuffed panda bear closer,
    clutch it tighter to me,
    to my heart. The panda bear
    that had accompanied us
    on our many, many hospital visits.
    So many I lost count.
    “You need a teddy bear,”
    Nicole had told me when she saw the photo
    of the empty hospital room.
    No, no teddies. No special decorations.
    We had no intention of staying or settling in.
    Besides we have Panda Panda.

    He was like a panda – we all thought that
    when we first saw the film Kung Fu Panda.
    He smiled sheepishly as we gushed,
    “it’s you, it’s you!”
    He smiled sheepishly. He knew.
    He knew we saw him.
    He knew we knew him.
    He left knowing he was loved and missed.
    So loved, so missed. And now I wish
    I could see him,
    that I could hear him speak again,
    that he’d appear at my bedside
    like the dead often do.
    “It’s hard for the dead to do that,”
    Monica told me. “It takes a lot out of them…”

    Meanwhile life goes on…
    and somehow in the middle
    of the lonely, lonely infinite night
    I fall asleep
    to wake again and go on…


  7. Christel

    Prompt: Meanwhile the world goes on

    Alone at home
    together with many
    Is isolation that bad?
    Not for me
    It made me open my eyes
    and see what I had closer to me
    that I could’t see
    Constraint replaced by discovery
    of my own home
    and my own self
    and him.
    The world goes on
    and it will be a better place
    because we have all
    to think and appreciate
    what we have
    and don’t have


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