“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves,” writes Mary Oliver in “The Wild Geese.” This line has become an anthem for this generation, and for those of us going through changes. It might be the most quoted line of this decade. We need this growth and spiritual advice desperately.
Not easy to let the soft animal love, though, if you own upbringing has been difficult. One poet in our workshops is far into the journey of discovering what that might be. Who she is, what that soft animal might love. And poems are a powerful aid.
The journey might not be pleasant, and the poems can be dark. In fact, we were working with our poet and her poem, which has all the pain of being orphaned in a few compact lines. The images were energetic and troubled. The poet worked into the trauma and took a step forward. That step was dripping with pain, and it was only one small step. But the step was forward.
We could feel her exhilaration. We could also feel the darkness.
When it came time for the poet to speak, she was full of gratitude. “My previous workshops got so they wouldn’t read my poems. Too dark!” She mimicked those folks, holding up her hands with her index fingers crossed to ward off evil. “Don’t read us your poems!”
We looked at each other in astonishment. Hadn’t we just been given a few stations of her journey as a gift? Tough though it was, we were honored to join her.
I can’t speak for others, but for myself, my own journey is so difficult, I’m grateful for anyone sharing their own troubles. It’s trusting, for one thing. For another, it affirms the faith that we are together in this difficulty called life and there is common ground. Thanks are due her, from us, for such a gift.
I looked the poet in the eye. “I’m grateful for the company.”
(With help from D. Jayne McPherson.)