Twice this past week someone gave me Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” poem that begins:
“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.”
That “only” can be a lifetime achievement kind of word. Some of us are slow learners. Some of us have had more to slog through than others. Some of us didn’t get much support early on. Well a lot of us, really.
But, then again, that “only” can be a lickety-split moment that catches us unawares: the hummingbird outside the window, the geraniums climbing the avocado tree, Mary Oliver’s wild geese. It is not that they are suddenly there. They are always there, somewhere. But it is the flutter of connection that rises suddenly inside and calls deeper and louder than our sad stories because it is happening right now, and we are here to hear. It is the surprise of finding that we are still alive, despite the fog of mood, the onslaught of events, the incessant chatter of broken-record thinking. All those things continue – but are muted for a moment as the world does a quick side step and shifts the perspective.
A moment may not seem like much. But when you get a good one it fills the vase from bottom to top. Even a ‘less crummy’ moment brings variation. And noticing the moments of color, or even gradations of gray, negates the thought that ‘it is all like this’. All is a big word. Bigger than your perceptions or mine.
Do we need the suffering to get to the hope? Sometimes it seems that way, if only to get us to the place of being so fed up that we start to trust our longing for some relief. ‘It has got to be better than this.’ Trust that longing even though it hurts. Hurt can be forward motion – that e-motion business hurt-ling somewhere.
I like the Kahil Gibran quote: “Sorrow carves the wells that joy doth fill.”
Joy and hope can seem a long way off when we are in despair. But drops of hope become the trickle that bridges the gap. A tiny flame is as much fire as a big one. It is its very nature.
And as for our nature, what is it that Oliver calls the “soft animal of your body”? ‘Body’ resonates for me. Not as the ‘all’ of what we are, but certainly as a way in. Somatic Experiencing® has taught me how to access the body’s organic intelligence as a way towards healing. It is as if our nervous systems really want to be in balance, in rhythm, and trusting our attraction to healthy pleasure can bring us home in a way that no amount of thinking can ever do.
A light bulb lit up for me one day when my teacher, Steven Hoskinson, said, “We ARE nature.” I am as much nature as the sparrows squabbling outside the window. This gives me hope.
I am alive. And that is good.
Some days are tougher than others, but as the saying goes, while there is breath there IS hope.