The Soft Animal of Your Body Loves What It Loves

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photo by Ginny Schneider

The other night, deep in the darkness of my nylon tent, deep in the depths of a summer night, camping along the Hood Canal, I felt afraid. There were many things that night that felt like sudden spinning stars plunging into the cold depths of a frigid sky that I had no control over- you know the ones: the health issues of a loved one, financial stress, the slow dying of a friend, and, as I lay trembling in my interiors,I felt the dark night of the soul slowly eclipsing the dark night of the sky in a thick molasses. As these thoughts crawled up and over my body, I remembered a quote by Mary Oliver from her poem, “Wild Geese”: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Those words sank in deeper and deeper.  I noticed that soon, very soon, I became soft and supple inside. I  know what that looks like- what that feels like. “The soft animal of my body”- the simple, tender rhythm of being alive, just alive. Not working out the solutions to all of the conundrums in my world. Not even pondering, problem-solving, or even praying in this case. But letting the tender, tethered parts of me that belong to this world, have their place here. To be coddled by the earth. Caressed by the cool-scented night wind. To find comfort in the simplicity of my own skin, my own being, “the soft animal of my body.” And to let it “love what it loves”. Which now is sleep. Simplicity. Gentle rest.

What does “the soft animal of your body” need today? How can you let it “love what it loves”?

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