Passage

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.


This is the opening of “Wild Geese,” a poem by Mary Oliver. Oliver, an iconic American poet, has honed the art of sensing and transcribing wildness.

The passage has floated in and out of my life at different times, usually lingering for a few years at a time.

Have you noticed this in your own life? A song, a movie, a book, a quote—something seemingly relevant to your life slides in as a companion at a very specific time. More so, you don’t call it in, it appears on its own. How does the touchstone know when to come in? Have we unknowingly sent some sort of signal requesting its presence?

When Oliver’s lines come in, I’m reminded that there is a bigger picture than the one I can see. That there is a patterning, an unfolding, and my singular job is to stop the resistance. The incessant mind chatter, the fear, the search for a logical response.

Right now, these words are taped to my studio wall. This does not have to be hard as I am making it.

Anxious is the word of the day, even the year. Perhaps in a visual artist’s version of stage fright, I often feel anxiousness stirring around in my body as I prepare to face the work currently in process, the one that’s trying to stare me down. If not that version, then anxiousness about making the deadline for two solo exhibitions coming up in a year. Or, if not those, anxiousness about the financial solvency in spending so much time in the studio. Choose your flavor: which form of anxiousness do you wish to wrestle with today Anne?

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Really? Is this true? Do you have proof this is true?

I don’t have proof but Oliver’s declaration, as if it is true, is what I’ve got right now so I’m going with it. For this particular passage