The Soft Animal of Your Body

On Sunday I posted about being on the brink of a major fall-apart, which caused a dozen great people to write in telling me to take some time for myself.

I couldn’t seem to take time away though and so therefore wrote something both Monday and yesterday. 

Things aren’t exactly better so here comes the part where I do stop, probably just for a day or two but even that will be huge to me. I’ll put up last week’s column tomorrow since I do that every week anyway to give myself at least one day off and then, well, I’ll just have to see where I am.

For now here is the amazing Mary Oliver with a poem I think I never really felt the truth of until today. It’s called Wild Geese and it goes like this:

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 clear 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.

13 thoughts on “The Soft Animal of Your Body

  1. Hi Terry,
    Everyone needs a break sometimes. Relax, recharge, and hope you are back to form soon.
    Dick Snetsky

    1. Well Dick how nice to see YOUR name here!
      I am only happy when I;’m writing I sometimes think. No it’s not the writing it’s the opportunity to try making people smile and feel that it would all turn out, like I used to do in that third floor classroom every day with those wonderful teenagers in my long-ago 20s. Hey come to the reunion September 24 ok?

  2. Terry,
    It’s summer-time, it’s HOT and humid!! So relax and, for a little while, let your juices do as they will without you trying to channel them too much.

    Try a Captain Morgan and Moxie on ice and think gentle breezes and easy days.

    Love ya,kiddo!


    1. But then there are the Weight Watcher scaled to answer to! Plus bloodwork Friday! …

      I AM just starting to read the story of John and Abigail Adams, the book I won at Lowell High for being the wonkiest little student of English senior year. – then maybe a nap. THEN more saving the world!

      What a crazy person I have become.

      You’d better come to our high school reunion. Hard to believe we have never actually met – 980 in our class: no wonder!

  3. Terry,
    I wish you would take care of yourself the way you take care of others. It’s ok to think about yourself for a change. Be gentle with yourself.

    Hugs from,

  4. well that sounds ridiculous but take today which I was going to try to “take off”. I am just done finding just the thing to send to my darling niece Gracie who is the daughter of my sister Nan and the grand-niece namesake of our aunt. It’s a bracelet that was that once belonged to this beloved second mother of ours. I’m wrapping it now to mail to her for her birthday Sunday. It feels right but not necessarily the right thing for me to be doing right now. Am I supposed to be at the beach or something??

    1. you’re supposed to lie down and do absolutely nothing. After my MRI the other day, when the heavy construction over my head was competing with – no, drowning out – Shubert’s 9th symphony, I couldn’t believe how relaxed I felt.

      maybe you should take yourself into an MRI machine! 🙂

  5. Terry: You have always been happy when engaged in the world around you–recovering antiques, redoing a room, taking on more children,writing, selling your writing, writing,managing an ever moving household of people through the years, writing,….One theme that emerges from many of your recent articles is your love of your time teaching. Clearly that experience resonates still with the deepest, most essential part of you. You still are a teacher as you write (and share poems–I want to teach this one you posted!); your classroom is simply not hemmed in by four walls. You do touch so many lives now, and you do not have to grade papers! You have never stopped being a teacher.

    1. Jacquie, at a stroke you cure me with this! I don’t write very much about the 8 high schoolers I spend a lot of my most ‘alive’ time with, ambassadors to our small elmy town from the larger worlds of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Harlem, Newark and Atlanta. Scholars with the ABC program they are, 3 now college bound, 3 more to arrive as freshmen in September. If you can bless people by saying their names here they are: Greg, Brandon, Josh, Ahmad, Tristan, Cameron, Rayvoughn and Hazees. And you Jacquie. I name and bless you.

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