The Soft Animal Of Your Body,
I don’t go on vacation. I often joke about it and say, “I don’t know how not to work.”
My parents straddled the silent and boomer generation–traditionalists who valued hard work, frugality, and discipline. I watched and learned, my friends. I’m an excellent student.
When I went from married to single mother, I knew what to do. Save money, pick up another job, and keep going. My Boomer slash Gen X–style affirmation of
“Slow and steady wins the race” makes me laugh when I compare it to the currently popular
“I embrace rest, relaxation, fun, and play.”
Without being asked, my inner voice volunteers, “But, like also keep working, right?”
I write this from a café in the south of France where I’m teaching writing. I will soon go to Paris and teach there as well. In between workshops, I’m trying des petite vacances. Amidst feeling curious, relaxed, and joyful, there are flashes of guilt. That familiar and not unfriendly voice in my head whispers, “How’s that to-do list, Ann? Checked anything off lately?”
I don’t want that voice to disappear, but I wish it would stand down and let me enjoy this baguette. FFS
Then I read the Mary Oliver Poem: Wild Geese and the Titanic shifted course a meter or two.
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 clean 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.
Now, with these words, I put away this note, and for those of you that need it I say to you, “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
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PS. (Gone fishing)
PPS. (Let’s be real here. Gone shopping.)