A soft animal body

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body

Love what it loves.”

A favourite quote, taken from Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese. I like the acceptance, and the allowance in the idea of ‘the soft animal of your body’. I like the permission to love, and the sense that this, and only this, is truly important.

I love this quote because it challenges me, because it is at odds with everything I am, everything I do, because I can see the beauty in it, but I’m a long way from living there.

What would it mean to accept my body as a soft animal? I’m kinder to soft animals than I am to myself. I’m not tolerant of my own bodily softness, seeing is as excess, as inherently unacceptable. The softness that is innately female I have a very complex relationship with, to say the least. To see the honest animal of myself, to see the mammal – accepting that mammals are furry, and they wrinkle over time, they hurt, and break and bleed if you aren’t careful with them. To see that mammal and honour it, would be a thing. As someone who honours nature, I’m pretty useless at doing that insofar as nature manifests in my own skin.

Love what it loves. Of course I love, and I’ve never tried to stop myself doing that, but I hide it. I try not to bother anyone with it, because I expect it to be an affront, something unwelcome. Rounds of seeing the disappointment in the faces of people when I’ve said ‘I love you’. Dealing with rejections from people who wanted me for sex but did not want anything of my heart, and felt pressured by the giving of it. Unreasonable, excessive, too much. I haven’t learned not to say it, but I’ve learned to be afraid of saying it.

The soft animal of my body, if it were some other animal body would turn up warm and friendly, to curl around legs, snuggle upon laps, offering warmth and its soft furry presence to comfort and soothe. I would be a cat, to purr soft affirmations into the bodies of others. This body doesn’t really lend itself to doing that.

I wonder what it would feel like to consider myself acceptable as a soft animal that loves what it loves.

Humans are not reliably kind to soft animal bodies – human or otherwise. Not to our own, not to each other’s not to the other soft animals we share this world with. How often do we treat things as though we expect them to be stone, and then claim to be surprised when they bleed and cry?

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “A soft animal body

  • Karen

    Thank you for your words ..

  • Sheila North

    This really resonated, and resonates: “Of course I love, and I’ve never tried to stop myself doing that, but I hide it. I try not to bother anyone with it, because I expect it to be an affront, something unwelcome.”

    In particular, the sentence about expecting love “to be an affront”. These days, my animal body is not only soft, but (comparatively) old. Most of the time, I accept this, but when I don’t … it’s awful.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Men have a difficult time showing gentleness as it is often viewed as a weakness. Being soft is taboo, the man must always be in control, strong and often aggressive in what is seen as a dangerous and competitive world. But we are never fully in control, nor can we be. We can be hurt confused, fearful, and that embarrasses us, so we suppress it. So we are out of balance and unhappy until we can admit the soft side, to be gentle, to protect and to love.

  • Martin

    Lovely piece and challenging too. As Christopher commented, men can have a difficult time expressing gentleness because of current societal expectations of them, and I for one, find it hard at times to express being a man yet not falling into the stereotypes. What has helped me is a couple of recent male friends who are happy to say they love me and give me a hug when we meet – clearly, it’s not a passionate love they are expressing, but a deep connectedness as fellow beings. I do hold back from expressing myself like that with some though – they might take it the wrong way.

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