“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.” – Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’
“Doing what you love isn’t a privilege; it’s an obligation. Find out what you love.
Do it because you love it. Stick with it. Start now.” ― Barbara Sher
In the past week and before, there has been far more talk of hate and anger than of love. Even inside prison, the mood has been quashed lower than normal. It can seem as if there is nothing to look forward to, nothing to strive for.
This is one of the reasons we like to bring art materials in on a regular basis. Whatever else may be roiling in the minds or across the floors of the units, art always elevates the mood, centers the focus, grounds the chaos. Of course, we also write – and the words this week were no less powerful than usual. Haunting phrases hang still in the air even days later:
‘but everything she’s ever loved has all ways been all wrong … In her world there is no place to love … she loves in darkness …’
‘Your interests and beauty marks have a long story to tell, all those scars and broken bones from all the times you fell’
‘Love is scary. My vulnerability, the unknown. Trust, something that’s been broken so many times.’
‘Let me soften your burden. Let softness rule, OK?’
‘If I could do one thing, I would scream so that I know you could hear me and tell you that I’m still here. You know, just in case you forgot.’
But the art! Using pages from various of Deborah Koff-Chapin’s new Soul Touch coloring books, each woman’s need to love, to connect with the soft or hard edges within, to express light and dark in stark and direct terms came pouring forth. To honor this experience, I have chosen to create a gallery of their work for you to witness, as we did. See what calls to you, where you find the soft.