You do not have to be good

I’m not one for quoting poetry. I’d kind of like to be, but I’m not.

Using up the paint on the brush
Sally Swain play-in-progress

My Dad was, but I’m not.

Some people have a perfect, poignant poetic morsel for every occasion, but

this is not me.

Why? I don’t know. It’s just not been my life’s focus or passion, even though I admire poetry and poets of the serious kind, and I’m forever writing silly rhymes in my head, which you, dear reader, are subjected to.

street art

Small sweet street art
washing away with time

You do not have to be good.

I found myself composing an Art and Soul e-newsletter title:

You do not have to feel strong.

This is for the Strength Flags playshop on offer tomorrow, Saturday 20th May. Participants get to use art materials to explore how and where resilience plays through them.

I guess I don’t want the participants to think they have to be a certain way in order to create. I don’t want you to think you have to be a certain way in order to create.

You can create from any heart or headspace.

That is the brilliance of art processes and materials. You can use them to explore strength even when you are feeling like a mushy-mooshy vulnerable wormy type creature, that is, when you are not at your strongest.

An Art and Soul way of saying this is:
Where we are is where we begin.

tree resilience aqueduct

A little tree is growing high, ever so high up on the aqueduct

You do not have to be good.

Mary Oliver is an oft-quoted poet these days, at least in my neck of the social media woods.

Here’s an actual video of her reading Wild Geese.

I love Wild Geese. I know I’m not alone. Particular lines poke increasingly through my literal worry-brain.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

Thank you, Mary. That is such a relief. I sometimes function as though I have to be good and walk on my knees and all. With your words, Mary, that shredded skin, those scrape wounds are healing straight away.


art dementia

Art Apron
One day, as I leaned in towards her, an aged care resident living with advanced dementia began painting onto my apron. She painted onto my apron while I was wearing it.
She happily dabbed directly onto the cloth, in a tender moment of intimacy.
In art therapy, safety and respect are of utmost importance. I am very careful to not share clients’ artworks in public, but I feel it is safe and respectful in this case to share these anonymous brushstrokes with you.
After all, I now walk around the place with her tiny art expression displayed for anyone who might notice.

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

How is that for a delicious invitation to be gentle with yourself? To follow your soul’s nourishment? To soften? To allow your creative expression to wend its way along its chosen path? To listen deeply for the truth of the impulse and to give it space?

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Mary reminds me of the importance of being heard; the importance of mutuality; of connecting in the realness of heart-tugging human emotion.

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.

I’m not even going to begin to comment. There is too much exquisite imagery and painful beauty to slurry the waters with my clumpy responses. Let the poetry stand. Let Mary Oliver speak to you across that rainy, pebbly, mountainous, deep, clear sky.

tree trunk leaves

a few folds, leaves and scrunchy stuff at the base of a tree

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.

Do you hear the call to create? Do you hear the call to connect? Do these words help you feel located after a sense of dislocation?

You have a place in this muddled-up, mixed-up world. We all do.

small objects delight

Small but bright

Tell me, tell us, how does Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese poem speak to you?


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