Anatomy of listening: Wild and Precious

The nurse called to the patient ‘they are dancers – they have come to dance for you.

The nurse explains to us that she had been down, depressed. She was, as we arrived wrestling with the feeding tube, its presence no doubt disturbing. Other to her. 

We said hello through our masks, the best we could, and started the music.

We began with gestures of hands and arms, and it was clear that something awakened within her instantly. Her hands echoed and amplified ours. We were weaving something in being together. In the absence of words another language is formed by the necessity of needing to communicate. 

Soon her face followed. 

Wide eyes, wild with something that was deep within and was finding its way out.

The force of pleasure and the pleasure of wildness through her. Her eyes were on fire. I told her that I could see how much she loved dancing by the way her eyes were sparkling.

By this point all her limbs were speaking in their own way and tongue. 

‘Her legs are moving, look at her legs’ the nurses seeing her way of being different, now a dancer, as she always was. 

As she is. As we all are under the skins we wear, out in the world.

Staff caught a glimpse of this encounter within the corridor and stopped or slowed down, some confused, most curious.

There is something that seems out of the ordinary when bodies that move in public spaces, move out of the pedestrian language that is so often determined by the context. When arms wave, and faces curl, and hands shoot out like branches. Something is disrupted in our ordinary perception and something wakes up in the air.  

On the way to the hospital that morning I stood for a while as passers-by were trying to help a goose that had found its way onto the high street amongst the cars and buses, dogs and people walking with their cappuccinos. It was stuck in a doorway, disoriented, as joggers and a schoolgirl tried to get help.

They were giving it some posh bread in the hope it would settle. As I watched from the side of the road, it was so sad in so many ways, but in some other way so full of hope. 

The passers-by knew that the goose did not belong so well there in the street, and so they huddled around to try and help it get home, wherever that was. It was wild, its head moving about, its body displaced and out of context. Shouting in its own language so that the passers-by were, in some way, listening to its story. 

As I walked on eventually I wondered about how out of context we all are in some ways..

Today, as we danced with this woman, bound to the things that kept her alive, I guess we were trying to help her get home in some small way. As a dancer, I think that’s what I’ve been dancing for, a kind of life-long migration over the continents of the fractured self, a navigation towards presence through the body. 

The journey of always trying to remember, or trying not to forget what it is that makes us feel alive.

Joseph Campell once said: “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive”


Her face folded and unfolded all the stories that a face can live. Rage, wonder, loss, delight, and peace. They passed through her, as her hand and gestures delivered each one for us to hold, see, amplify and recognise. A few seconds or minutes today, just for that time together we can feel like ourselves. I hope she did. Suspended inside the domestic, there is still enough room to fly.

The body and our imagination can help us find our way home. Not in the context of home being a far away destination, or a place were always longing for, but a right here kind of place that is breath and flesh, expression, gesture, and connection. 

This patient’s face today was beautiful. It is rippling through me still as I write.

Her beauty in the wildness she could release from her face, a flock of geese flying from the centre of each eye. Dazzling us with wonder.

I don’t know what happened to the goose on the way to the hospital. 

I can imagine. 

I like to imagine.

I will imagine it being welcomed back by its friends.

Open-winged welcome.

Wild and precious.

Leave a Reply