Animal Embraces

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Photo Credit: Rebecca Beachy

Human bodies are locked into constant intimacy with the bodies of other animals—the embrace is so tight that it’s hard to notice and easy to forget. As a volunteer at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, I spend time each week on public view preparing dead birds to become collections specimens. When talking to kids about the process and purpose of taxidermy, the commonness of animal products is something crucial to remember.

The animal inside of the pillow, belt, or shoe often doesn’t feel real. Non-human animals cradle our heads at night. They walk with us, tied around our waists and sewed up around our feet. They reside in our mouths and stomachs and bowels, are a part of our very cellular make-up.

The “down” bed pillow, for example, frames and supports the head on a rectangular piece of fabric (almost screen-like) as it sleeps. Remembering the bird inside the pillow (beneath the fabric veil) re-animates the goose right beneath the human scalp.

“Pine nap” shows an experiment of taking pine saw dust from an Amish mill near Chesterhill, Ohio, and sewing it up into a canvas pillow with the intent of returning it to the tree farm, to experience and photograph sleeping on it beneath the living pine trees.

It was enlivening, smelling the piney dust of the tree emitting from the pillow, offered back to the living forest it came from.

“Pine Rest” video (click here).

I wonder if it is more possible in sleep to be open to simple, necessary connections that the unconscious recognizes and the waking mind habitually denies.

All photographs by Rebecca Beachy.

  • Rebecca Beachy

    Born in Denver, Colorado, Rebecca Beachy is a recipient of both an MFA in Studio Arts and an MA in Art History from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her sculptures, interventions and installations have been exhibited throughout Chicago and beyond. Find more at

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