Sunday, April 24, 2011

the softest smell

It is Sunday which only means one thing! Actually, it means about a million different things to a million different people, but here on Tomorrow's Theme, it only means one thing! Thank god for only having one thing to deal with! Thank god for themes of the day!

Anyway, to get to the point, Sunday is the day when we consider Monday's theme... and Monday's themes now have the consistency of being a time to consider yourself. In other words, Sunday's blog entry (and Monday's theme) will fall under the sub-category of a journal prompt. I recognize that I haven't unveiled all of my sub-categories to the world yet, so you may be a bit confused at the moment. That is okay. As I tell my students at the beginning of the year, I make my classroom a safe and comfortable place for them in all ways... except one... there will be many times when they feel mentally uncomfortable, when they feel confused as to what one thing has to do with another or what direction we are headed. Being in a state of confusion is a good thing, I tell them. That means your brain is stretching to accommodate new ideas, new perspectives, and new dimensions. Embrace the confusion. These are the first steps to a new stability.

For tomorrow, I found an interesting journal prompt for you to consider. It reminds me of my absolute favorite Shakespearean expression, "But soft!"... an expression which implies the tenderness of waiting... an expression I hope to revive. Anyway, here is a place for you to begin your work week:

What smells the softest?

1. First breath upon waking

One of my favorite experiences in life -- one of the best simple moments -- are the first few moments upon waking in the morning. I am one of those unusual people who doesn't use an alarm clock. For the most part I would mark my restless, fitful, light-sleeping nature as a negative. However, in this one particular aspect, I can see how lucky I am. How many of us are able to truly enjoy those moments when you re-open your eyes naturally, drawn somehow back out of slumber and dreams and the unconscious, and therein you hover in somnolence, in liminal almost and not quite, in-between the in and out of your own life, your own self. You lie and yet think no thoughts. You look and yet see nothing at all. Or rather you see and don't process. You see purely and disconnectedly. You don't breathe... for a long time... for an eternity. The little quiet moments that exist in the still of your own dawn expand into a thousand lifetimes. They break over and over you like waves and you are unable to move, helplessly held captive in the vulnerability of breathlessness. You absorb and integrate; you die slowly and let the dead parts of yourself fall away into the pink blush of sky that evaporates outside your bedroom. And then finally you do breathe. And the breath does not feel like anything -- it is too light, too gossamer, too delicate. It only smells of soft as it enters your nostrils and brings you malleableness once again.

2. Your neck and the place where your forearm meets your upper arm

You already smell the softest because I love you. But there are still softest soft-smelling parts of you. Your neck. My head resting on your shoulder. The way your neck curves around and cradles my head smells of softest tenderness. On a long drive, I reach over and caress your neck when you begin to appear tired. Smooth, warm skin spreading over strong tendons. My long piano fingers smell the softness of your gentle heart through the touch upon your sweet-whispering, clemency-misty, dulcet soft soft neck.

And then there is that space within your arm. Soft-smelling when I reach out for you, for the rugged strength that you embody and evince, for the you that dares to protect me... and find this tiny little spot. The softest smell of your vulnerability. Not a vulnerability that is weak, but one that is carefully hidden... only to be opened to those who earn that trust, only to be revealed from the inside out, only to be known by its softest smell.... only to be smelled by those who begin and begin and begin with you in the soft pacific melody of eternal new beginnings.

3. Spring mud

First walk outside in months. Snow remains in patches, its frigid tenacity releasing a sweep of hard, cold winter as I pass. But winter is escapable now. It can only hold on in fragmented shadows, gripping the ground in desperation. Spring opens like hands, like the warm breath that speaks words never heard before but felt, like the softest smell. My feet move with new-found freedom in the softest slightly perspiring air, the ground dancing with me as it yields to my every step. The woods are open and light. They ask to be entered. They speak through a chorus of downy buds and muted pastels. They sound and re-sound with the echoes of winged memories, of time that has been safely buried and now oozes back out of winter chambers as dark, rich, mineral-replete mud. I sink in. I am buoyed up. I kick up mud on my bare legs. I move through the dewy ancient woods, through the untouched moments ahead, softest smell enveloping me.

4. Your voice on the Rialto

"...not mysterious... only unfathomable; not concealed, but incomprehensible; it is a clear infinity, the darkness of the pure unsearchable sea." (Ruskin, Modern Painters)

It had been months since I had seen your face. It had been months in which I had awoken over and over in a foreign country, in a foreign where and how, in a foreign me. Your voice on the phone, when I so rarely was able to make the long-distance call, crackled with static and insurmountable distance. You became an abstraction, a memory only made real when I spoke aloud of you to my host parents... and then you were still trapped in the nasal noises, the back-of-throat rolling r's, the missing liaisons when last letters dropped mutely off of the end of words. You fell flatly to the ground, always apart in your two-dimensional space, always painfully present in the chambers of my heart as a remembered potential.

But it was today. Today was the day when I would see you for the first time again, when a daughter would be reunited with her father in the shifting, watery Venetian light, in a city hovering in its own natatory existence, echoing a million legends on its uneven stone streets, through its maze of canals, against the glow of medieval facades. All is reflection. Everything dissolves and reappears. And yet you will be real. And I walk with exquisite speed, propelled by the you that once held me for hours in the depths of night... both of us fragile, both of us scared and yet reassured by each other. And then I hear your calming, paternal resonance: "Ciao bellissima!" and the unfathomable becomes a 'clear infinity' and somehow space collapses and I am in your arms again... softest smell.

5. The letter you wrote me

I first read it on a plane. High above my own life and earthliness, I read your words and your voice spoke them into my soul. You enclosed one of your own original poems. You were so many decades apart from me, so many experiences wiser. I was a vernal ray of sunshine, just alighting upon the branches of life. Yet, you saw me. You noticed how I listened when you and the other adults spoke, long hours spent at the breakfast table, coffee mugs refilled, the air and my cousins getting restless with the day, dishes sitting soapily in the sink awaiting and abiding. You noticed how carefully I practiced my lines for the school play, as if the performance was to be seen by millions. You read my own stories and poems. You took them seriously. You saw the me I could become in the me that was reaching. You took the hand of both mes and placed them in your palm as you wrote me a letter.

I find it again now, tucked into a book. A book that was too old and complicated for a ten-year-old to be reading. Your words speak with the same faith, the same inspiration, the same graceful sentiment. "You are a writer." It was always so simple. And yet it was a gift of trust and belief that you gave to me. There has been so much of which I have been unsure. There is so much I do not understand. Yet the title you bestowed upon me has been the only constant. It was there in potential. I never would have trusted it so completely without you. And now the words speak from inside of me where you exist, where you traveled after you died. I feel you more perhaps. Your voice slips into your cautious smile into your delicate hands into my own hands as I hold your letter and bring it close to my face. It speaks volumes; it bristles with thick pulpiness and pen marks blurred only slightly by time and poignancy. I close my eyes... softest smell.

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