Thursday, October 28, 2010

Learning to Stand On Our Heads

25 October 2010

I'm in Ohio, and my niece and her friend want to learn to stand on their heads. 

I show them how to make a tripod consisting of two hands or elbows and the head. We practice.  I do stand on my head--I can--but I haven't thought to do so for years. 

And so I begin to wonder--when do we lose the enthusiasm for such dramatic shifts in perspective and in the orientations of our bodies?  At eight, most of us thirst for such upside-down intensities.  But scrape adulthood and all of our dignity gets vested in staying upright.  --Or, if we do now and then stand on our heads, it is within the context of a practice, like yoga, or anti-gravity exercises, and not for the sheer glee of seeing our feet in the clouds. 

It's a pity--and why hanging out with kids can be such fun.  They're so inventive and so erratic.  And honestly, who doesn't need to balance her head on the ground now and then?

Rachael DuLaney in the leaves--or are the leaves on Rachael?  
Thanks Rachael for all of your laughter and great ideas!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dreaming Sloth Leisure

Still mourning the passing of summer--the slippage from heat, light and leisure to frost, darkness and haste.  Once the semester starts I feel forever behind--in tatters, belated, in arrears.  Breathless.  I will never catch up.  So I hear, particularly loudly, Robert Lowell's lament to Elizabeth Bishop, when, in the full sweep of too much going on he writes: 

[C]an anything be well done that isn't accompanied by dreaming, sloth, contemplation, leisure?

In part, he's trying to make Bishop feel better about the painstaking slowness with which she writes--months and years may run out before she completes a poem.  Though at this writing, in late October 1963, revolution and a military coup are brewing in Brazil, where Bishop lives with Lota de Macedo Soares, and Kennedy will soon be assassinated--preoccupations that may slow even the speediest of poets.  And within weeks Lowell will be hospitalized by the onset of another manic episode--his own painful way of braking excessive speed.   

I just catch the flu--and then scramble on.  As Lowell writes, signing off, "Pardon this flurry.  It's just in the nerves."

Robert Lowell to Elizabeth Bishop, "Letter #285" (October 27, 1963). Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.  Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton, eds. (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2008): 513, 514.