Thursday, September 9, 2010

western winds

I can't remember a fall that has blown in as dramatically as this one, weather-wise (e.g. me almost being knocked off my bike multiple times by the wind) or event-wise: an amazing trip to Glacier National Park, major projects at work cropping up, and the deaths of a best friend's remarkable grandparents. So far I seem to be coping by taking ridiculously long walks and eating a lot of flax-laced granola.
I have also put myself on a media fast—that is, when not at work, I try to restrict the amount of time I spend online, reading newspapers and magazines, and even listening to music (I don't have a TV, so that's automatically eliminated). It is really really hard, and I do better some days than others, but I can see that it's doing a lot to help me be more of a human and less of frenetic frantic robot. Part of the reason the week we spent out West was so powerful, I think, was that it was a return to a natural rhythm: waking and moving around in the sun all day, eating because I was hungry (not bored or anxious), sleeping easily and heavily through the night. Talking or not talking, depending on how I felt. Thinking or not thinking. Solidifying my lower chakras in order to let the upper ones roam freely, if you know what I'm sayin...

But New Age insider vocab aside, there is truly so much noise and violence and fear in the world, that it is a very important project to resist it and—once your strength is gathered—to work to counteract it. To value and seek out what is thoughtful and quiet and good-hearted isn't easy. And for me at least, it's very hard to relax into being gentle instead of sharp, or kind instead of clever. But I think the rewards (I've only glimpsed them so far) are worth the terror of letting go of all the things you think you need, and the things you think you are.

I keep coming back to a phrase from the Ted Hughes poem "St. Botolph's" that I read for the first time a couple months ago. It's from The Birthday Letters, which for the most part is a meditation on his life with Sylvia Plath. Telling the story of their first meeting (at a party when they were students at Cambridge, when Sylvia famously ended their first kiss by biting him on the cheek so hard that she left a scar), he writes

You meant to knock me out
With your vivacity.
Ah, Ted, if only it weren't so frightening to let one's life force radiate naturally, instead of wielding it as a weapon....

Anyway, among the media I'm currently allowing myself is Walter Benjamin's brilliant collection of essays Illuminations, which I plan to write about in more detail once I'm (hopefully) able to speak about it with some coherence. Right now I'm just enjoying struggling for the first time in a long time with criticism/critical theory/philosophy/whatever you call what Benjamin writes, and taking the time as I go to write down unknown vocabulary words in a little notebook (currently the only tactic comprising my half-ass DIY method of studying for the GRE). I'm also listening to a delightful album by the delightful and very talented Rebecca Wudarski, on these sweet headphones recommended by Matt. And Mozart and Tom Petty and wayyy too much Cat Stevens on repeat on the record player. (Ah, Yusuf, if only it didn't feel so good to listen to you barefoot while eating lentils with the newly-cold wind blowing in from the west.....)

Any suggestions for the allowable media list?? Let a girl know, if you please.


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