I finished the collection of essays, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings, as I sat on a 747 jet lifting above the ground and carrying me to London. And from London it occurs to me that I’ve been considering motion lately: first in reading about Geryon in Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, then in Kim Dana Kupperman’s aforementioned collection and now in the book I’m halfway through, Wanderlust, by Rebecca Solnit. Departure has been on my mind recently: departure as boundary; the desire for departure; the need to separate; departures of the heart; of the mind; the way my mind wanders from whatever here it occupies to float elsewhere in the daylight; a division, a deviation; a leaving; a journey.
I like motion: to feel muscles tense as my body pushes forward; the sound of grass or gravel or mud beneath my feet; the wind passing over my ears; the ways the eyes move forward into the distance and back into something small and close. And there is something too about the openness of the sky and the ability to think in open space; it’s something about how the body feels small outdoors and so the brain can sprawl as it likes.
Silence is what I’m looking for lately, the kind of silence which isn’t really silent at all but contains the sounds of leaves or wind or birds or insects or all of them. It’s the silence of space: I imagine grass and dirt and childhood. Walking in the landscape is a means of both solitude and connection; silence and thought. On a recent walk through London streets and parks (see also these pictures), I noticed noise and beautifully manicured flowers and trees, and how I never touched anything. What I’m craving is the kind of place which begs to be touched: a branch here, a petal there, a certain rock, fingers dipped in a stream.
“If the body is the register of the real,” says Solnit, “then reading with one’s feet is real in a way reading with one’s eyes alone is not.” This, I think, begins to arrive at my meaning: that movement and touch feel real in the way they can be traced through memory and observation and feeling. The body has memory: think, for instance, of a lover brushing a hand over your back or cheek. I can still feel these moments. I think too of the mountains I’ve climbed and how in the climbing they ceased to be abstract lines on a topographic map. This kind of experience is what I am dreaming of.
And, now, here I am back in New York, finishing this letter at my desk, from which I will leave in the morning for several weeks at the Yaddo Artist Colony. At Yaddo I plan to walk, to move, to make things. I hope to be offline while I’m there and outside. I’ll report back on my return.