Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Yearning and Remembering
Heading toward home, skirting the west edge of the pond, I happen to witness a small flock of Canada Geese, six to eight in number, perform a controlled decent through the air toward the water’s surface. They arc slightly to the left, and I am arrested in my attention by their perfect velocity, precise angles, the way they glide with outstretched wings, their only movements micro-adjustments of feathered-bodies-in-space.
I am a body-in-space as well, and I have no option but to stop walking in order to better witness the geese in their descent, to behold their performance. Once still, I have reconfirmed an impression I’ve had many times before that when I stop, or sometimes when I am still moving but more slowly than usual, I experience time as fundamentally in flux, that it expands and contracts, alters its pace, holds me gently.
Held gently, witnessing, I realize that I am holding my breath. And that my body – especially the region from my gut to my heart – is reacting as though I am on an airplane descending toward the tarmac of my home-town airport: gut going in two directions simultaneously, dropping down and churning, and my heart fleeing up into my throat. I am slightly queasy and disoriented, suddenly inhaling deeply and raising my shoulders and eyebrows in a sort of prayer for my safe landing. This physiological drama is unfolding so quickly and seemingly automatically, keeping pace with the flock’s descent. And then my mind kicks in.
My mind kicks in and takes over my embodied experience, doing what minds seem to like to do—commenting upon and asking questions about what is happening. Now, as I continue to watch the geese, no longer in the throes of my embodied experience, I think: “I wish I could fly like that! I have flown like that, that’s what my body is remembering! Wait, have I actually flown like that, not in an airplane but just in my body? Perhaps I’m remembering a favorite dream? Or, perhaps, I am remembering my life as a bird? (Maybe I was previously a silly goose!)” In other words, my mind is in a state of wonderment, desire, recognition and confusion, all at once, the cognitive analogue to what is happening in my body.
All at once: Wonderment, desire, recognition and confusion. I start breathing regularly again, the geese have landed safely, and so have I. I resume my walk back home, trying to keep a fix on what just happened. Time is back to its business as usual, no longer rocking me gently but picking up my pace, but I resist, I dwell in the experience a bit longer. And I ponder this question: Am I yearning or remembering?
Am I yearning or remembering? Now as I write this tribute to the geese, to my life as a bird, I recall for the first time for quite awhile something my daughter said to me when she was barely four years old:
“Mama, do you remember when we were still in the stars?”