I didn’t take a new photo today: I pulled up an old one. I’ve just started singing lessons with Natalie, and had the first one today. I feel like my world is cracking open. I feel happy and courageous and strong and capable. I feel the process of healing. I feel the reminder of life. I feel really, really happy. The last time I remember feeling this happy through singing was 5 years ago, in this photo. This moment. This snapshot, before things got heavy, before things weighed down. Singing lessons are always a type of therapy for me… I’ve written about that before. This time, today, I realized it’s all about release and control: the singer’s angels and demons. It’s about balance. It’s about allowing. Allowing the sound, allowing the sigh, allowing the emotions, and riding them out of your body like a wave. It’s feeling, not thinking. It’s sensation. The physical sense of sound in the body. From where it starts, forms, and is born out into the world. It’s muscle memory. It’s memory.
I’m finding really effective articles about Boston’s process of healing. One from the Rumpus, another that my cousin read and posted on Facebook. Somewhere, in the depths of all of the words being formed for this moment, I remember reading that if someone wanted to weaken the human spirit, to harm our drive and our strength, an attack on a marathon was a very poor choice. An attack anywhere is a poor choice, but these people are necessarily strong. Voluntarily strong.
Once, I was lying around a hotel room in Paris reading the International Herald Tribune when I came across a special article on the marathon. There were interviews with several famous marathon runners, and they were asked what special mantra goes through their head to keep themselves pumped during a race. An interesting question, I thought. I was impressed by all the different things these runners think about as they run 26.2 miles. It just goes to show how grueling an event a marathon really is. If you don’t keep repeating a mantra of some sort to yourself, you’ll never survive.
– What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
I’ve only ever read selections of that book. Just picked it up in airports, flipped through. Every time I do, it’s something I need to read. About strength, stamina, one foot in front of the other. I want to read the whole thing now. Add it to the list.
My friend Corinne wrote a poem after the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, about that sense of guilt and fear and helplessness of not being there when it happened, of not knowing what to say or how to comfort, or even how to fully grieve, how to process. How to be there and forgive yourself for not being there. How to carry it. I asked her to send it to me, but she’s busy, so I pulled up an old draft from emails we sent. I don’t know the name of the poem, or even if it’s the most recent draft. I also asked her if it was okay to post up here, but when we talked about the poem today, she didn’t respond to that question. So, I think: well, she didn’t say no. Our relationship is like that. She’ll probably laugh and be chuffed that I spent an entire paragraph detailing the thought process I had about her and her poem. I will change the title, Corinne, to whatever you tell me it should be. I’ll take it down if you want as well. But in the meantime, can we share it? It helps. It really helps. (Updated: Corinne is not making me take it down, and the poem now reflects the latest draft and real title).
March 11, 2011
I awoke this morning to
a wave of fear that felled houses, wept
into fields of rice and safflower, left
a swathe of muddy rubble where
timid gardens and the afterimages
of dreams had moments before rested.
Thousands of miles over the sea from where
skyscrapers reared and bent under the smoke
and storm charred evening, I surged
from the wreckage of sleep-tossed covers
and found no comfort on my still, sunlit floor,
fingers still clenching around my phone,
low resolution illuminating the message
…..“Have you seen the news?
…..is everyone you know okay?”
My comforting dream of climbing a temple
wall with my lover in the Japanese countryside
over. So through the next two hours,
I repeat words that sink deeper each time
in my stomach, heavy with inadequacy,
…..“Are you okay?
…..Is your family okay?”
Because behind every “I” or “my”
that leaves me awash with relief
I feel the ghost of a “someone”
— one in thousands — peering at me
through my words, cleaving to my lips
in a desperate attempt to remain afloat,
until my tongue becomes heavy and no more
words come forth. My gift is broken;
they want me to tell them that they’re
okay, because my dark relief has become
a sign of one more survival. But my words
have no buoyancy, they are powerless
in the wake of distance and so much death.
So from here there will be no more words
in this song. All I can do is craft some comfort
in a tune, and hope that it bears you
through the darkness —
a swift sailed lullaby
to lead you safe to sleep.
Another thought: I love that there are people like Terrence Malick in the world.