Monday, May 25, 2009

Second Childhood

I dreamed of life on the underside of leaves and in the cavernous depths of half-blown tulips whose velvet petals dyed the sunlight red. The redness stained the skin of the slim young girl whose deep brown hair hung past her shoulders in gentle waves. It glowed from the walls of her soft house. There was yellow there, too, that dusted everything. It was more than the girl could do to keep up with the yellowness. She swept and dusted from morning to night, and still the yellowness was there, filtering the red sunlight and turning it to gold.

It has been many years since I first dreamed about that girl - daydreamed, really. I was taken by the notion of very small lives - a whole world in miniature - that I could watch quietly, holding my breath, sitting very, very still - a world unaware of me and the land of giants in which I lived. I read about Thumbelina, and I saw the cartoons that came with my father's newspaper. There was one strip that chronicled the lives of a village of tiny people. I am tempted to say that it was the Teenie Weenies, but there is one thing I remember about the little people I read about, that I don't see in references to the Teenie Weenies. The little people I remember wore acorn cap hats, and they lived in a tree (an oak tree, I must assume). I have searched and searched, but I cannot find any reference to them. Maybe I've rewritten the story in my memory, moved the Teenie Weenies from their village under the rosebush up into the giddy heights of an oak tree. I don't know.

The issue of Teenie Weenies and Thumbelina (and Tom Thumb) has come up again because of my recent decision to embark on a second childhood. I know that the term second childhood has
connotations of dementia, and that's not something I'm eager to experience. What I am looking for, instead, is a door back into that world of imagination that has receded over the years, buried under an avalanche of everyday concerns and self-consciousness. I've tried to jump start the process by bringing Wilson and Steinbeck into my life, and that has been very helpful. Wilson, in particular, has helped me learn to play again. Still, I am inhibited.

Thus it was a special pleasure to attend the poetry reading given by MaryAnn Moore at the library on Sunday. Among the poems Ms. Moore read was this one:

Frida's Advice

Mary Ann Moore

Ask me why people are so fascinated with
my crazy life, mi vida loca,
and I answer:
it's the combination of sinister blues, yellow love, gangrene
the difference they see as exotic,
my body,
of work
the flame in the pain.

I was in anguish and
origin-
ality
the smell of the paint, the brush
in my hand -
transcended the pain.

I say:
Go to the centre of the fire.
See what's there.
It may not be as hot as you think.
It may be blue cold.

Write in bed.
Surround yourself with what matters.
Explore red.
Come to Mexico.
Read Octavio Paz.
Free yourself from the still
life.

As for my pain
it was always there
but an angel with cut-lace wings kept me breathing
kept me examining every fissure
on my face,
every symbol of my lineage
every radical expression
left in me.

I will write to you with my eyes, always.



Ms. Moore invited a special guest, dancer Holly Bright, who danced to two of the poems. The emotional quality of the poetry was tremendously enhanced by the addition of this visual dimension. I commented that the other day - was that over a week ago? I was frustrated, trying to use a poem to express how I felt about the young man weeping at Departure Bay. I remember saying at the time that I wished I could get up and dance - that that might help me to express the whole thing - not just the part I could access verbally. Now, I watched that happen.

In the discussion that followed the reading, Ms. Moore suggested that when we are writing poetry, (and I think I could extend that to prose, as well) we should consider getting up and dancing. She suggested that not just dance, but any kind of movement, could help to unlock the feelings we are trying to express.

So here I'll be, this week, working on a poem for Original Poetry Sunday - dancing around the living room, twirling Wilson (and even Steinbeck, if he'll go along with it), dancing into the world of that little girl that saw tiny people in the flowers and under the leaves. I promise not to post a video.

7 comments:

Dominic Rivron said...

Did you ever come across Rupert Bear? I've a funny feeling the Imps of Spring in the Rupert stories wore acorn hats - but the more I think about it, the less sure I am...

Reya Mellicker said...

I think it's sad that we put away our wonder and awe as we come into adulthood, though maybe it's practical, allows us to go to work, raise our children or whatever adult activities we have in mind.

Later - well, now - in middle age, we have a little more room to engage with what maybe isn't practical, but it so enriching.

I salute your return to a state of wonder. Bravo!

Sandra Leigh said...

I discovered Rupert Bear when my children were small. That was a long, long time ago. I love Rupert Bear. I should go hunt down some Rupert books and see if that's where my memory of acorn hats comes from. Thank you, Dominic.

Reya, thank you for your comment and most of all for calling me "middle aged". I'll have to live to 124 to deserve that, but I do appreciate it!

Kim said...

I am with you on your journey. I have spent decades trying to be really good. Responsible. Attentive to my husband and children...putting my creative meanderings to the side, unable to let them out of the cage to fly.

I wish for you, and extend to you the joys of being present in the moment, noticing the process, stilling the mind chatter and awakening the soul's song.

Your pathway is unique and will lead you to wild places...places formed in childhood dreams.

Breathe. Look. Absorb. Create.

-Kim

John Hayes said...

Hi Sandra:

That's a lovely piece of description about the small world leading off the post. In many ways, I feel a lot younger than I did in my 30s & 40s; my mind does anyway, & I think my spirit. Have you ever read either Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books or Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories? I think you'd like them.

Sandra Leigh said...

Hi, Kim. Thank you for your encouragement. I'm not sure I deliberately put aside my creative meanderings. I think I just lost the habit. Now, to find it again.

John, no - I haven't read either Moomintroll or Rootabaga, but obviously, with names like that, they're on my reading list, as of now. Thank you.

René Wing said...

The opening to this post is like the opening to a fairy tale. I wanted to read more... Bringing our writing up from our bodies/hearts-- yes. Living from there too. Yes. Wonderful how you happened upon that gift that evening, the reading and that lovely poem. thank you for sharing this. I am dancing with you.

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