Saturday, March 10, 2007


Sadie's got her new dress on, Lord, Lord,
Sadie's got her new dress on.
Momma's done and said
She's old enough to wed,
And Sadie's got her new dress on.

(--Apparently by Connie Leigh? From memory, a bluegrass song heard once, on the radio)

Bursts of light at the corners of my eyes, at the corners of my heart; jeweled ropes dangling just out of sight. Irridescent spangles of joy. My heart lifts, like an old dog lifting its muzzle at the smell of dinner. Happiness.

In this queer rush of my new life, when I do write, I seem to write mostly about being unhappy. Maybe because being unhappy pitches me backwards into the mood of my long cubicle confinement, when I used to blog copiously; the two things are associated in my mind. In any case, it may be giving a skewed impression of my mood and well-being nowadays. I’m so grateful for my freedom; so deeply happy so often. The joy of doing something I really want to do.

(That’s not the heart of it, though, now that I think of it. Actually, it’s the joy of really wanting to do something. Doing it is just the icing on the cake.)

There are two moments I love most of all: the very first moment of laying my hands on someone’s back, feeling the warmth of their skin meet the warmth of my hands through the sheet, feeling the rhythms of their skin and mine start to understand each other, and the moment when I stop, before moving on to another area of the body, and just rest, cradling maybe a foot, maybe a neck, and feel our blood moving together.

Entrainment, they call it: a phenomenon which, I’m told, is established beyond question by objective Western science. The bodily rhythms of people who are touching, or even (to a lesser degree) in close contact, begin to synch up. Breathing and heart rate fall into the same, or related, rhythms; other subtler endocrine rhythms also converge. We are not just psychologically social animals. We’re biologically social animals. Our bodies tune to each other. Maybe the most obvious example, which lots of people notice, is that the menstrual cycles of women who live in the same house tend to converge. Circadian rhythms do too. We deal so much with strangers, in the modern world, that we’ve come to think of it as normal to interact with people with whom we’re physically completely out of synch; but most of our evolutionary history we’ve spent in groups that are physically attuned.

In Tony Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries he writes of a medicine ritual, “the stranger way,” meant to heal the disruption caused to a person’s spirit by being in contact with strangers. I suspect it’s a partly a response to the physical unease of encountering foreign bodily rhythms, and having your own pulled out of synch with your household – an unease to which we are so accustomed that we can’t even perceive it any more. We are so used to being fragmentary and out of tune that it seems normal, and the relief and security established by an hour’s massage can seem mysterious, maybe unsettling, maybe magical.

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