I once defined life as movement, not the movement itself, but the belief in its possibility. This movement persists within both time and space, from one frame, one moment to the next. We move and therefore, exist.
I obsess over cosmic theory, these mathematical oceans I cannot understand and try to absorb in an abstract way. Some kind of mystery. I hope that I can experience knowledge as opposed to simply knowing it.
Due to recent ACL graft (in short – new knee!), I am confined for one week to the realm of my husband’s black p-leather couch. An assortment of various chemicals and fibers courses through my system in an attempt to mask the pain of having my femur drilled and a donor ligament passed through. That one week has turned into two and is currently going on three due to my genetics. Apparently my ability to heal quickly comes with another genetic condition: scar tissue. And as my body continues to assault itself in sheer spite of the hell I put it through, I’ve had nothing to do but wait, with a couch, a blanket, and a pen.
I’ve watched television. I’ve wrote. But mostly, I’ve contemplated. I’ve focused my attention back upon myself. I’ve become obsessed with questions of the body.
In India, I learned walking meditation. In this practice, I would take close to an hour to walk two steps. The focus of the practice is to walk while being aware of every muscle, every cell, every ligament in your body. It celebrates the complexity of the human form and seeks to grant awareness to just how connected it is, not only within amongst its own disparate parts, but with the floor, the air beneath it, with the sky, with gravity.
There are connections everywhere – connections that are ignored and eventually, lost.
I think again and am brought back to the work of Ana Mendieta. A sculpture, artist and photographer, Ana’s work focused on questions of the body, of its connections, particularly with the earth itself, and how these connections created one’s identity. Removed from her native Cuba at a young age, much of her work focuses on a series of photos in which she pressed her body against the land, forging an imprint. She then filmed the destruction of that imprint – its assimilation with the earth and the elements around it. These series are referred to as ‘siluetas.’ I created one, once. I lay face first in the damp sand next to a creek. I lay there against gravity and slowly, sank. While I was there, my fellow graduate assistants, surrounded my silueta with twigs and small flowers, grass, and stones. When I arose, we filled it with anything that we could find. I left a yellow hair clip there, in its center. I took a picture. This was my body.
Ana’s siluetas raise questions regarding memory and the body, that is, of the wounded body. The mind forgets, but the body assumes, consumes, everything. It remembers, holds, and reflects its past, its present, and its future within every cell. It holds the memory of touch and responds, infinitely. The shape of our bodies – the infinite complexity of them. I am amazed my by ability to breathe. I am amazed that I work at all. And I am also amazed that my body exists both within and without myself. In writing, we have two choices: we can write the object, or we can write the space that that object consumes. We exist on two planes, in two forms. Both in presence and in absence.
There is something tragically beautiful that stirs within when I pour over these images. The self that I left back in graduate school would compose various papers regarding the significance of these images to modern literary theory. We’re slowly discovering that our writing is static, that it exists only in conversation between the page and the reader. Meaning exists only in creation which first, requires some kind of destruction. In reading, our texts are torn apart. The meanings which we have so eloquently crafted are scattered and then, reassembled in a kalidescope of torn edges and blurred colors. I do not write stories; I simply construct elaborate mazes in a desperate attempt to illuminate the page beneath. Here, the reader lives and reigns. Here anything is possible.
This is why I connect with Ana, especially now, as I study the strings of muscle and bone within my leg that refuses to move or bend. I am still moving, even couch bound. My body leaves its mark, creates an imprint not only in the faux leather, but in space and in time. What’s more, it assumes its imprints, wears its memories thick and heavy. It bends, twists, composes its shadow only to dissolve it. Moment to moment. And as it moves, absorbs, interacts with the world around it, these imprints expand, becoming stories, memories, lingering and powerful.
They become fiction.
Normally, at this point, I would demand physical movement. That is, running. I would demand to feel my body working as I have in the past. To ski, to climb, to hike, to bike. I would demand pain.
Instead, I sit within my stillness and feel the constant movement both within and without me. I watch something fleeting. I measure. I sleep. I’ll walk tomorrow.