Miracle. All of it.

Some transfer of significance has occurred: I feel it, feel the air move, feel time begin to pour down a new tributary. The world adjusts itself. The doctors hold the baby up over the screen so that I can see her. She is livid and blue and her face is a rictus of shock and fear. I recognise her immediately from the scan. Only I knew the secret of her tranquillity, the floating world of her gestation. She is borne off to the far side of the room, away from me, and as if she were a light I fall deeper into shadow the further away she goes. The midwives crowd around her. I lose sight of her but her cries reach me like messages. Presently she emerges clothed and wrapped in a blanket. Her father takes her and holds her. His offers of friendship must suffice, must compensate for her lack of proper passage, for the clock of experience has started ticking and won’t wait for me. Her life has begun.

~ Rachel Cusk, ”A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother


Notes:

  • Rachel Cusk’s book was named #16 in The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by the The New York Times (June 26, 2019)
  • Post inspired by: “The boys don’t wear mittens anymore. Their feet are much bigger than mine… But I still miss their baby feet, and their patter, and the piffle of childhood. I reel at a baby’s cry. I swoon at strollers. I don’t understand why all the love songs aren’t about babies. ~ Jill Lepore, “The Lingering of Loss” in The New Yorker (July 1, 2019) (Thank you Sawsan)
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Photo – Hand-in-Hand by J’ ose

Miracle. All of It.

“The hospital corridors were quiet, the midwife was quiet. She whispered—that’s how I remember it—that I needed to see the doctor and have an ultrasound. She helped me gather my things and sent us even farther down the corridor. I remember lying on the doctor’s examining table in a dark cubicle, only the ultrasound machine emitting light. I remember covering my face with my hands. After a while, the doctor touched my arm. “Look,” he said. My husband took my hand in his. The doctor pointed at the screen and moved his finger carefully around the sonogram, as though showing us a rare map, and then, because we couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing and what he was telling us, he turned up the sound so we could hear the steady beating of the heart…”

Linn Ullmann, ”Unquiet: A Novel” (W. W. Norton & Company, January 15, 2019)


Notes:

  • Photo of sonogram: Kim Pham
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Sunday Morning

What was precious—flexing.
Fingers wrapping bottle, jar,
fluent weave of tendon, bone, and nerve.
To grip a handle, lift a bag of books,
button simply, fold a card—…

Unthinking movement, come again.
These days of slow reknitting…
Thank your ankles, thank your wrists.
How many gifts have we not named?

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from “Broken” in Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners 


Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels. Photo via seemore

How many of us can say this about our work?

‘Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse,” the sociologist Richard Sennett has observed, “the desire to do a job well for its own sake.” That human impulse reverberates like a hammer bang throughout Ole Thorstensen’s “Making Things Right,” a swift and understated examination of a life spent working with one’s hands.

Mr. Thorstensen, a savvy and matter-of-fact master carpenter from Norway, tells the story of a loft renovation in an Oslo home built in 1890, from the initial bid to the final job-site tidy. Chapters start with hellos to the family on Monday morning and end with the straightening and organizing before quitting time on Friday, bringing us along as the work moves from architectural drawings through demolition, framing, boarding, venting, window installation, fire-stopping, tiling, plumbing, painting and finish work, from the fast and brutal to the painstaking and meticulous.

“There is nothing mysterious about skilled manual labor,” Mr. Thorstensen writes. And he does well to demystify the trades. The work is not magic—a matter of tools and time, patience, practice and desire…The book is, at its core, about relationships—between carpenter and co-workers, architects, engineers; between carpenter and client; and ultimately between worker and work. Mr. Thorstensen writes beautifully of the simple pleasure of carrying a load with someone: “To hold one end of something heavy and be aware of another’s movements, feel them transmitted through the object, is an experience all its own . . . it is a good way to get to know one another.” …

Mr. Thorstensen shares the timeworn concern that people these days are divorced from material reality and have little interest in how their pants were sewn, chickens slaughtered, shelves built. “I sometimes wonder if it has affected our idea of time.” … He makes a case for the pleasure in starting with nothing and ending with something, for a life spent accumulating experience, and he’s attentive to details large and small, like the way music sounds better on the radio once a room is insulated. “I would like to be reborn a tradesman many times in a row with my experience intact,” he writes, wishing only for a new back each time. How many of us can say this about our work?

~ Nina MacLaughlin, Making Things Right’ Review: How to Build a Life (WSJ, May 3, 2018). A book review of a Norwegian carpenter’s step-by-step account of home renovation, alongside a paean to craftsmanship and working with one’s hands.


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly.

When in the morning I make coffee…
to what do my hands listen?
Once I had to tell them do this, do this, do this.
There are things a body learns.
There are things it won’t forget.

Hannah Aizenman, from “Notes Toward an Elegy, or What the Books Were For


Notes:

  • Poem via lifeinpoetry. Photo: Aberrrant Beauty
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly.

I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I… I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more… never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then.

— Michael Cunningham, The Hours: The Novel


Notes:

  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
  • Photo: via Mennyfox55.
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Related Posts: Michael Cunningham

 

Take the gloves off

touch, hands,love,feel

We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.

― Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

 


Sources: Photo: Inside Silence by Laura Makabresku. Quote: Waves of Beauty

Good Morning

hands-grip

In day’s first hours
consciousness can grasp the world
as the hand grips a sun-warmed stone.

~ Tomas Tranströmer, from “Prelude,“ The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems

 


Notes: Photo – Howard Schatz (via Nini Poppins). Poem: the distance between two doors

 

Miracle? All of it. (Feel Me)

hands-dan-stockholm-red-clay

We think of hot and cold, or of textures, silk and cotton. But some of the most important sensing we do with our fingers is to register incredibly minute differences in pressure, of the kinds that are necessary to perform tasks, which we grasp in a microsecond from the feel of the outer shell of the thing. We know instantly, just by touching, whether to gently squeeze the toothpaste or crush the can. […]

Computer chess looks intelligent, but it’s under-the-hood stupid. Reaching and elegantly picking up the right chess piece fluidly and having it land in the right place in an uncontrolled environment—that’s hard. Haptic intelligence is an almost irreproducible miracle! Because people are so good at that, they don’t appreciate it. Machines are good at finding the next move, but moving in the world still baffles them. […]

Our bodies are membranes in the world, with sensation and meaning passing seamlessly through them. Our experience of our bodies—the things they feel, the moves they make, and the textures and the people they touch—is our primary experience of our minds. “The brain is just simply part of our bodies” is how the philosopher Alva Noë often puts it. The truer cartoon, in a sense, would be “Outside In,” with the emotions produced by people bumping against one another. A key to being embodied in this way is tactile experience—what we touch, whom we touch, how many we touch, and why we find them touching. Grasping, hugging, striking, playing, caressing, reaching, scratching backs, and rubbing rears: these are not primitive forms of communication. They are the fabric of being conscious. The work of the world is done by handling it. We live by feel. […]

Later, in a café near the square, Keltner has a cappuccino and, sitting at the counter, watches the variety of human touch as it reveals itself in that unending theatre: fingers flying on the keyboard, hands darting out to make a point, heads turning to underline a joke, bodies slouching and primping and jostling and soliciting attention. An intensity of feeling combines, in our tactile lives, with a plurality of kinds.

Perhaps the reason that touch has no art form is that its supremacy makes it hard to escape. We can shut our eyes and cover our ears, but it’s our hands that do it when we do. We can’t shut off our skins. It is the obscurity of the other senses that makes us enliven them with art: touch is too important to be elaborated or distilled. It just is. What we see we long for; what we hear we interpret; what we touch we are. The art we aspire to is a remote sensation, always out of reach. Life is the itch we are still trying to scratch.

~ Adam Gopnik, excerpts from Feel Me. What the Science of Touch Says About Us


Post title inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”


Image: “By Hand” – Red Clay Sculpture by Dan Stockholm

 

Miracle? All of it. 

hands-legs-sand-black-and-white

I wish to raise my hand. Well, I raise it. But who raises it? Who is the “I” who raises my hand? Certainly it is not exclusively the “I” who is standing here talking, the “I” who signs the checks and has a history behind him, because I do not have the faintest idea how my hand was raised. All I know is that I expressed a wish for my hand to be raised, whereupon something within myself set to work, pulled the switches of a most elaborate nervous system, and made thirty or forty muscles — some of which contract and some of which relax at the same instant — function in perfect harmony so as to produce this extremely simple gesture. And of course, when we ask ourselves, how does my heart beat? how do we breathe? how do I digest my food? — we do not have the faintest idea.

~ Aldous Huxley, The Divine Within


Post title inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”


Notes: Photo – Maiyet. Quote: Brain Pickings

 

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