March 15, 2015

Today I had an insight while on a morning walk through the MacDowell (Artist’s Colony) woods.

The snow was crusty, the air crisp, birds chirping, sunlight, sunlight.

As I was walking, the snow was speaking, it was alive to me.  Beautifully crusty.  And something else.



I felt frustrated knowing that even if another person were with me, I would not be able, in that moment, to use words to bring alive my powerful, specific, devastating inner experience of stomping through this snow.

But then suddenly – a feeling of vertigo – and certain ideas came together for me – a confluence, an integration emerging out of a combination of recent experiences and things I’ve been reading.

First, a chapter from last night’s book – Migraine, by Oliver Sacks .  A chapter about the language of the body…

(…which reminded of of my favorite chapter in the novel, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

About the language of gestures.

A language we carry inside of us.

The language of the body.)

Each in different ways, Sacks’ medical book and Krauss’ novel contemplate this: that we contain within us an ancient language. Our bodies sometimes express themselves through this ancient language.  And this language is specific.  It’s nuanced.  Its grammar is complex. Sacks uses the migraine attack as an example of a potentially profoundly articulate way of speaking via the body.  The language of gestures is choreography.  It is outer expressions.  It is also physiological.

And this language of gesture is itself beyond and outside of words.  This  outside-of-the-everyday is also what art (poetry, music, dance, etc) can be: an invented language to try and articulate a deeply felt reality or imagination. When art is intuitive, it is a language outside of the mundane, it is a probing into some “other” sense of the outer and inner worlds. When everyday speech fails, the creative being might go inward to invent or discover a different language, one more suited to expressing a certain experience. This artistic creation then has the potential to bring human observers into deeper communion with long-lost but still available parts of ourselves.

So this morning, these realizations put me into a new space. Click – Oliver Sacks’ book, click- the history of love – click, this sudden feeling in my own body.   My mind turned into an inside-out place.

I was reaching for something.

I was aware of experiencing a different mode of being within myself.  In this different mode, it felt almost like I became the snow….

….or united my mind to the snow…

…Or united myself to the moment…

I felt movement within my mind – a slow movement, almost like thick water circling…There was a space opened within me.

That special, essential, space for an artist….an intuitive one.

(And a challenging one.  Can I continue to welcome and trust that space?  Distractions threaten it.  Judgements come. And creeping sensations of fear begin to settle.)

But this morning, I was able to stay in it and play around for a little while.

I and walked back to my studio inside that space.  Then I used my voice to bring that experience from the inside of me to the outside of me.  A melody, a movement of sounds, a beginning, and a moving forward, and then a dwindling down.  And that was my morning snow experience.  Captured.

——————————–For those interested…

Here’s what Oliver Sacks wrote:

“Whichever of these mechanisms is employed, migraine shows itself both eloguent and effective in providing an oblique expression of feelings which are denied direct or adequate expression in other ways.  In this, it is analogous to many other psychosomatic reactions, and no less analogous to the languages of gesture and of dreaming.  In all of these we employ an archaic language, one which evolved long before the language of words.  Why do we retain the language of autonomic symptoms, movements and images, when we could use words?  Such behavior may be regressive, but it will never be obsolete: in the words of Wittgenstein: ‘What can be shown cannot be said.’

‘The human body is the best picture of the human soul.’