I’m 48 hours housebound, looking out into the bruise-colored sky that has followed the hurricane. Sirens cycle through the air every half hour. Earlier, the holy rounds of Aum came gently through my walls, reminding me that I am not the only one caught in the wheel—there’s always some human voice, somewhere, devoted to that task.
And it’s true that barely going out of doors for a few days can cause one to live and re-live the same day again and again, until it is indistinguishable from one long day. And it’s true that not just with every year but with every hour, time spills ever more surely outward, in all directions, like an upended bucket. When did this start, exactly? Once it proceeded, steadily and orderly, like blood in the veins—now it leaks all over and loses form, as if it did not even mind bleeding all over itself.
And it doesn’t.
I’m sure it’s also true that I notice this in a different way because I don’t have children. Children would sop up all that spilled time in one afternoon. For this reason, I both don’t miss them, and do.
Something is happening to my body. And I know what it is. I know because my body and I have long conversations, of an evening. I’ve learned to listen closely, and I hear. From my body I’ve learned that I’m standing precisely in the middle of life. And in recognizing this I also see that my body has begun, in its slow way, to die.
Is it a terrible thing, to say that my body sings to me a song of death? And that I find that song very beautiful? My toes sing to me from farther away than they once did. The distance between us is shocking, awe-inspiring. I’m still at the controls, but they are experiencing a world I know less and less about. A feeling closes around them like wool, deafening them to sensation, to themselves in space. In my movement practice I patiently sink down into them, offering my undivided attention—surely they’ll rush back to me, like grateful children to a busy parent. But they don’t.
With time flying past me on all sides, I lower my hips, bending my knees. It’s as though my entire carriage is shrink-wrapped from within, holding a different form than the one I’m asking for. Over the last several weeks, every time I get to my right ankle, it reliably pops.
Strangely, at first, this reassured me somehow. See? I have a real body! It was as though my ankle had never done anything before, and look, now it had! I applauded its originality—there was a specific sensation of crunchiness, spread like a wing over the curve on the top of my foot. This was somehow the result, I could feel, of a slipped connection through the fourth toe and the heel. Sinking down low enough into the foot could realign these separated parts into a whole again. I did this over and over, hearing the crunch every time, becoming less and less sanguine as I did.
Because this certainly meant breakdown—a flat tire that can’t, actually, be replaced—how do you dance on a foot that can’t feel itself? Is fighting itself? Fighting its own engineering? How do you dance with that?
Order moves inexorably towards disorder. I remember the smack of plain sense this fact made to me when it hit my brain some thirty years ago, despite not really comprehending it. It didn’t seem plausible, for example, that I would encounter this most inescapably in my own body. And now that I am, my face relaxes as though for the first time. Because I can feel now what half the world already knows: that the body dies. Whatever we believe or feel we know about the soul–or whatever is called the soul—the body dies.
And as it dies it sings of everything it has been through. I hear that song and dance to it, no matter how small it is. And tonight, as I moved with the song, my ankle suddenly landed back into the way it used to feel. And I danced again on two whole feet.