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As I was walking down the street, I met a man with seven feet. And on each fooot he had a boot, a leather suit, a bowl of fruit, a flute, a lute, a bandicoot. I stopped him there. I said beware: your brain is dying from the rhyming. I’m a doctor, not a nurse. You’re a Rhymophiliac! I can help you beat this curse, and get your sense of meaning back. I fixed his gaze, allayed his fear, the rhyming haze began to clear. I said to him, the end is nigh. He replied, I’m better now, thank you.
What a relief to get the first hundred away. I can relax now, and rite wrubbish. And by relax, I mean the metaphysical, semi-spiritual practiced relaxation. Relaxation, the gateway to freedom. And freedom is the ultimate state of mind. That feeling one gets when the homework’s done, the bills are paid, the housework’s done, the floor is clean, emails answered, dogs are happy and the body hums along. Everything is up to date. Only then, my friend, are you free. The dedicated meditator may mumble Ommmm, (for the seriously cynical it’s Moooo). For me, I try to aim for free.
Thought for today: How to approach ‘The Color Purple’? If I’m blue I’ll see it sad, or calm or deeply quiet. If I’m red I’ll see it rich and ripe and racy. Out of the red corner, punching fast, I’m slowed invisibly by the Royal Blue Way We Do Things Here. But purple, viewed from the bottomless blue velvet perspective, has that red rim glowing on the edge of the deep dark pool, catching my eye and drawing me nearer, with promises of ember’s glow and hinting at excitement. I reach out, hold it; the glass, the smell, my wine.
Sucked in again! I can tell, just by writing this that you are following along behind me, reading it, only seconds away, hoping that this sentence ends somewhere interesting. Did it? Don’t panic, by the end of the paragraph there may be a twist, an unexpected acid tongue-tingle after sucking all that sweeten coating off, having resisted the urge to quickly bite through to the core, the essence. Your breath, hot and panting on my neck as I quicken my type, barely two keystrokes away. A hint of panic as the end of the paragraph approaches. Never disappoint the reader.
Who are these strange people? No doubt they are all thinking the same thing. I know why I’m here. But you, do you? They don’t even look like they need this information. Are they even in the right meeting room? That’s right, come in, space yourselves apart, with the correct mathematical scatter ratio; maintain independence. The speaker comes in. Hmm, nice smile, very good opening lines, I’m warming to his pitch. Well modulated but not oily. Honest words and reasoned thoughts. I note the settling in movements around me. I go in as one, and we all emerge as one.
Another piece of woody prose. The eucalypts’ ubiquitous elliptical leaves fall quietly down to join the crackle of discarded twigs, left behind as the oily-juicy green tree crown grows upward, racing all rivals to the clouds. As I walked in, Garr emerged up from behind the polished wooden bar, a piece of Eucalyptus branch in hand. ‘Welcome to the Garr den,’ he said. ‘Nice tie Garr. Yellow stripes suit you,’ I replied. Obviously offended at the sudden change from prose to crap, Garr put the gum to my head. I pleaded with him, “Don’t touch the tree, Garr”. Too late.
I remember the tutorials, the seven bright, happy, enthusiastically chattering students - and me. And, of course, our fashionably late tutor. I observed their change in glow and hum as he moved easily among them. Was it just my jaundiced eye or is he really a close relative of everyone in the room – except me? Maybe they were all at the same party last night, laughing, while I was in bed. I hated those tutorials. How different now. I know eight people’s names, and using them, I gently probe his reluctance, balance her eager enthusiasm. I like being a tutor.
The snow white pussy was abandoned (or did he roam); a dropped white glove in the long grass. Rescued from the steel blade. A white flash; I surrender. The slasher dropped his weapon, still spinning into the dust. Cradling the spitting beast, he held it close to his breast. They all loved him, so small, so cute. Never lost that fire, purring and spitting at will. Knowing which boy to bite, which mother to kiss. And he thanks us for his adoption by bringing us frogs. Gently mouthing them, he presents them to us on our bedroom floor at night.
How to improve my writing? Firstly (and I know all this, but writing it down helps), I have to write something; not just anything, even one pearl would suffice. Secondly, clear headed times are the mornings. I need to adjust my bio-time clock to be a morning person. Slowly, slowly I train myself to get up five minutes earlier each morning. Five minutes isn’t much I say as I lie in bed. Within a week I’m up a half hour earlier and producing an extra half an hour of crystallized brain gems. And, I fall asleep a half hour earlier.
Five senses, why do we need five? It’s a distance arrangement. Evolutionarily, the further from our body an object is, the earlier we sense danger, the safer we are. From a positive perspective, seeing beauty at any distance can only enhance our enjoyment of life while we spend our hundred years on this planet. I see her coming over that far hill. What is she shouting? Or are those faint sounds a song? The breeze carries a hint of her perfume, as she approaches to embrace; touching all bare skin before the taste of intimacy, that deep and passionate kiss.
The hierarchy of sensual distances differs among our animal brethren. Our sight, extending to the stars, is most accurate at arms length. But the high-circling eagle can read the ground like a satellite. Subtle music is best heard at room size. But my dog’s aural domain extends way beyond the backyard. That fox can smell me and my chickens long before he sees us scratching around. But can he smell the hint of rosemary on the roasting bird? And that shark swimming in his own salty soup – is he tasting us a mile away, while we paddle in our innocence?
Taste is the most intimate of all our senses. The delicacy passes scrutiny of the other four sensual guards; droolingly attractive, soundlessly inviting touch, smelling memorable. Let me taste it. Passing under the last bastion, the nose, we close our eyes and experience, as it fills the mouth, a sensation in no need of words. But then the anatomist would say that nothing really enters the body until it is absorbed by the gut. The contents of this long tube, oral to anal, are technically still outside the body. That exquisitely delicate appetizer transforms to the opposite of every sense.
Olfaction is the only sense whose organ is a direct extension of the brain itself. No surprise that it can evoke instant and distant memories from a minute trigger. How easy does the baking pie hijack my attention when I’m hungry? Best known is Marcel Proust’s madeleines, (a long novel from a small cake). Urine produced after eating fresh lemon-buttery asparagus spears, gives that intensely pungent smell, connecting both acts. But who can and can’t smell it? Nearly all Frenchmen produce the odour, but only half of Englishmen. It’s genetic. And conversely, ten percent of Jewish people can’t smell it.
Of the five classic senses, touch is the penultimate intimate. Sight, sound and smell work from a distance, but touch is our guardian of entry. Remember, as a child, the enjoyment of eating, fingering our food. Indians know. The finger and lip are an essential addition to the gourmet’s repertoire, (and are wildly exaggerated on the brain’s sensual representational map – as are the genitals). What are we missing, with this Victorian fork to tongue maneuver? What child has not, in a moment of birthday ecstasy, plunged a hand into the centre of the cake and victoriously lifted up a fistful.
The tocking clock marks scientific seconds. But humans work on elastic time. For babies, barely seconds pass between a frown and a smile. Children fill their day with minutes; shoot hoops, pat dog, eat. Adolescents do hours of homework, shower for hours and phone for hours. ‘Sensible adults’ work all day, wait for week’s end, do monthly accounts, have yearly holidays. Grandpa, gently rocking on the afternoon verandah, watches the grandkids rolling on the grass; he works in decades, generations, and lifetimes. If dementia comes, it’s back to minutes of memory. And everyone’s last few seconds of life are precious.
“Timed out” Jack said. “Too late, they got there too late. The bid C, spread everywhere, nothing they can do. A few months they said.” I didn’t say ‘I’m sorry Jack’, hand on shoulder. He’s not that type. He likes the two minute counsel. “Deal with the time you have left Jack. Stretch time or shrink it. You choose. Increase time by occupying every waking second with the rich details of life. But, if you wake with that sense of futility, settle back and spend the day contemplating those great moments in your life.” His face betrayed his newfound curiosity.
John saw Betty in the crowd. He wasn’t looking for her particularly, he was too fired up. His speech, long departed from the script, was flowing freely, raging even. He didn’t see the people; he felt the tide, their ebb and swell. He knew they respected him, honored him, worshipped him. It was so easy to show his conviction, knowing that their’s would follow. But John wasn’t thinking right now. He was turning this mass of solitary people into an organism, an organism he knew he could move at will, as one. And Betty was just a part of this.
Around the dinner table Betty at last got her say. She had equal standing here and was going to use her voice to share this equality with the other four. Bettina usually stood by her daughter but only if right balanced might. John, trying not to be a bloc with Joe, scrupulously separated logic and emotion on each of Betty’s points. Joe stood separate. Young Jobe understood at an alimentary level the power shifts and balancing acts of Betty’s conversation. His stomach talked to him as he weaved around the chairs to silently support whichever lap seemed to need him.
Betty was overcome with the emotional enormity of what she had seen. Not just overcome in the sense of awe but her mind and body had taken control over her whole being. She thought ‘is this body mine? is my mind mine?’ But she had no time to think it through coherently as panic swept her along in a torrential flow. It’s happening again. Sweating, wide-eyes, fear, ‘how hard can this heart of mine bang without moving off its moorings?’ Impending destruction. Back into a corner! Minimal exposure to the enemy! Panic, panic – but then - whose panic is it?
Around the table John always felt safe, even when attacked from all sides. Betty sat opposite today, but was often beside him. Bettina, his mother, ever the conciliator was the fount from which the family drew their rules of engagement. Joe thought of himself as the father-president but was the source of the unbiased logic the family needed, as he herded them along the road of reason. This Happy Families counterpoint was young Jobe, who tested both logic and consensus with seemingly irrational attachment, and occasionally silently unbalancing the tentative agreement. Against this backdrop John was to accept his fate.
Betty looked up at the dais; she could just make him out. He was molding these people in his hands; he really was good at it. She had doubted him for so long. For two years he had this ember burning deep inside, and she kept it glowing with her gentle breath. But now, the ember is really glowing, and it’s firing up everyone around her. The intensity of their concentration impressed her; lips moving silently in sync, nodding heads, energy sweating from tense bodies. John is not mine right now, he is their’s, but I’ll still follow him anywhere.
John pushed himself hard. Not just now; every waking moment he had to make every action worth something more than just a random act. Why? Somewhere, sometime, someone had told him that ‘every second matters’. Inspirational, motivational, exploitational. You have a finite number of seconds in your life, don’t waste them. His body was now his machine; every step an opportunity to fine-tune. The gym was where the machine was dismantled, each component tested and stressed; reassembled and dressed again in street clothes. Stepping out the door, his whole attention was centered on this machine and every step it took.
Betty met him in front of the cinema. John looked at her drawn face and instinctively put his arm around her shoulders. ‘I had a migraine today’ she said. Immediately John’s previous thoughts faded. The sensual anticipation built up while pacing the front of the cinema evaporated. Now concern for Betty came to him effortlessly as he confronted her demon. With his enveloping embrace he would prize loose those painful claws that held her attention, his warm power against the migraine. Betty would never easily relinquish her freedom, but this pain made her want to slip deeper into his overcoat.
John was always floored by omnipotence. He was suffused with the belief that there was something bigger, more powerful than his parents. Belief in Santa Claus was easy pickings for his mother – Santa likes good boys; and his father’s approach also – Santa won’t bring you presents. Later in the year the Easter Bunny came (but never seen) and randomly, the tooth fairy. Metamorphosing in the background was Jesus and his family, angels, God, all bigger than life itself. Throughout his life, John would always be comforted by that which he could approach but never touch. He never questioned his parents.
Cornered in a dead-end, backed up, we looked down the lane towards our only exit, through the limbs of the approaching gang. But they pinned us against the slimy wall. My executioner was massive, hairy and strong. One hand pinned my throat. I looked up his nostrils. And felt the frothy spittle spray down onto my face. He even smelt angry. Limpness overcame me; impending death, resignation or submission? No escape now. Then I spotted it. The black lump on his neck. Melanoma. His expression changed and throat grip loosened slightly as his concern deepened with my increasingly intense curiosity.
What a job, replenishing Honesty Chocolates in different businesses. Meeting people, being your own boss, working at your own pace makes this a relaxed ‘lifestyle’ job. The Honesty Box beside the chocolates holds the honesty money that honest people deposit in exchange for the honest number of chocolates they take. Honestly. But what makes me anxious is the shortfall in funds. Always there’s a shortfall, five dollars, twenty dollars. If I say it’s a lot short, he says ‘then, take it away’. If I say it’s a bit short, he knows I’m taking a big loss. What a lousy job.
Let’s eat the earth, we’ve cooked it first.
The birds and bees will die of thirst.
With fish to start, we eat the meal,
The whale is fresh and so’s the seal.
The tuna’s blue
Oysters too few
We bite the shark and suck the eel.
We sweep the earth for our next course
A sheep, a pig, a cow, a horse.
A flock of birds
And buffalo herds
We eat them all, with brains for sauce.
Dessert should spare the animals
But no, we sweeten dead mammals.
From hamster cake
To sugared snake
We burp, we fine young cannibals.
Turning down Beethoven, John says, to no-one in particular, (but Betty particularly) – ‘cliché: and essential lyrical ingredient of country music.’ Betty replies, ‘I always thought cliché was French, you know, the opposite of chic.’ John replies ‘well actually, Betty, it comes from the French (so you’re right there) for a metallic stereotype.’ ‘Metal? Very heavy’ says Betty ‘but stereotype? Isn’t that a one dimensional put-down of a person?’ ‘No,’ says John. ‘Stereo is from the Greek meaning solid, three dimensional’. ‘But stereo means two speakers’, says Betty, ‘not three’. ‘Colloquial!’ replies John. ‘People like you, Betty, are changing this language’.
Writing daily has forced me to think. Not having an interest in English at school, it’s a revelation to discover connections. Each word is fun, one syllable or six, alliteration, soft sound or guttural; synonym and symbol; Latin derivations with the dictionary as tour guide. Tell the story in a hundred lines of rambling prose or poetically in a pithy line. But this isn’t writing. The sentences can join hands in a conga-line of consciousness, happily dragging the reader from gloom to doom. But all is just after-midnight party talk if the reader can’t transcend the words to the idea.
One hundred words dot com has become, at the end of the month, one hundred words per minute. To complete the month I needed to write a couple of ‘hundreds’ in a row. Not quite a word a second but swiftly did the words flow. But I find that editing is the real writing. Like painting, my quick ‘one hundred’ is the skeleton, the sketch. The enjoyment comes with filling in the spaces, color, highlighting and shading. As the finished painting is not the lines, color or shapes, the idea grasped by the reader is something lying between the lines.
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