Monday, August 01, 2005

breathing lessons

Twenty-four years ago today, I was taught to breathe for the first time. When my oldest daughter was born. The entire trick in childbirth, I was told, was in breathing. You do it right and the baby flies out and you go home laughing. You do it wrong and you lose your sanity. It’s all in the breathing.

I read Tyler’s Breathing Lessons more than fifteen years ago. Remember the story? Ira and Maggie, married for twenty-eight years get in the car and head for a funeral. (She’s so chipper, that Tyler is!) Hey, I’ve been married for twenty-eight years!

I like Tyler enough, but never quite in the way others do. Her heroines and heros are either numbed into some kind of pathological acceptance of their bum deal in life, or they are crestfallen from day one and they spiral down, as Maggie did, toward some great abyss of hopelessness before turning around and plodding ahead anyway. So that toward the very end of the book Tyler writes: Maggie had a sudden view of her life as circular. It forever repeated itself, and it was entirely lacking in hope. Thanks, Tyler! Such a nifty little idea to put down on page 315.

When my younger daughter auditioned for the various levels of the symphony orchestra, she tended to concentrate so intensely on her violin playing that inevitably she would be told, just before heading out to play before a judge: don’t forget to breathe. Because breathing isn’t a given. I guess we can forget to do it. I wonder what happens if you forget. Do you get nudged by the person next to you? Hey! You haven’t been raking in your free share of oxygen lately! Catch a breath already!

Tonight I realized that the red pepper I bought earlier in the day had a bruise. A significant bruise. I need an unbruised pepper. I also need more blueberries. So back I went on Mr. B, with my unsatisfactory red pepper, peddling to Whole Foods, somewhat in a hurry because I have a lot to do and in addition I have an early morning showing of the house to prepare for. Yet again. On the return trip I took the shortest route – up Old Sauk hill. With the 11% grade. Breathing will get you through! I told myself. But actually, after a summer of biking, I would say that my leg muscles rather than breathing per se allowed me to get to the top without getting off in shame and humiliation halfway up.

Just as in her violin auditions it was my little one’s talent and hard work that got her to the top. I truly think the breathing was incidental to her success.

So let's say you want to leave town, but you can’t, because unlike Maggie and Ira, you have no funeral to go to and so like it or not, you need to plod along from page one. What about the old childbirth breathing trick? Concentrate on breathing in and out, I mean really concentrate and you'll fly through the day laughing so hard that the tears will make your eyes puffy. Breathe in, breathe out.

I think breathing lessons are way overrated.

In the still of the night

If you go and go and go and then get to a forest at night and stop and look around, you may see this:

Madison Aug 05 012

And then you understand that what you do on a daily basis is pretty insignificant. That's if you're lucky. In the alternative, one could regard it as, well, almost worthless.

I interrupt Ocean’s typically bland and/or morose posting to deliver the second* important announcement this year: my little S turns twenty-four today

You have now lived one fourth of your life away from home. Not fair – you are not even half my age!

I know you remember this:

Madison Aug 05 004 enthusiastic

And this:
Tell a story, spin it from your own fantastic thoughts, spin it for your little sister, spin it for me!
Madison Aug 05 003 "S******* everywhere!"

I love you more than any love told in any storyform, more than Charlotte loved Wilbur, more than any character in the long line of Chestnuts ever loved anyone.

Happy birthday, little S.

* first important announcement told here.