"I sing the body electric." These are the words of Walt Whitman, the poet to whom the body was not just bound by bones and sinews. “And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?” he writes.
When I read Whitman’s poetry of ecstatic corporeality, I imagine pain and joy landing in the body like sun or rain would land over complex landscapes. We own our bodies as much as the earth owns us, and perhaps the earth may press into us, suggesting us into happiness or misery. Emotions arise in conversation with the body and the land, not in an isolated brain.
I understand this conversation, because my body seems insistent on conversing with the changing seasons, entering too deeply into empathy for winter’s loss of sun and greenery. On certain hard-white winter days, my body is heavy as an unhappy slab of meat, its limbs cycling as if walking over the ocean floor and fighting the crush of water from beneath. My skin feels like a shriveled-small sponge, awaiting the soak of sun. My body craves open like a mouth, awaiting the orbital orange, the thousand-leafed light which pours through palm-colored grass like wine, soaking its roots back into song. To sing. To sing is the natural order of things, is the order of spring.
And this? This winter must be a training, training us to hear the singing. We learn to listen to vague trills of beauty, quiet shiverings of life beneath the snow. Now it hums so quietly, beneath feet of snow, beneath hard and wetted and flattened earth. We must strain to hear it, and sometimes it seems to flatline completely.
But in spring, a rescucitation. A new life. We must become good enough through the darkness of winter that we may be prepared to love the morning light, to lay in the grass, to watch the dusk steal the rays away and to feel the singing rise up from our chests as it rises from the gently breathing chest of the earth.
I talk about this too much: the winter, the awaiting the spring. But all the details of my life aren't nearly as profound as the unfolding of the seasons. I think about writing about our apartment hunt, my writing, the housework and childcare. But the earth is the foundation: she cradles all of this in her hands. We would do well to pay attention.