Hope takes a fair amount of muscle to maintain; it seems to have something to do with seeing, and seeing generously.
I’ve been going on a lot of extremely long walks this week: I roam the far reaches of Berkeley and Oakland pretending to be Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Bike Odyssey is taking a brief Transcendentalist Walking-and-Writing detour while the wrist heals.)
In his essay Nature, Ralph says: “Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite spaces, -- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all….”
Yesterday I, as Ralph, wandered the world striving to see past My Experience of the day to the Day Itself. The goal: to transcended my eyeballs, or for my eyeballs to transcend themselves, or to see without my mind saying hey eyeballs this is what we think of what you see so you should see it this way and only this way. The challenge: a haircut gone awry.
The day before yesterday, while romping around with Ralph, I decided that it was time: tired of one-handed hair washing, I set off on Mission Haircut. Striding up Russell Street, all was peachy keen--the sun and heat swirled through me and wrapped my neck and limbs in a kind of delicious hot soft-serve. I was pumped on the novelty of my new mode--walking--and surveyed the world with eager Traveller’s Eyes.
The Haircut Experience was a neat one, too; Curtis--my groomer for the day--has impressive skill. I was amazed by the way he wielded the scissors, carving through hair with deft hands--like a zephyr with ten digits.
Swept up in the liberating winds of sculpting and shearing, I said, “let’s take off more!” …and then a wee bit…more! And…another inch…why not! Winds of freedom be my cause! I stepped out of the chair and thought my what a ride! I stepped out onto the street and thought yippee I’m free! I looked at my reflection in the shop window and thought my that’s short… My transparent eyeball self began to cloud with motes of doubt.
In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie’s mother advises her not to crop her hair to a bob like the other girls, saying, “a woman’s hair is her mystery.” ...Did I just shear away my mystery? Gobs of hair dropping to the salon floor like so many lost secrets and sideways glances… Was I now an open book--a naïve little girl gaping at the world with no feint toward sophistication to defend her? A sexless eyeball with only curiosity and verve to entice you. Oh shit.
I continued walking, now lamenting the loss of my womanhood. The sun, once caressing, was now just hot. The breeze got in my eyes and made me spit my hair out: stupid breeze!
Mean egotism had made a reappearance and this eyeball was now cloudy.
Fuck, thought I.
I began an experiment in stretching past thoughts of hair and mystery toward other bigger things, and it was surprisingly difficult--I thought: really guys? A bad haircut and I can't see straight? What a wimpy transcendentalist! But, I am learning that it takes effort to continually find wonder in the familiar.
So. I sit down to listen, and to write.
A Poem for Emerson:
a cacophony of Aliveness sings its chaos song
just beneath the veil of everyday sight;
an immense Everywhere force
alert in every blade of grass and swinging door.
bodies in motion keeping things in motion:
cells multiply and divide like maniacs
in every sidewalk-crack, weeds insist their way into being.
Above it all indifferent winds rustle,
heat swells and cold darkens.
What a world what a world.