Wednesday, November 29, 2006

walking and writing. walking and reading.

I've had many interesting thoughts today. Maybe because it's finally cold outside...I mean really cold. I walked with Anu in the woods and, for some reason, a crystal clear monologue just sort of tumbled out of my mind and mouth. I wished I had a tape recorder because I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with myself any other way. But, instead, my words slipped into the sky and frost and frozen leaves...

***

Later, as I walked to work I read A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. I found it in a used bookstore a few days after Sunday Scribblings used her quote for their prompt. On the back of the book there's a review by the Chicago Tribune that goes like this:

"An aphrodisiac for the sense receptors. Read a chapter, then step outside and voila: The sky is a deeper blue, the birds sing a sweeter song. How could the world seem otherwise, after feasting on voluptuous prose like this?"

Ok...now imagine reading voluptuous prose like this WHILE outside. Oh my god, I wish it wasn't so late. I wish I didn't need to get up so early. Because I want to tell you about it and I don't want to leave out even a single detail. But I need sleep and, instead, I can only leave you with this (because otherwise I would never stop writing)...from "A Map of Smell":

"Breaths come in pairs, except at two times in our lives--the beginning and the end. At birth, we inhale for the first time; at death, we exhale for the last. In between, through all the lather of one's life, each breath passes air over our olfactory sites. Each day, we breathe about 23,040 times and move around 438 cubic feet of air. It takes us about five seconds to breathe--two seconds to inhale and three seconds to exhale--and, that time, molecules of odor flood through our systems. Inhaling and exhaling, we smell odors. Smells coat us, swirl around us, enter our bodies, emanate from us. We live in a constant wash of them. Still, when we try to describe a smell, words fail us like the fabrications they are. Words are small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world. But they are shapes, they bring the world into focus, they corral ideas, they hone thoughts, they paint watercolors of perception" (6-7).

Oh, and that's just the beginning. "Words are small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world. But they are shapes, they bring the world into focus, they corral ideas, they hone thoughts, they paint watercolors of perception"...I let those words roll around in my mouth and mind...and it was the best walk that I've had in quite awhile.

And for a thought to fall asleep with:
"Try it now. Describe the smell of your lover, your child, your parent" (8).

it's not so easy as you think.

17 comments:

deirdre said...

I'll have to read this again tomorrow. All those luscious words about breathing have made me yawn and now I must go to bed. :)

Susannah said...

i've just headed straight over to Amazon to order this book! (though delivery is 4-6 weeks, goddammit). it sounds incredible, as was your very evocative recommendation xo

Anonymous said...

i love that you can walk and read. i've told you that, right?

i have to find this book, like yesterday. i already finished "living artfully"! (thank you...couldn't put it down.)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an amazing book! It's funny because I was only mentioning the other day how my son smells when he's wrapped up at midnight and all asleep and I go in and give him a surrepticious. He smells like warm, sweet vinegary chips! (fries to you?) Odd but true :D

gkgirl said...

you have totally
sold
me on that book...
:)

Anonymous said...

Sounds incredible...

Spiky Zora Jones said...

Jessie...you rock. That was an asesome post. Your words are like a song. Maybe we can get David Foster to arrange the music to this...I see a hit. Maybe even get Renee Olstead to sing it.

I walked with Anu in the woods and, for some reason, a crystal clear monologue just sort of tumbled out of my mind and mouth. I wished I had a tape recorder because I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with myself any other way. But, instead, my words slipped into the sky and frost and frozen leaves...

wonderful...Later Jessie.

kj said...

i love your writing when you are outside, jessie! what a great post. i want that book badly. i wish i had it right this moment.

:)

a dyke... said...

I'm so glad you posted about this ... I've been putting off picking it up again in the middle of Sound, and so I'll think I'll march upstairs and curl up on the sofa with it on this snow day ... Yep, at least two inches in the last six hours, and more on the way. No walking and reading today because probably no walking ... Just tea and cats and curled up on the sofa business ... Mmmm. I like snow days ...

Wanna come make snow angels with me???

Jessie said...

books and tea and cats and a SNOW DAY?! oh...you know how absolutely jealous that makes me, don't you? dang, i'd love to be in madison making snow angels with you. i love snow days. :)

ps.
i bought the book because of what you wrote on your blog about it. i read some more (again while walking to work)...and let me just say that i am loving this book. thanks for inadvertently sending me to her.

Anonymous said...

i'll have to check this one out...your writing is lovely. :)

Anonymous said...

hey - I have loved this book for years - the smell section gets me every time! I always wonder about books that I ADORE that end up in used book stores - I am horrified that anyone can SELL those books... I have to believe it's the fairies or angels that leave them for us to find when we need them - it's the only explanation I'll accept!!

xoox

sophie said...

my child smells like cotton candy-
and the hopeful morning and a
song when you are falling in love
and a little dash of clove.

Anonymous said...

This piece, and especially this line, my words slipped into the sky, inspired me to stay up and write leslie: sometime before dawn last night.

We never know just what our words may inspire. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Jessie,
I'm so glad I came across your blog. I've missed you! You've reminded me about A Natural History of the Senses, and I've pulled my copy off its shelf. I need inspiration, and this is perfect. Your writing about grad school and what it might have done to you is refreshing to me also. We should meet up again, and talk, and read and read and read without feeling the least bit guilty that it has nothing to do with our theses!
Tell Vinnie 'hi', and take care of yourself! Thanks for your beautiful words.

[a}ma said...

i MUST read this book!

liz elayne said...

okay so this is so interesting...i started re-reading this book late last week. i have had it on my bookshelf for about ten years now. i haven't been keeping up with sunday scribblings lately so i didn't realize they had used it.

i love that we are both reading this book right now. love it. (i wish we could have a book club meeting about it.)

that very same passage about the breath in pairs struck me deeply. i started writing in the margins.