Monday, February 16, 2009

Like Babushkas

Since we moved to California a month or so ago Jennifer and I have started sleeping on the same schedule up in our loft on a mattress which we removed from our sofa in sleeping bags made for camping in sub-zero weather. Sometimes though when I get enthralled with the last bits of Top Chef (which I watch while Jennifer takes her shower) she manages to get up there ahead of me. She falls asleep fast these days slipping towards dreams about handing out ice cream or maybe drugs like Nurse Ratched in her nursing home.

The rituals of falling asleep are largely a part of our bodily unconscious. We brush our teeth, shower or not, floss or not, put on comfortable clothes or take them off and gradually reverse the process of awakening without structure or plan (this is sort of the whole point of falling asleep). The owl of Minerva takes flight at dusk, or so Hegel said; we think a bit about our day and worry about the next. And sink under consciousness into an ocean of sleep where the light sources grow dim and fractured. Now that Jennifer is entering into her 29th year I’ve started to inter-view her during these risky liminal moments between consciousness and sleep when the night is lit with fireflies or stars from the day just past.

When I rustle into my sleeping bag beside her she murmurs a contented sigh and flops out her arm without fail: whacking me in the head because I’m trying to pull up the stuck zipper. I usually ask her what she is thinking about and she says something about the nursing home or one of her friends: Bethanie, Olivia or Marilyn. Sometimes I ask her to tell me a joke. And she tries, really hard, mumbling something unintelligible. I tell her I didn’t understand her and she tries again, making me laugh harder, which makes her realize that she is the joke and then she whacks me again, this time on purpose, and turns over burrowing into her bed looking for the clock which beeps that horrible sound at 6:30.

Our physical experience of the world affects in a direct way the way we live and are in the world. For instance as M. Taussig has recently pointed out, though all of us know the earth spins we also all know in our bones that the sun rises and sets and that those times are special times for spinning out metaphors, drinking away our sorrows, and lying in bed with those we love. I like Jennifer a lot right then, more than ever really. It’s sort of like what Urie Sharp used to call “muscle memory” when we were singing in the choir, we realize what we naturally love and should do as we drift off to sleep, not thinking, not planning, not trying to remember the right words; like Balanchine we “hear the dance and see the music” and know somehow that right then we are living in the best of all possible worlds.


Blogger matt said...

sounds like California has been good to you - your writing has become more gentle. whack Jennifer in the head for me, will you?

7:25 PM  
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