Saturday, December 5, 2020

2020 Advent Calendar: Dec 5, Craig Reinbold, Yes to the Flesh?

I've been reading Melissa Matthewson's Tracing the Desire Line. 

It strikes me that how we read someone else -- what stands out to us from their writing -- is maybe just a reading of ourselves...?


"...a desire line represents a path frequently traveled by animal or human, created over time through erosion and repeated use, a system of designing a course from origin to a desired destination. 

The morning is still unheard, not a notion of what could come, but a pouch of possibility, an opportunity, an entrance.

Humans can be socially monogamous, caring for our children, but also searching out other sexual partners. Same with animals. Maybe they stay together for survival. Through animals we see the passage of our human selves from nature to culture. I wonder if I'm just looking for excuses. 

Does nature favor promiscuity? 

I know at this hour, desire is an impossibility not to be mentioned at the dinner table, or among friends while over wine and cheese and all manner of practicality. Desire is for midnight in the dark. 

At this hour with the deer bedding down and the raccoons making the dog bark, I can't help but think of all my desire bottled up like fizzy water that's going to blow at some point, shoot up over the tops of all these trees.

He pushed me against the deck railing, and we went like that for a while. 

I wanted people to think a coyote was on the roof of their home, shouting out syllables, making sounds they'd never heard before.

The light made us beautiful. 

I consider the dead skull, the solid antlers, which won't age for ages, which won' die. The hollow sockets where eyes once looked for grass, the empty caves where a nose once bent to dirt. This deer must have lived in the woods behind here, in the fir and madrone, on the hillside making a bed for its children, laying down in nights cold and rainy like this one. It makes me think about the wild in us all, how it stays tight, how we manage it or don't, how we are animal in our marrow, our depth, our desire for sex as natural as the instinct to build a home, to shelter, to protect. 

YES TO THE FLESH. No to the standard. 

What is a minotaur but a duality of identity, a metaphor for the violence of man, or a creature misunderstood, containing complexities in its physical form? 

'I've never desired you without wanting to be able to kneel before you.' Do men write like this anymore? Salome and Rilke blurred the boundaries of life, moving between lover, colleague, protege, exchanging letters for over twenty-five years, their intimacy changing over time, deepening and widening... 

I wonder what kinds of intimacy I might cultivate... if it's possible to explore that depth of feeling in any number of relationships.

To wander into unconventional terrain. 

We can't go back but can build from the places we are. We can bring forward a sense of time from the geology or rock face of the mountain, something like radiance. 

The power of art. 

Write a line that lessens the distance between us." 


How much of our pleasure -- in reading, in relationships -- comes from seeing ourselves, our ideas, our thoughts, our feelings reflected, mirror'd? 

It's pleasing -- reassuring? -- to see ourselves reflected in another's writing, but we must know it is only ever a reflection. I'm thinking about how a mirror'd visage can never be superimposed with its mirror'd image, and thinking about how mirror'd images relate, or don't, makes me think of all that chirality business I half remember from Biochemistry, that whole left-handed vs. right-handed thing, a drug's effect depending on the way its molecules are oriented. E.g. left-handed ibuprofen is an everyday miracle drug; right-handed ibuprofen is mostly a dud. 

Or there's this poignant, classic example, L-handed vs R-handed Thalidomide: 

I suppose by including that example, I'm passing some judgment, or at least making a suggestion of passing judgment, which I'm reluctant to do. The least I can say is that despite sharing such similar thoughts and ideas (and desires) as those expressed in this book, I have made very different choices, with very different outcomes. And I acknowledge that my outcome, where I am in life, at least so far, is much less interesting than the story told here, but to be honest, at this point, I think it's the less interesting life that I'm interested in living. At least with respect to these particular desire lines. 

Of course, there are so many different ways to explore this world, to explore oneself, and all those other desire lines, those literal animal paths my boys and I stumble on in the woods, in the fields, in the mountains, to resist those invitations to tread off trail -- into less tread-upon terrain -- would be to stop breathing. I encourage my boys, always, follow those lines. See where they lead. I tell them, Whichever path you follow, wherever you find yourself, be brave, and kind, and grateful, and let yourself be pulled, I say. I say, Never stop exploring. Never stop. 

At some point you may find yourself in a tight spot -- lonely, afraid -- in a trailer, say, alone on rainy Thursday evening, just on the other side of town from the people you most love, so close but so far you may as well be stuck in a dinghy on the Southern Ocean a thousand miles from home. As I keep telling my boys though, if you want to discover something new, something interesting, about yourself, about the world, you need to go where few others have chosen -- or been willing -- to go. 

Is this good advice? I don't know. What would Melissa Matthewson say? And how will they apply this advice as they get older? I wonder. I don't know. 

Craig Reinbold is a nurse in a Milwaukee-area ER. He was once the managing editor of Essay Daily. 

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