Today was a harder run than yesterday. My legs felt sore. I took it out too fast. And I was overdressed. Decided to walk a few times when I felt like I needed it, which was a good idea, not a failure, I’ve decided. Recorded two voice memos into my iPhone, one about attention as a salve against apathy and another about how bodies are machines.
Before the run, I started working on a series of wanderings around attention. I’ve given years of attention to attention in my ethical work on curiosity and a feminist ethics of care and now, in this running/writing project, it keeps coming up as a primary goal for me: to pay attention to my body, to my surroundings, to my voice, to authentic expression, to nagging injuries, to breathing, to joy, to staying upright, to resisting oppressive regimes.
Mary Oliver from Upstream
“Attention is the beginning of devotion” (8).
Here’s my (first?) attempt at a sonnet, riffing off of Oliver’s line:
Attention is the beginning of devotion.
Devotion, the beginning of prayer.
Attention sets curiosity in motion.
Curiosity is a form of care.
Attention can lead us to question.
all that we’ve been taught.
Compelling us not to rest on
the assumptions we have wrought.
Attention promotes belief
belief breaks us open,
spilling out a grief
that comes from loss of hope and
apathy, a monstrous twinning.
Attention is the beginning.
Marilyn Nelson, “Crows”
“What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet….”
So many ways to connect this excerpt with my wanderings on the vertical yesterday! The tree. the horizon. The purpose of life.
This is makes me think of Krista Tippet’s interview with the poet Marie Howe. Howe has some thoughts about the is, which she calls the this, and how we struggle to “stand each is up against emptiness” (hover over the following quote to reveal the erasure poem):
“It hurts to be present, though, you know. I ask my students every week to write 10 observations of the actual world. It’s very hard for them. Just tell me what you saw this morning like in two lines. You know I saw a water glass on a brown tablecloth. Uh, and the light came through it in three places. No metaphor. And to resist metaphor is very difficult because you have to actually endure the thing itself, which hurts us for some reason….We want to — we want to say it was like this. It was like that. We want to look away, and to be, to be with a glass of water or to be with anything. And then they say well there’s nothing important enough. And then it’s whole thing is that point.”
have a long attention span:
breathe in the this and breathe out the that
slowly absorb the is through your skin
note: So many more variations to do, including one with Simone Weil.