“As a queen sits down, knowing a chair will be there,
Or a general raises his hand and is given the field-glasses,
Step off assuredly into the blank of your own mind.
Something will come to you.” – Richard Wilbur
Isn’t that quote fabulous? It came to me through a friend, and it came to her through a podcast she was listening to, featuring the novelist Ann Tyler, who keeps these lines taped to her wall. There are so many places one can go with them, and with the hypnotic poem they spring from titled, “Walking to Sleep.” The poem purportedly is about two different ways to approach the Land of Nod. But sneakily, it is much more about waking up. And it is possessed of other arresting lines like these:
“Try to remember this: what you project
Is what you will perceive; what you perceive
With any passion, be it love or terror,
May take on whims and powers of its own...”
But today we are not going to discuss any of these overtly important things. Instead I am here to let you in on a frivolous secret because frivolity has covert importance in our world (play, no matter what anyone says, has always been a deep form of work.) It has served me well, and better on several occasions than gravitas has. Be advised, that which I am soon to impart to you is an esoteric technique. One that can be employed whenever you wish to be reminded of your inherent power. It costs no money, and cannot be bought or sold. But like all techniques it must be exercised discreetly. And it works like this…
Sometimes when I am walking towards a building with automated doors, (airport terminals, and grocery stores back in those years when I frequented both, though now it is primarily hospitals,) I will increase the degree of purposefulness in my stride. I will draw my shoulders back, and keep my gaze trained straight ahead. I will walk like a woman in charge. One who knows without a glimmer of a doubt who she is, and where she is going. A woman who understands the axis of her spine is what the universe revolves around. Remember: It is of no import whether one actually knows, understands, or believes these things, the key is only to walk as though one does.
And as I step with the decisive, if slightly absurd heel-to-toe gait of a runway model, in front of those sleekly synchronized glass doors–I will lift my right hand and flick its fingers in front of me. A languid yet also resolute motion, akin to one a duchess might employ to indicate the shortcake crumbs waiting to be brushed off her white linen tablecloth. The gesture (I like to think,) is both commanding and casual. Executed in the regal and relaxed manner of one long grown accustomed to having their every command and slightest wish instantly fulfilled by animate subjects and inanimate objects alike.
And in that unfailing moment when the doors slide open, I will sail through. Calm as an ocean liner though I follow in the rousing footsteps of Ali Baba, and all those who daringly conjured an opening where first there seemed none. Knowing in those brief, moments that I wield magic in my fingertips. Accepting responsibility for the untold adventure that awaits me, on the other side of these freshly opened doors.
April 26th, 2023 at 5:07 pm
“Interesting” as “they” say. Hmmm. Yes. Amusing, too. Maybe at the very least. How much fun is possible with such frivolities.
Here’s one I enjoy. Whenever I order up a cappuccino or chai or such and am asked my name, I employ a name du jour. “Giles” “Joe” “Ricardo” (but that’s a special case) “Homer” “Serge”… Sometimes, knowing that moment is coming, I spend some time casting my glance inwards asking a name that fits the moment to appear. Often, the first name, or two or three, does not seem quite right. So there’s a process of inquiry to see which rings the note of that particular moment. It seems to stir up an invisible little dance in some hidden place that I bet you know all about. Esoteric, yes. I think so. Ha. :))
April 27th, 2023 at 8:41 am
Oh — I love that! Don’t know that I’d have the gumption to pull this off successfully, I sense I’d stand there looking petrified, while casting desperately about my mind fishing for a new name that fits, or I’d stammer or have some other kind of immediate and embarrassing tell, but I can imagine you sailing through with aplomb! Joe I’m not so sure of but all those other names I can see fitting you like a glove in certain modes and moods. And that invisible dance in some hidden place is really what it is all about isn’t it? To more such dances always and forever.
April 27th, 2023 at 12:07 am
ha ha. that’s a funny one. enjoyed reading it. having your post updates in my inbox always makes me feel special. part of a pavithra k mehta secret society.
April 27th, 2023 at 8:34 am
🙂 haha –if it’s a society it is one that is not so much secret as it is just — very small 🙂 Much in the same way that a drop is not so much a secret from the ocean as it is just a tiny constituent. I cherish the humble and grounding truth of that, much as I cherish the quietness of this space and its visitors like you 🙂
April 28th, 2023 at 12:24 am
have you read the guernsey literary pie and potato peel society? i would like to send you a copy. please share your address.
April 29th, 2023 at 6:39 am
Read it. Love it. Have it 🙂 It captivated from the moment Juliet through that teapot at Gilly Gilbert. It’s perhaps my favorite epistolary novel of all time. But thank you for the sweet thought and offer!
April 27th, 2023 at 3:38 am
Such a stunning quote, and yes to the unexpected doors and unexpected openings. 🙂
May 2nd, 2023 at 1:33 am
another favourite of mine is A.S.Byatt’s Possession. would you like to read it. can i send you a copy?
May 2nd, 2023 at 9:41 am
Lovely to get a glimpse of some of your favorite reads Vaishali. Did try Possession but could never quite get into that prestigious Man Booker winner. To each their own 🙂 Grateful for varied tastes and the joy we can take in other’s enjoyment of things that we don’t quite have the same feeling for. Grateful too for your generous heart.