Is it age? Loss of an in-house family? More free time? Whatever the reason, I find I now need, thrive on, cannot do without meditation—twice a day! My evening meditations are often fodder for dreams, and yes, they help me wind down, de-stress, sleep. In the morning, though, things are a different color: I open my eyes from these quiet times, as full of excitement as an untamed puppy. Down girl! I want to tell myself. But still, I can barely restrain the eagerness–the minute the world comes flooding back, each thing I see or touch or hear is kissable! How do you kiss a sound? How do you keep from trying?
Which reminds me of a piece of art I saw last June in a student show at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. I was teaching writing there, but in the spirit of interdisciplinary connection, I took my students to an on-campus show by high school painters. We wandered the exhibit, both inspired and cowed by the versatility, the fresh ideas of these young artists. The work that snagged me from the moment I walked in, and which I tried without success to capture with my cell phone camera, was a clear, single-paned window hanging off to one side of the gallery. It was covered, top to bottom, with lipstick kisses.
I think now of the girl who did this (I found her name on a wall tag, but failed to write it down). I’m sure she’s someone like me, someone who isn’t afraid of “dirty” things—dead birds, squashed squirrels and snakes. Feathers, stranded river stones, turtle shells. No piece of life (or death) seems without its own magic. Each is worthy of examination, attention, what I called in a recent poem, “impertinent curiosity.”
So when my grown kids tell me not to let their children touch these things, it makes me sad. The warm body of a small bird that’s just died on my front steps, flight still whispering in its chest—how is this “dirty?” How can we fail to stoop, to wonder, to bury with thanks?
I see her, then, this child-woman, who was never taught that germs are everywhere, pressing her lips against the old window she’s found. Over and over, making sure the moistness of her mouth finds the glass. Doing what artists do: letting her love shine through.