Tuesday, 23 November 2010

November Rain ...

This morning Robert Genn, a BC artist, wrote about his teaching experience in a kindergarten class.  I copied two excerpts because I liked them.

"One boy came very close and said, "I like you. I really like you." I asked him why and he said it was because I let my glasses hang from red strings."

"The kids went to their tables where gobs of colour and actual stretched canvases were provided. Then the fun began. Within a few minutes some had their paint up each other's noses. Paint was flicked, spattered and drizzled. The tables themselves became Jackson Pollocks."

I began to think about why children derive such uncomplicated total pleasure from art ... why they hate a food, a colour or a smell ...  or love it .... just as violently.   Part of the reason, of course, is that every life experience is still so new.  The rest of us have immunized ourselves to strong sensory reactions. 

But it is also because all their senses are still so acute.   

Most of us rely far too heavily on the sense of sight, ignoring the other more subtle sensory information we receive continually.  Our hearing becomes less acute, our tastebuds dull, and our sense of smell fades, but when we habitually ignore those other senses, we help to kill them.

And that is too bad, because it is those smells and tastes  that can evoke memory instantly.

When I smell puffed rice in milk I remember a dark pantry in Mimico.  The taste of Scott's Emulsion can take me back to that same kitchen.  I was six when I lived there with my foster family, when Mom Hall dosed us every winter day with the stuff that made me gag, and fed us cereal for breakfast.  Those memories are nothing more.  Just memories of a time long ago.

But some memories are far more evocative.

The smell of fresh air and sunshine, for example.  When I bring laundry in from the line or sink into a freshly made-up bed, I am instantly back in my thirties.  It is a smell that is both wholesome and incredibly sexy.

I don't use perfume any more. It makes me sneeze.

When I was young, my father gave me Chanel #5 every Christmas.  I loved it, but I knew a woman years later, a school secretary,  then in her sixties, who wore Chanel #5 better than anyone else.  On her skin it smelled like fresh dewy rose petals.  On mine it just smelled like nice perfume.

Once in a doctor's waiting room, I caught a whiff of a spicy but fresh scent of something Eastern and  exotic when a young pregnant Muslim woman stirred beside me. I thought it was just as sexy as the fresh air and sunshine of air-dried linens ... just as perfectly in harmony with her skin as the Chanel had been with the older woman's ... but far more mysterious than either.

Early this morning I decided to take a walk in the rain to try to remember the feeling of mist on skin, to pay attention .  At first the cool wetness did feel dewy, but the droplets chattering  against my yellow slicker before sinking into the sodden leaves on the ground, were louder than I had expected.  My boots were still fitted with ice walkers from yesterday and the steel studs crunched on the gravel. The streams rushing down the mountain to the lake almost drowned out all other sounds. 

I tried to ignore the noise, to pay attention to the feeling of rain on my face, expecting caresses.  Instead the drops felt like I were being splattered by innocuous birdshot.  Occasionally a large splat landed on my cheek when a leaf dropped its larger puddle.  It felt a little like one of those unexpected gifts from birds.  The ones that are supposed to bring luck.

And then we were out of the woods and walking along the road.  The outlet stream from the lake was swollen, the muddy water almost spilling over its banks.  I watched a brown stick being swirled around by the current, and then, in the time it takes to blink, it came alive and darted away ... a muskrat, I think.

On the other side of the lake I let Kenya run free. Stretching her limbs, she began to play and cavort like a puppy, dashing here and there looking for sticks. Then, as suddenly as the rat had done, she tensed and veered toward me, sensing danger from above. Less than a second later a large rock splashed into the ditch water, pushing the puddle over the road.  I heard the swoosh as it hit, but Kenya heard its movement past the rock face.  Her senses are still intact, still childlike.

After a while the fresh sweetness of rain on my face lost its appeal.  My hair was sodden and hanging in my eyes, annoying me.  I had taken off my glasses long before because they steam up in the rain.  Now I just wanted to get home.  The yukk factor had set in. 

But I am glad I walked this morning, glad I didn't wait for the wind and sunshine to dry things before heading out.


Barbara Carlson said...

Nice posting.
I do think we pay closer attention to sensations when we later try to put them down on paper. I sure do. I feel the richer, more full.

Oma said...

Thanks, Barbara.

Maybe if we intend to write later we consciously pay better attention during the experience ... and when we try to recapture the fleeting sensations in words we are forced to concentrate on them a second time. And maybe that is what our older more world weary selves have to do if we are to live fully.

Barbara Carlson said...

Yes. Attend. It could be our last rain. It makes me thankful to think like this -- even doing mundane tasks like laundry. Thankful not to be in a muddle, remembering to actually put the CLOTHES in after I put in the soap & turn on the machine...

My parents are 91 years old now and every month they lose another capability, like the ability to write a cheque, altho signing one is still possible. They fiercely hang on to what is still possible, frustrated and angry.

I watch and hope for a "good", more graceful, death for myself...

Oma said...

Yes ... but not just yet.

How very sad to watch the deterioration of their minds and bodies.