‘There is something rich and alive in these people. They want to be able to breathe the Great Breath. They are like children, helpless. And then they’re like demons. But somewhere, I believe, they want the breath of life and the communion of the brave, more than anything.’
She was surprised at herself, suddenly using this language. But her weariness and her sense of devastation had been so complete, that the Other Breath in the air, and the bluish dark power in the earth had become, almost suddenly, more real to her than so-called reality. Concrete, jarring, exasperating reality had melted away, and a soft world of potency stood in its place, the velvety dark flux from the earth, the delicate yet supreme life-breath in the inner air. Behind the fierce sun the dark eyes of a deeper sun were watching, and between the bluish ribs of the mountains a powerful heart was secretly beating, the heart of the earth. — from The Plumed Serpent by D. H. Lawrence
Steve and I are reading this novel aloud. The chapter that follows this quote describes a sensual ritual inspired by the god Quetzalcoatl. D.H. writes with a rhythmic repetition that is especially enhanced in the hearing of it. The protagonist, Kate, is an Irish woman opening herself to the experience of Mexico in the 1920s; the political and racial and sexual tensions pulsate under the glaring sun and a dark softness broods beneath them. Last night, we listened to some selections of Richard Strauss (Four Last Songs), Shostakovich (Movements III and IV of the 5th symphony), and Wagner (prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde”) and talked about sinking into deeper places in the soul. Obsession, ego, openness, control. And under-girding it all, the space for life and love to unfold, which I might call “God”. It’s like moving from a caress to a deep-tissue massage. How much can you stand? Does it feel dangerous? I feel a “safety valve” kick in when I am in that dark night which always brings me back to the light. I don’t know if that’s my ego wrestling control out of the situation or an intrinsic optimism that says that the space where everything takes place is basically safe. When I am seized by grief or anxiety, I can only cry so much…and then I stop. Steve seems to have a Slavic tolerance for brooding that far exceeds mine.
And today, Steve is dizzy and nauseated. He took an antihistamine yesterday for his allergies, and he never takes drugs. So he is sleeping it off beside me, breathing deeply and regularly. A squirrel hangs upside down outside the window eating maple seeds amid the green and golden foliage. The body, bodies, the earth: we move in and out of shadow and sunshine and time. Nothing lasts, not brooding or joy, cohesion or disbursement. The universe is in motion. No wonder we feel dizzy sometimes.