It had its weaknesses, and I did some bad things to it but it got its knees kissed and band aids and mercurochrome and Aspergum, and later stronger things, and it abided. It got whooping cough, chicken pox, measles, german measles, countless flus and ear infections and pinkeye, but it abided.
Its eyesight wasn’t the greatest, but oh the things it saw – peonies and lightning bugs and loving faces and churches and general stores and little painted Ukranian Easter eggs and cats and dogs and mice and fruit trees and blueberries and groundhogs and rattlesnakes. Indian arrowheads and cowboy outfits.
Its senses of taste and smell made up for the eyesight, it knew when milk would turn the next day and when the butter had been browned perfectly, and who had been the last person to use the bathroom at family gatherings. Roses and peonies and dry grass and woods, water minerals and soap. Clean clothes and dirty clothes. The Bible and the Girl Scout manual and hymnals and magazines and paperbacks and hardbacks all smelled different, and it couldn’t open a book without smelling it first.
It was with me when I learned to read, and to think and to drink coffee. It got butterflies about boys and ideas, and you really couldn’t tell us apart the first time I fell in love. I had my heart broken, but it didn’t, its heart abided.
I was a body and a mind and a heart – one travelled, one absorbed and synthesized, and one alternated between moving and standing still. Sometimes one claimed ascendancy over the others, sometimes they worked together, and sometimes they fought for attention; they argued about who got to go first. (The mind usually won.) The times they were most seamless were in childhood, in love, with psychedelics, with painting, and in sickness. Age didn’t set them against each other, but rather caused them to exaggerate each other’s flaws.
In career, the body and the heart were not essential and they got the leftover time. In menopause, that penultimate Great Leap of aging, they all got working together again, but their timing and thermostat was off. The end of that period freed them all again, and often untethered them from each other.
Then it gets complicated. They like different things. They sometimes resent each other. The body is a source of pleasure but also a burden, a wayward child, a slow learner. The mind tries to protect it, but thinks it’s an idiot; it’s on its own. Body wishes mind would cut it a break. But to mind, body is like an old Coach bag that’s scuffed and wearing through but you can’t get rid of it because you paid so much for it. And mind needs it to hold its stuff. Heart only needs it anymore to protect the abridged anthology of things it loves.
There is something foolish and western about referring to the body, mind and heart as different things. As though there’s an “it” and an “I.” I know they are inseparable , and yet “I” am often aware of them, separately.
This line, written for a spent love affair, keeps running through my mind: “You’ve been a good old wagon, baby, but you done broke down.”