Kate was teaching Gentle Stretching to a group in a nursing home,when I got to visit her in Pittsburgh last month, and there was an old woman there with Alzheimer’s who was very beautiful with truly blue hair, and she kept asking, Honey! Whaddam I doin here?!
And I was very patient and good and kept saying, Well you’re stretching– and she would forget almost as soon as I was done talking and look up at me and say Honey! all over again. At first it was sad. Alzheimer’s is sad. Next it was exasperating. And then it took on an existential tone. I began to wonder. Whaddam I doin here? I welled up and for several minutes had to blink a lot. It is always dangerous to introduce a moderately intelligent woman to allegory and metaphor and then turn her loose in the wide world.
Honey! Whaddam I doin’ here?!
Last night I dreamed that I was running away from danger, something wicked this way comes, and I was carrying the baby, and a suitcase for her and I was grindingly slow because of all I had to carry. My dreams are becoming as obviously symbolic as Pilgrim’s Progress. I was talking to Rebecca about feeling like a character in the book, surrounded by that many obstacles– just less allegorical and more normal. She said she hoped I wasn’t surrounded by flat stereotypes named for vices or virtues. I became almost hysterical at that point, thinking about how clear everything would be! How good and clear a course of action would be! You wouldn’t have to think! You could just unfriend Jerry Stalker and not hire Josie Infanticide as the au pair.
For a minute I was delighted with the prospect of such clarity. But then things would get boring pretty quickly I guess. You know, there’s a book I wish I liked. It’s like Moby Dick. People who genuinely love Moby Dick are really cool and really brilliant. People who like Pilgrim’s Progress are also really impressive. I believe that it used to be a schoolchildren staple, actually. Children were reared on it. Sounds dull as bricks to me, really, but everyone knows that people in the olden days were smarter, cleverer, better read, better cooks, loyaller, more patient, had a working knowledge of chemistry, were familiar with latinate phrases for everything from ‘meet you at the forum’ to ‘pass the salt, it’s cena time.’ They could do just about everything and it all cost, on average, 5oo percent less than now. It’s all downhill from the olden days.
Oh yes, Pilgrim’s Progress. I had forgotten what I was ranting about. Here’s the boring picture of Christian. The kind of allegory I really like is the Red Crosse Knight stuff. It’s glorious! It’s groundbreaking! A dragon who vomits tracts and pamphlets! I can’t get enough. Then there are Turks and scimitars and Saracens (a word I like because it sounds like my name) and faerie queens and politics and blinding ambition and a seer at the top of a mountain. And superb names. That’s a cool thing about allegory. The names are pretty straightforward. Gloriana is the faerie queen (guess who? Yes! Queen Elizabeth I! the important one! Every woman wants to be rewritten as a faerie queen. Spenser got a lifelong pension for that clever bit of work.) Then there are names like Sansfoy, Sansloy and Sansjoy, which mean faithless, lawless, and joyless, respectively. It’s just refreshing. It would be nice if all my friends picked allegorical names and we stuck to them for a week or so.
This is sort of like when Iris said I should be Snow White for Halloween and the rest of our group could be dwarves– Iris’s name was Usey and Robyn’s was Needy. Annie was Shorty I think. We were just joking. It never happened. I always liked Snow White the best, for the simple and obvious reason that of all the Disney princesses, statistically my features are closest to hers. Since I’m being honest, though, Snow White is kind of a drag to watch and I only pretend to be into it. I like Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast a lot more. (That’s Robyn’s favorite, because she looks like Belle.)
(I just realized that it’s funny to see these two images on the same page. Heh.)
Also a personal flaw of mine is that I get briefly angry when someone sneezes really loudly, because it frightens me. If I were really Snow White, Sneezy and I would have to have a little talk. Maybe Sneezy would have to go away for awhile.
Aw honey. WhaddamIdoin.