This weekend I reached and surpassed page 1000 in War and Peace: I am now very clearly on the downwards slope towards the novel’s end. There is a lot of discussion of battle plans and troop movements; a meaningful dissection of the psychology and intention behind war. Namely, that the people we always consider the prime movers—the kings, the generals, the leading-actor types—are really just pawns in a massive, historical, planetary action. It might be useful for those of us living right now to think that way: that the head is not where we think the head is.
To think instead that we are all blood moving through a system of veins, and we don’t understand what the organs are, what the oxygen is we are carrying. What could a heart be, to a red cell? Could it be God? Or is God, instead, the very act of flowing?
I know I sound like I’m high, but I promise I’m not.
Speaking of movement, some of my sunflowers are now as tall as I am, and turn each afternoon towards the sun as it drifts across the sky in its everlasting parabola. When they were smaller, the sunflower stems sometimes contorted rather gymnastically in their seeking of resources, but now their stems are thick and tall and all they need to do is pivot.
As I walk around my neighborhood, the whole world is blooming: the mesquite trees shedding pollen, the palo verdes dropping carpets of yellow flowers beneath them as if to welcome the padding of gentle feet. The cacti opening waxy blossoms, the saguaros in particular articulating their white crowns. The orgiastic birds fly uncomfortably close, but I must admit that I don’t mind this: it makes me feel a part of the world. Like life itself got thicker, more concentrated, and now I’ve been dipped into it.
War and Peace has been such a huge part of my experience of this quarantine, it’s hard for me to imagine what I will do, how I will anchor myself, when it’s done. I’m pretty sure I’ll finish a couple of weeks in advance of the #TolstoyTogether reading group, so I’ll probably go back and re-read some of the later sections more carefully in Russian, savor it all for a little longer. But then I guess I will have to move forwards. Which is great, in the sense that there are so many books I want to read. But a bit destabilizing too. Stepping off the path. Making a new path, maybe.
Anyway. Yesterday I made some really good chicken. Today I will take a cold shower, which is the only possible way to shower when it’s over 100 degrees: when you want the water to remind you not of the womb, but of the sea. Of cold glacial melt. Of swimming, as a body in the world, a cell in the water, a piece moving on a board that you cannot see. Not the head, not the heart, but a much smaller particle. And only in that smallness can you find enough shade, and the will to go on.