I remember a few years ago watching … no, that isn’t the right way to begin…: a few years ago, on a snowy New Year’s Day, I spent an hour or so in a studio with Miguel Gutierrez. He was blindfolded, I think wearing ear plugs. He had been moving for maybe 10 hours at that point. It wasn’t snowing very hard, flurries really, and everything felt gentle and still. A good way to start a year.
Inside the studio, M. was going slow and steady, too. Gently. I eased in, tried not to take up a lot of space (someone else was there, maybe one or two people … someone was painting on sheets of paper, maybe, on the floor). I wonder what it felt like -how he registered new bodies…
At a certain point he came close to me, maybe fell into me a little bit, and whispered sorry, I think. But there wasn’t anything to be sorry about: I was in his trajectory, and it felt good, this contact. I wondered if he knew me, recognized me (he tousled my curls), but surely he didn’t, most of our contact really had been in phone interviews. Still, I had just interviewed him in his apartment in Brooklyn, for the article I wrote about this very activity he was now engaged in, this 24-hour movement. He’d been finishing laundry at the local laundromat when I arrived, and I remember him at one point, I can’t remember when or why, talking about all the traveling he did for work, how this was hard in a particular type of way. I wasn’t doing as much traveling for work then as I am now, and I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, this singular sort of dislocation and interruption. For me, now, it manifests as a certain kind of loneliness. Also something about the body, being at once in and out of it in a paradoxical way. The Strange Hours Travelers Keep.
As I write now, I am in another studio, in Vienna, where I am leading a five-day writing workshop. It is quiet now, again (though no snow; finally the rains have ended, the air is still, placid). Everyone is working, either:
1. Making a collage based in part on found language from yesterday’s scavenger hunt
2. Developing the continuous writing and moving exercises we did earlier today
Right this moment I can see A. on her back, writing in the air with her pen, and D. outside in our awkward little courtyard, and L. sitting upright on the floor, reading and smiling.
It feels great to be sharing space and time with them.
Yesterday we talked about our desires and values. I said a lot of things, some silly things (first days make me nervous). Today I would say much less, I think. I would say: I feel present, and content.
Earlier, when they were all moving in the space, I felt that loneliness M. talked about (I am not sure he said “loneliness” and maybe he didn’t even mean this). The exercise was this:
1. 5 minutes continuous movement, making small or big adjustments, getting used to being in the space, being inward-focused
2. 5 minutes continuous writing
3. 10 minutes continuous movement, being aware now that you are in the room with others, sharing space and time
4. 10 minutes continuous writing
5. 5 minutes stillness
6. 5 minutes writing, but now choosing more what you put on paper, what thoughts
It was during 3. that I felt this loneliness – such a beautiful dance they made, with and without each other … I was keeping time, and so not participating in an immediate way – this felt important, to create this space for them to really be in time, instead of being mindful of it. And I didn’t trust entirely that I could maintain the “right” headspace needed to lead a discussion after, to be sure of where we were going next (I have trouble with transitions). But then it didn’t feel right, to be sitting – or, it felt lonesome, and I wondered what might happen if I gave up that control, which anyway seemed like a conceit: the teacher at her desk, awaiting the students’ apples. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?