Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Preaching or writing about the body

I have been thinking about the body, how to write and talk about the body. Particularly approaching Good Friday, particularly thinking about the Incarnate One, being able to capture and evoke the sensations of the body seems important.

Woke up this morning, early, my back sore and tight. I'm attributing it to hunching in from the cold and too much computer time. My right foot also suffers with plantar fasciitis, where tendons are very tight after a night in the same position, so getting out of bed is a slow, deliberate process. My initial descent of the stairs to the kitchen can mean really holding onto the rail, because I don't really trust things to flex and bend the way they ought to. Yet, going down the stairs is exactly the stretching motion required to loosen it up, so that once I'm downstairs usually my foot is okay. Am going to think more about how to describe those sensations and try to write them down (again?).

In Imagining A Sermon, Thomas Troeger captures such a picture of Joseph's exhaustion: "Joseph sits a few feet to the side. A walking stick props up his right knee, which props up his right forearm which props up his drooping head. If a wind blows through the stable and topples him over, he will go on sleeping in the same posture on his side." (p. 62).

Here's a body vignette from my week:
The young person picks her way slowly up the hill, bowed under the weight on her back. She is still a girl, perhaps not yet a woman, her loose clothes giving no clear sign of breasts, as she is bent by her pack. She concentrates on where she puts her feet, carefully stepping around the slick places, and clambering over the rough spots on the path. Still she is alert to her surroundings, stepping aside as others push by, and looking up to see if her ride is waiting. She is bent by the weight of a backpack filled with textbooks and homework, a child of privilege, wearing fashionable glasses, with a gleam of orthodontic retainer when she gets closer and smiles.

Yet looking at her bent back as she climbs the icy sidewalk up the steep hill, I think that this is how a peasant girl would look carrying a load of wood or shopping up the hill from the village. Perhaps that would have been what she would have been doing if I had not traveled to China twelve years ago. Even in her bent posture there is suppleness in her movements, the possibility of springing back, of jumping from a snow pile, that would not be evident in an older woman similarly bent with osteoporosis.

As she jumps, her long hair lifts and falls in the breeze, a long, shiny, rich dark brown swirl. Perhaps it is how Mary, who was just slightly older, looked as she walked on the road to Elizabeth's house carrying her belongings for a stay with her cousin in the middle of her shame, confusion and wonder, bent slightly with the weight of more than just belongings, intent, yet alert, open to possibility, moving on to new things.

Still in the young woman, bent, it is possible to imagine the bending that might come with other burdens, with age, with sorrow—but that is yet another story.

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