Thursday, September 4, 2008
Becoming the pokeberry
One of the things I love about escaping the pavement is the loss of a sense of being separated from the world--you know, the "I'm in here, looking at everything out there" sensation that we live with most of the time. I don't mean the complete loss of self that I described in an earlier post. That's a rare event. I mean something much more subtle, so subtle I'm often barely aware of it except as a small, instinctive pleasure.
For instance, today I had been climbing a hill and the muscles in my legs were very tight, so I stopped at a big, dead cedar tree to stretch. I threw one leg onto a low branch that had been stripped and worn smooth by some combination of critters and the elements. I looked at the bare skin of my leg against the surface of the branch, and I felt an intuitive understanding that I was made of the same stuff as the wood--sort of a bonding moment with all carbon-based life.
A little later I came across a stand of mature pokeweed, and I couldn't resist pulling off some berries and crushing them in my hands, just to see the bright magenta stain. Sometimes I think the practice of painting the body was originally inspired by the desire to explore the source of the color, as much as to make a display of oneself for other people. Smearing that pokeberry juice over my hands was a real sensual pleasure--the feel of it, the sight of it, and the scent, too. Pokeberry juice has an alluring smell; a perfumer would say it's a bittersweet accord of hay, cucumber and orris. Sniffing it, I felt that moment of communion again. I didn't make it a literal communion by taking a taste, of course--I know better--but I admired my painted hands for the rest of my walk.
Photo of pokeberries by Rei at Wikimedia Commons.