Then you must read this particular post, which is one of my all-time favorites.
We have called you here today, Alison, for a reason.
And what might that reason be?
Don’t get that look on your face. This is for your own good.
Nothing that begins with “this is for your own good” is ever any good. Also, there are so many of you and only one of me.
But we are tiny mechanical creatures and you are 5’10”.
5’10.25″, thanks. And could you tell me if the comma should actually go inside the quotation mark there? It just looks so wrong when I do it that way.
No, we cannot tell you, as we are tiny mechanical ungrammatical creatures skilled only in leaping, flipping, scuttling rapidly, dancing in a robot-like manner and spinning about in circles while lying on our backs.
So can I go now?
No. We’ve asked you here today to explain yourself in the matter of the pound cake you served at a gathering in this very room approximately one month ago.
What about it?
So you remember the gathering?
Do you remember bringing the pound cake to the dining room when it was time for dessert?
Do you recall telling your brother, who is, we believe, 6’6.5″ tall, in response to his delighted exclamation of “Wow! That looks just like our mother’s pound cake!” the following: “It is our mother’s pound cake! I followed her recipe exactly!”
And do you feel that was a truthful statement?
(TINY BLUE MECHANICAL ROBOT ABRUPTLY BEGINS A ROBOTIC DANCE. TINY MECHANICAL MONKEY ABRUPTLY BEGINS LEAPING BACKWARD WHILE STILL CLUTCHING BANANA. BOTH ARE QUICKLY SILENCED BY THE TINY MECHANICAL BUMBLEBEE.)
We ask you now to take a look at the pound cake recipe, carefully written out on a recipe card in your mother’s distinctive backward-slanting lefty’s handwriting and stored in the small wooden recipe box next to the Jim Beam in the cupboard above your stove. Is this the recipe that you followed “exactly”?
So you changed nothing about the recipe, then?
(SILENCE, FOLLOWED BY AN ABRUPT CONCATENATION OF ALL TINY MECHANICAL CREATURES, WHIRRING, HISSING, LEAPING, FLIPPING AND SPINNING.)
Okay! Geeze! Maybe I changed it a tiny bit.
Yet you still feel justified in referring to it as your mother’s exact pound cake recipe?
Yep. It’s called “tweaking.” Ever heard of it?
You guys are too uptight.
Are you actually accusing me of lying to my own brother?
You know what I don’t like? I don’t like your beady little eyes all staring at me.
You know what else? I’m going to leave the room now. That’s because I can. Unlike you, who are not people with legs but who are, instead, tiny mechanical creatures perched precariously on a window shelf where an errant cat could knock you to smithereens with a single swipe of the paw.
(VAGUE WHIRRINGS AND CLICKS OF DISPLEASURE, MIXED WITH AN UNDENIABLE HINT OF FEAR.)
Hey, I know – maybe I’ll go make a pound cake.
Someone told her once that everyone corresponds to an element, and that all you have to do is ask yourself the simple question, “Which element am I?” and the answer will come to you.
She loves simplicity – “simplicity is complexity resolved” after all – so she asked herself the question. Even though she didn’t need to. She already knew she was air.
Closely followed by water. Air with a rising water moon, or however the astrology people would term it.
She might like to be fire, because she thinks it’s beautiful, and she’s always cold, and she might like to be earth, because then she would be solidly held to this planet, but the elements are not to be argued with, so she doesn’t bother regretting that she is neither fire nor earth.
She has a friend who at times believes himself to be in danger of floating off the planet. Yet when she asks the question “What element is he?” the answer is immediate: fire.
She has another friend whose laugh she loves, the kind of friend she wishes lived on her block. It seems as if this friend should be air, like her, but ask the question and the answer that comes back is water.
Her son? Air. Double air. Triple air with an extra scoop of air.
Her older daughter? Water with a rising air moon.
Her younger daughter? Earth.
Her mother? Water.
Her father? Earth.
And on and on it goes, some more intensely so than others.
If you’re air, you have to work to stay on the ground. Breathe in and push that breath out down through your feet. Imagine your feet growing roots down through the earth. Imagine that every breath you take, every step you take, stitches you to the earth so that you can’t just float away, the way you dream of doing.
Literally dream, at night. Her dreams are filled with air. She drives a car around and around and around a road of hairpin curves that leads up and up and up a mountain until suddenly the car, with her one hand on the wheel, is airborne. She’s floating above, looking down.
Air people need to eat a lot so that their bodies don’t turn themselves back into air.
When air people think hard they can feel themselves evaporating. This is why she shovels spoonfuls of peanut butter into herself on a daily basis. Things like sweet potatoes are important for air people to eat.
ADD and ADHD are most prevalent in air people. (She just made that last one up.) (She’s kind of making all these up, but they all feel right.)
It is hard for air people to focus on one thing for a period of time. Activities such as knitting, quilting, washing dishes by hand, folding laundry and vacuuming slowly all help to keep an air person from floating away.
Long-distance walking, running, hiking: these are good activities for air people. Rhythmic motion that helps keep their thoughts from spiraling up and away.
Heavy blankets and quilts are important, especially in winter.
Whiskey is better for air people than wine.
She’s rocking on the porch swing as she writes this. Her dog, who is a fire creature if ever there was one, is perched at the door, crying for the neighbor boy. The neighbor boy is earth, as is his father. His mother is water with an earth moon rising.
Her cat, who is an air creature, just leaped from the open window to the ground below, there to prowl about before skittering up the steps and yowling to be let back in.
It does not surprise her that in all the accounts of near-death experiences she knows of, the near-death people rise above their bodies and survey the scene below. It does not surprise her that long ago, at the moment her grandmother Reine died, her mother sensed her flying above and away, calling her name in a young and happy voice.
When she was little, maybe five, the sky outside her house up there in the foothills filled with a wild wind. She ran outside with an umbrella and stood on the top of the small hill that she’d learned to ride a bike down. She opened the umbrella and held it above her head and the wild wind lifted her off the ground an inch or two and she dropped the umbrella immediately.
She has wondered ever since if it might actually have carried her off.
Eagles and hawks can carry off small animals, and back then she was a smallish animal. So it seems entirely possible that she might have been carried away that day, up into the dark and wild sky.
Here on her porch swing, in freakishly warm weather for October, she’s wearing a t-shirt. She can see the bones of her rib cage, expanding and contracting. The air smells like leaves and grass and dust and heat. She is in her element.