Day Twelve: Body Language

Today is Feb. 15, and this is my twelfth post. I’m thinking “one post a day” describes the final tally and not daily output. So sue me.

Mia has an English paper due tomorrow. The topic she’s come up with for the essay is body language in the novel “Native Speaker” by Chang Rae-Lee. I’ve not read it . From what she has told me, I know it deals with the experience of Korean-American immigrants and the role of language in defining their identity. I love this idea that our native language might not be the one we grow up speaking, but in fact, our body language. I’m really proud of Mia for her insight in picking up on its importance to the characters in this book.

It’s got me thinking.

Now this is maybe a cop-out for the fact that I have not managed to sit down and write daily, but I have been doing a lot of teaching over the last few weeks. My teaching of Nia is every bit as immersed in language as a long session at the keyboard. The act of speaking with my body throughout the class unlocks words and images in a steady stream. When I am seated at the keyboard, the words come more haltingly. For example, I just finished a sentence and my mental energy flagged. I picked up some nearby nail-clippers and worked away on my cuticles, girding for the next round of composing. This small physical act relieves the constant, quiet tension that is a ghost looking over my shoulder as I write; I feign disinterest so that perhaps he’ll be distracted and wander off to haunt someone else.

But my mini-manicure also grounds me in the here and now, in something physical and ordinary. That’s helpful. Staying connected to my sensations as I teach, waiting for language to arrive that enhances the movement (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that language flowers out of the movement–metaphors are the actual fruit of my dance), the words flow. On the best of days at the keyboard, I achieve this same sense of becoming a conduit for language and ideas: I’m just providing the vessel here, but the words themselves come from a divine source. In dance, I have this feeling ALL THE TIME. The words move through me, they are unique to me, yet they are not mine at all.

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