A WRITER COVERED IN LEAVES
BY SAM ABELOW
I never noticed in the year that I had known her, often taking strolls in the park and on one occasion sitting at the beach, that her hands were exceptionally delicate. They grasped the dog’s leash with simple grace. The truth is, I would have rather, with humility and modesty, held her hand, in some sort of display of affection, which I found stirring in her presence — either in my thoughts or when I was with her. Instead, I only managed to comment on the characteristics of her hand and hold it for a brief moment. In these circumstances, I continually found it impossible to initiate intimacy of any sort. So, I settled for these observations. It is true what I said at the time; her hands are similar to that of a small tree, as if the articulations of her fingers could be overcome by the happenstance movements of the wind.
In any regard, I found this to be entrancing and recalled what Hermen Hesse’s sculptor character, in the book Narcissus and Goldman, had discovered: That the hands must reflect the entire personality. She compared her wiry hands to that of a Spider monkey. I believed this quality correlated with her absolutely kindhearted proclivities and naturally altruistic inclinations. These traits may be what I most adored about Ellie. Yet, it could also could have been her beautiful light brown hair, which she moved from one shoulder to the other, redistributing it around her slender face. She smiled and told me about her current endeavors, which always included certain friends, acquaintances, work partners, all of whom I imagined she met easily, attracting them like bugs to the summer porch lamp. The same lamp which I sat and read under for hours, while she attended an event, a party, or a gathering. As other young people salaciously competed for attention of the opposite sex, she jumped around from one inspiring conversation to the next with a wild naivité. I could see her at this party, sipping on a drink, playful in her heart — which like her hands, were so incredibly light.
When she spoke of struggles, real struggles, like that of her fused toe which caused pain in her knee, she still displayed an upturned meeting of the lips and a brightness in her gaze as if to say, “But, there are worse things in the world, of course.” I responded internally with compassion and externally with a frown, because I felt this pain and have had a long affair with suffering, albeit primarily the anguish of emotional fragility.
As we walked along the loops and trails of the park, on a quintessentially New England autumn day, she asked me about my music and art. I told her, “What makes me different is that I combine art forms — the music, the painting…”
She added, referring to my blog posts, “And the spiritual lifestyle.”
“Yes, the ideas — spirituality, philosophy — and also the poetry, the writing.”
I told her about the book — the book about my life. That is, the two lives I've lived, the inner and the outer. I revealed on that day what I’d known for a while, “I am so involved with my projects and activities in solitude — writing my songs, recording and reading books, studying various interests — that I don’t go out to parties enough.”
In one way or another, I must’ve conveyed that I admire her outgoing aspects. With that, she noticed a particularly bright yellow and orange tree. She wished, “To become the tree.”
I replied: “But you can!” For I immediately recalled various mystical experiences meditating on nature. I suggested, “We can lay down under it and look upwards, into the leaves.”
We arranged our bodies in parallel columns on the ground. Her little dog mingled above our heads. This distraction may have caused her to rise after only a few brief moments. So it was, that we were done with our adventure into the cadmium yellow and orange, which highlighted the scenery around us and enticed us into renouncing conversation for only a fleeting minute. She was courteous and helped remove leaves from the back of my fleece jacket, which prompted me to joke: “I’m a writer, covered in leaves.” More truly, I was a writer covered in innocent, undeveloped love — or rather infatuation, adoration and expectation. I had been forever waiting for the best moment, or opportunity presented by its own magical volition, to indulge myself and act outwardly towards her with these feelings, which I had only expressed in song, in writing, and only conveyed to her on one occasion, when I commented that she had inspired one such work. These postulations about my feelings had always been sublimated into my art. I had begun to realize that it was imperative for me to express the quality of my interest in her. On one occasion I did communicate this all to her. She had accepted this in an endearing way, but made no proclamations of her own.
If I could have received a crumble of information regarding her reasons for being interested in me, in spending time with me…
On those walks, where her largely set, compassionate eyes offered a tender gaze, she gifted me the enchanting opportunity to see her slim frame, flanked by waving hair, endeavor to circumvent the park. And her graceful hands, that are only in illusion long and which when inspected closely are small, like her waist and hips, had me shyly enamored. The smallness of her hands and waist are like her heart, only in the smallness of its sin and absence of loftiness: this trait of smallness is an equivalent of the insignificant degree of weight, or tension, caused by evil or vindictiveness, burdening one’s heart. This trait is rare in the world that I have come to understand and have continually felt oppressed by. Yet, within the confines of the beautiful scenery and weather, her gentle hands, brilliant eyes and excited words made me forget all such concerns. In those moments, and for a residual period afterwards, the gap between where I resided concurrently and my own exaltation, liberation and fulfillment, was as slender as her hands, which seemed too busy to grasp a hold.
So, I had been subjected to the format of writing and reflection within my own spheres. I've spent hours reviewing how I touched Ellie’s hand, felt moved by her gaze, was entranced by the flirtations of her hair moving as she bent and swayed. I was intrigued by the way her goals are not orientated towards financial success, or individualistic greed — which seems so common — but how she is enthusiastically compelled to work for the good of others and the community. This orientation is naturally my own, but I have found trouble in my willingness to give since others have often taken advantage of that. I have begun to learn to stand up for myself, to communicate my needs, but cannot seem to tell Ellie that I've wanted nothing more than to lay under that tree, saturated in yellow, for an hour, with her. And in that continuation of successive, precious moments I would've grasped her hand within mine.
My hands have appeared slender for a man, and often delicate with movement, aesthetically orchestrated with purposeful, mindful application of their intensive use. I explained to Ellie as the walk ended that, “To me, as an artist, hands are so extraordinary because of the way they express emotions, ideas though creating.” My hands have become stiff because of my incessant and passionate use of them as tools. The endless hours manipulating computer programs for recording, pressing them into copper guitar strings on a rigid wood fretboard and especially the banging on piano keys, have all made my hands and wrists relentlessly strained. When I've brought my awareness to them, they've felt aged, worn, tense. The muscles and tendons have required conscious stretching and loosening on a daily basis. These hands have seemed to be articulate, like finely written scholarly books on biblical history; they've appeared deliberate and somewhat pointed.
The tendons in my hands were visible, and this exposed the inner functioning and components of these extremities, much the way I have been so vulnerable and sensitive psychologically. The sensations in my hands of stiffness have increased over recent years, where I have also become more rigidly fixated on routine and devoted to a solipsistic work ethic. I have been so calculated with the use of my hands in my music playing as well as in my use of time. I have tended to regard all of my daytime hours, when I am coherent enough, to be designated to work and production of artistic material. The other hours of the day have been for relaxation and reflection. The time necessary for relating to others has been diminished. This has been why I also question how Ellie could ever be interested in me romantically, when she has had dozens of other relationships with friends and co-workers, engagements in projects and invitations to dinner parties. Where could I have fit into that?
As of late I have initiated myself into the realm of introspection and absorption into creativity and self-exploration. My thin legs have been walked, stretched and run for miles in an attempt to invigorate my body and ground my soul. My scrawny, ribbed torso, boney shoulders have looked pleasant underneath fashionable clothing, but when stripped have appeared brittle and dejected. I have been strongly devoted to artistic composition, to my own existence, and so the apprehension to become intimate with someone has been tied up in my increasingly dense and piercing knowledge of my own absolute dysfunction — a one-sidedness towards abstraction, which must've made me incredulous to a romantic partner. Still, there have been people who respond and encourage me, who seem to be attracted to what I am and what I present.
There has been something unforgiving in my appearance, wounded and upfront — especially with my black, scraggly hair, which is shaved off. However, this unforgiving attitude towards myself has made me more patient and loving towards others in their shortcomings. A series of meditations on life and it’s meaning, as well as history, religion, psychology, painting, music and poetry are the leaves that cover a writer’s back, which Ellie could've removed and disposed of, or at least set aside, if she had ever chosen. In that fantasy, her slender hands wrapped around my shoulders and I kissed her. I was then set free; I was no longer stiff, or sad, or anguished, or aware of a history of loneliness. I was no longer an artist or thinker, but a person, a lover, a friend.