If you’re bored of reading The Enormous Turnip to your nearest 2-year-old, you’re bored of life. The Read It Yourself with Ladybird, Level 1 series of books includes an absolutely stellar example of storyline: if the mouse pulls the cat, the cat pulls the dog, the dog pulls the girl, the girl pulls the boy, the boy pulls the old woman, the old woman pulls the old man and the old man pulls the enormous turnip, can it be wrenched from the ground? YOU LITERALLY ONLY FIND OUT ON THE LAST PAGE, which may or may not include gorgeous illustrations of turnip soup, pickles and jams and an absolute abundance of this exuberant but slightly wan-hued vegetable (which I personally can’t recall ever having tried, but have known since childhood that sometimes they grow enormously, and that mice think they go very well with holey cheese, if there’s a celebratory banquet going). On an early page, the old man is planting seeds, faithfully, and as such, his very old back is bent halfway so that he is completely inverted, his nose to the ground, as he delivers hope and potential to the just-raked earth (I may have invented the order of events slightly here as related to the rake, riffing off the images and, more crucially, pointing out the red-breasted robins, which I think I can take credit for my niece knowing the name of; she doesn’t need to know that I lack gardening chronology/confidence). So that sets the scene.
Then, just yesterday, as I was driving to my French class, a woman with cropped, dark hair, navy blue buttoned coat and burgundy ankle boots crossed the road while three lanes of traffic (one of which I was at the front of) were stopped at a red light on a roundabout. Even when the pedestrian light is green, as it was for her, you (as a lone human on legs) still feel the need to acknowledge how absurd it is that you, as one person, have the power to cause streams of cars to cease, just because it’s technically your turn; it is always necessary to acknowledge this seemingly unfair oddity by way of some small handwave or similar, and she did so by way of a shy, ground-directed smile, wide eyes and a skippety walk that aimed to hurry itself up out of politeness (though the lights are on their own schedule and we would have waited nevertheless). Oh, the humanity!
I’ve had fleeting affairs with yoga over my life so far; sometimes I do it every day, sometimes (more often) I avoid it and do my own thing. One of the best things I learned from one yoga teacher was to lift the sternum (she called it the heart and/or ‘heart space’) to meet your hands (palms pressed together as they are, in prayer position). This minute, fractional lift – not your hands down to your chest, but your chest up to your hands – opens up everything, creates more breathing space, makes you aware of your posture, urges shoulders slightly back, and un-slouches your whole torso, giving you and your centre more room and in more ways than you realise. I frequently think of this and jolt the centre of my sternum up and out when I feel it has dropped (and it does). It helps. It’s nothing to do with outward appearance, though I remember a man I met while passing most recently through Singapore, with whom I explored the botanical gardens (and gatecrashed a rain-induced disco shack full of teenagers dancing to Britney). When looking back at the photos I’d taken with him, he declared he hated his posture. He asked me a couple of times to point out to him when he was slouching, which I was happy to do, finding this sort of thing quite fascinating. I taught him the yoga/heart/sternum trick, and I bet he is now thrusting shoulders back all over the place.
I recently told a friend I consider dating apps to be quite inefficient while tricking you into thinking they are the ultimate in efficiency (you believe they’re efficient because they seem rational; a numbers game and proof that you are ‘putting yourself out there’, even to the point of non-romance, since you are aware that the perfect man isn’t going to pop out of your fire, and though you are currently experiencing an abundance of attractive men, possibly for various reasons to be undisclosed). They aren’t efficient at all: a person via their profile might seem wonderfully interesting, unusual, confident, accomplished, kind, amusing, etc., but in real life you learn within three seconds that they have a strange voice/laugh/posture, a down-turn to their every phrase and a sort of listlessness; something you’d have known from the start in a pub(/otherwise). My friend laughed at the mention of posture, but it is a real thing. I love it when men are bold in their bodies and relaxed.
Perhaps posture is sort of everything about how we show up. Really, everything. Even choosing our names, occupation, efforts, we are assuming a posture; a shape into which we project our intention and understanding of ourselves, and a way of curating our physical selves into a certain geometry of being. I’ve always thought living was performative, being so utterly under our control even when it isn’t.
Nothingness, too, is a posture – one of waiting and rest. It’s a perfectly good one, actually, especially if the seeds have been planted and noses are to the ground (by which I mean up and outward, like the heart space, and alert to the situation). I’m spending my time hanging on to the bedrock of a new, beautiful place; a sanctuary from which I can create the next thing. For now, it involves sweeping, arranging, playing, cooking, wandering and wondering. There is so much to be done when you are projecting in multiple directions and my days are as peppered (bent in half) by to do lists as ever, but I think this is a stretch of raking, ultimately, and while I barely know what I mean by that, I know there will be excellent bowls of soup warming my hands.