Breathing has been at the center or sometimes the periphery of writing prompts our group has responded to over the years: cleansing breaths to clear ourselves before settling down to write, prompts about taking breaths and losing breath, thoughts that take our breath away (Scharme’s post), breathing in good and breathing out bad, breathing in bad and breathing out good, in and out, out and in, ins and exes, the rhythm of the ocean waves like the ins and outs of our breaths, usually iambic but sometimes rhythms other than unstressed followed by stressed sounds, more DA dum than da DUM sometimes.
Once we wrote to a prompt using “Wage Peace” by Judyth Hill about breathing out good from the bad: “Wage peace with your breath./Breathe in firemen and rubble, breathe out whole buildings/and flocks of redwing blackbirds.”
Perhaps the breathing in good or breathing out good is a little like the analogy of half empty or half full glasses representing our optimistic or pessimistic views? Maybe it is just the reflection of that moment and the need to exchange one for the other.
Breaths sometimes become sighs, and the language of sighs includes many nuances of meaning, intention or reflection. Every breath can be a prayer or a curse or a blessing.
Lucretia Mott, a Quaker traveling minister. was born this day in 1793. She held the Quaker belief that God dwells in each of us, even the ones who are denied status by the society of our times. My mother, Mary Margaret was born on this day in 1921, a day so cold and windy, she liked to tell, that snow blew into the room through the chinks in the wall and fell on her, a newborn with such long black hair that her mother could braid it. My mother would have liked that Lucretia Mott had worked to gain the right to vote for women, the right that was finally granted by a vote in 1920, just months before her birth.
At the end, my mother’s breath was labored, and I remembered what the hospice nurse had said as she observed my father’s last breaths seven years before: His breathing is like a labor, a labor towards a birth, a new life.
On this third day of the new year, I am thinking of breath and lack of it, of prayers and sighs and filling up and breathing out gentle and peaceful thoughts to push out those that are not either of those.