Season of the Body: Essays

Season of the Body: Essays

by Brenda Miller


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Season of the Body: Essays by Brenda Miller

"The body knows a language the mind never wholly masters." In this remarkable debut collection—essentially a memoir in essay form—Brenda Miller creates an autobiography that locates her body as its central reference point. Single and unable to bear children of her own, Miller details a life in relationship to the extended human family, a journey that traverses realms physical, emotional, and spiritual. From her training in massage and reflexology, to her volunteer work in a hospital's infant ward, Miller remains a constant seeker and humble teacher. Raised in a suburban Jewish household in the sixties, Miller grows up to find herself sitting in meditation for hours at a time, both bemused and intrigued by Buddhist precepts. Or she engages in her own ironic brand of mindfulness while caring for two little girls or attending the birth of her godson. She brings us to Portugal, Syria, Israel, and the deserts of southern Utah, but these are no mere travelogues: they become, instead, maps by which to navigate the intricate maze of our lives. These personal essays vary from the lyric to the narrative to the humorous, but always we warm to Miller's authentic voice as she explores personal joys and heartbreaks within a larger domain. Organically shaped, never forced, these award-winning essays arrive with the pleasant snap of physical detail and leave with unforgettable insights on birth, prayer, and human resilience. Nurturing, yet uncommonly honest, Season of the Body articulates the unspoken losses, the desires held deep in the mute chambers of the heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781889330686
Publisher: Sarabande Books
Publication date: 04/01/2002
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

As I lay in my childhood bed in Los Angeles, religiously following the step-by step directions in the needlepoint kit, my mother seemed to be always washing dishes in the kitchen down the hall-the water constantly running, the clank of silverware in the sink. Where did so many dishes come from? I think she sensed I a little ashamed in front of her; before I was rushed to the hospital, she was the one to find me collapsed in the bathroom, in such pain I couldn't speak or cry out; she had seen me vomit; she'd seen my robe pulled askew across my legs as I fainted.

But every couple of hours the water in the kitchen ceased, I heard my mother's footsteps in the carpeted hall, saw her tiny figure in my doorway, "You need anything, sweetheart?" she asked. She didn't wear an apron, so her sweatshirt was always dotted with dishwater. She stood half-in, half-out of my bedroom until her maternal instincts overwhelmed her; then she slid onto my bed, her palm on my forehead, her eyes teary with concern. I can't remember if we'd ever really talked about sex; we attended the mother/daughter lecture in junior high auditorium called "The Joy of Being a Woman," but that was more about Kotex than it was about intimacy, and even then I could barely stand the embarrassment. Once, feeling bold, I'd asked her if she and my father had sex before they were married. "Oh, of course not," she answered, blushing, turning to fuss with pots and pans on the stove. "And you better not, either." As she sat with me on my bed, I wonder if she looked at me, her daughter, and couldn't help imagine what I'd done, if my sexuality made her angry or sad or ashamed.

My mother never mentioned my young boyfriend. She barely mentioned the pregnancy. Instead, she admired the growing needlepoint, rubbed the bulky fabric between her fingers, talked about having it framed and mounted on the wall above my bed. She knew that sometimes only the simplest actions are feasible, and those are the ones that lead us out of illness and back into the world. So I pulled strands of thread through tiny holes until one day I was able to walk, and one day I was able to laugh, and one day I was able to cry. Recovery, it turned out was inevitable.

Table of Contents

Body Language
Part 1: Needlepoint, The Names,A Dharma Name, Basha Leah, Next Year in Jerusalem
Part II: How to Meditate, A Thousand Buddhas, Sean, Falling, Split, Artifacts, Infant Ward
Part III: A Brief, History of Sex, Prologue to A Sad Spring, The Date, Grape Hyacinths, Time With Children, A Field Guide to the Desert, Gourd, Kimono, Season of the Body
Part III: The Backward, Language of Prayer
The Author<

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