Today I’m exploring the idea of motion in art, science and literature.
First of all, I have to tell you that I’m reading The Story of Science: Newton at the Center, which is part of a series for kiddies.
And I have to say that I am flabbergasted at all the things that I never learned in school. Who knew that science, and motion in particular, was so dadgum interesting?
And who knew that thinking about Newton and his laws of motion would lead me back to Degas, who is hands-down one of the most talented painters that ever walked this earth.
I forgot about all those dancers and how well he rendered their m o v e m e n t on canvas. Observe:
Also those pretty, little ballerinas twirling, twirling like falling leaves.
Now, that little exercise led me back to one of my college texts (not an art book), a paperback called Jenny and the Jaws of Life, which was actually hard to come by back then, before David Sedaris got it back in print. We may have had to *ahem* make some bootleg photocopies to make it go around.
Anyway, what’s important is that inside this book is a snazzy, little short story, titled Melinda Falling, that opens with a falling scene. Check it out:
The very first time I saw her, Melinda was in midair, just below the summit of a long, winding staircase, on her way down. There were three other women on the wide carpeted stairs, two were prettier than Melinda, and all more chicly dressed—cocktail party, Newport, lawyers, bankers, brokers—but Melinda eclipsed them all, descending, as she did, by somersault and cartwheel. She was upside-down when I first caught sight of her, left profile to me, splayed hands poised above the stair upon which the uppermost chic woman was standing, long black skirt accordioned around her hips, plump pink face partially obscured by a curtain of brown hair. I thought: Oh, my. Her right foot came down first, glancing off the edge of a step, snapping free the golden heel of her plastic shoe, and, momentarily upright, she pivoted and went down the rest of the way sideways, arms and legs extended like spokes. She wheeled, in stately fashion, between the other two women, who stood motionless as handmaidens in a frieze, watching her. All watched her, all held their breath: she whirled in dignified silence, broken only by the soft thuds of hand and foot on thick red carpeting. She did not exactly defy gravity, but mastered it by the perfect rate of descent, so that, for instance, the hem of her skirt ebbed and flowed with tantalizing discretion. So deliberate, solemn, and utterly magical was her progress that it promised to go on forever. When finally she touched down on the floor, upright, there was a little collective sigh of disappointment and then spontaneous applause led, I believe by me. “Magnificent!” I said. “Bravo!” And I took her arm and led her away from the crowd. I was half in love already and wanted her all to myself. “Get me out of here,” she said—her first words to me—and the expression on her flushed, round face was regal, impenetrable.
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. What a talent is Jincy Willett. Incidentally, she also has a novel Amy Falls Down which I haven’t got my hands on yet, but I soon will. [On the library waiting list. Number 4 now.]
I so adore that scene and have tried to imitate it not nearly as successfully (in fiction). I did, however, manage it in a poem, with the aid of The Black Eyed Peas, of course. Oh yeah, who loves Fergie? My humps. My humps.
So, then with all that twisting you gotta factor in Slinkies and hula hoops and windmills and oooh, oooh, look at this:
Pinwheels in the galaxy. So very cool. Thank you NASA!
And what about churning hurricanes:
Way prettier on “paper” than in person. But still interesting.
Tell me what inspires you. Better yet, show me. I want to see motion in your painting, in your poetry, in your fiction, whatever you got. Post it! Come on!