Meditations on Beginnings, a Prose Poem

In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. These are the beginning words of the gospel according to John. All of us who use words are constantly dealing with some kind of a beginning. Words are the tools of thinking, of speaking, of writing.  Words communicate. Thoughts are the communication with ourselves, the spoken word communicates with an other, the written word with many others. Although, with modern technology, the spoken word may of course also communicate with many others. Words can be comforting and illuminating but also troubling and dangerous, as we have witnessed in the recent past.  “Good morning” may be the words of the beginning of a day, “good night” the beginning of the night. These words written right now, 136 already, are the beginnings of a writing practice. When do such beginnings end? How long does a beginning last? The spoken word ends when its sound ends, but the written word, the soundless word, when does its beginning end? These words, written right now, do they still constitute a beginning? Does it matter whether they do or don’t? Are these idol thoughts?  Thoughts may lead to action, and words, in all their forms, thought, spoken, or written, are attempts at sorting out what is idol and what is not. This is a sorting out of sorts.

Mateo, my grandson, age 15, tells me he began taking driving lessons.

Milan, his younger brother, began learning Italian, on line.

This day started with a yoga lesson: Mountain pose: feet grounded on the floor, arms stretched parallel to the trunk, the palm of the hands turned to the front, shoulders dripping, inhale deeply into the lower belly, exhale through the nose, 3 times; Sun salutation: Inhale, lift the arms, bend backwards, keep the shoulders down, look towards the sky and exhale, forward fold, legs straight, grab your ankles from behind, 3 deep breaths, slide your hands up below the knees, try to bend backwards, can’t do it, hands are glued to the legs, then lower the body into the mighty plank, hold it there for a few seconds, turn your elbows inwards, let your body gradually sink to the floor, knees first, then the belly, then the arms, elbows pressed against the ribs, forehead against the floor, inhale, lift the chest, resting on your forearms, cobra, 3 breaths; peal the body slowly off the floor, downward dog, arms stretched, butt  toward the ceiling, 10 breaths; walk the hands to the feet or the feet to the hands, legs straight, reverse swan dive, look toward the sky, arms up, circle around your head and close in front of your upper chest in prayer position. The day began with a sun salutation.

A new leaf unfolded during the night, in the nameless plant on the window sill.

“And magic dwells in each beginning, to shelter us, to help us live on.” These are the two last lines of the first verse of Hermann Hesse’s poem “Steps”, written in 1941, in the middle of World War II. Yes, magic dwells in each beginning! The birth of a baby, the first smile, the first tooth, the first step. Let us not forget how to discover  the magic in a word, in our own bodies, in a child’s effort, in a leaf unfolding, or to see a potential new beginning at the end or even in the middle of disaster. Aren’t all holy days beginnings? The New Year, birthdays, the Forth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas? Today we celebrate the beginning of The Writer’s Republik,” a thought put into action. A distant clock strikes 12 times, noon. The day is in progress.

© 2021 Heidi Rotterdam All Rights Reserved


Heidi Rotterdam is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology of Columbia University. After 50 years of scientific writing she ventures into the new world to creative writing.

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