I am fearfully made and I imagine the sleek curves of my kidneys and the round red onion shape of my bladder. I will never see those parts with their perfect forms, their elegant overlaps sealed in my skin. All I know is their transparent function, or its change, or that blind nerve dance we call pain.
I will never see those long pale ropes that take my food and turn it to steps or speech. All I know is the wonder of containing such exchange, that lets the morning eggs and the noon bread rise as song in the kitchen, laughter in the back yard, rise as indignation, care, or grieving, rise as love or longing or belated thanks.
I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was in college. J.D. Salinger’s book, published in 1951, has sold more than 65 million copies and still sells 250,000 a year. Catcher became required reading for a whole generation. The antihero of the book, Holden Caulfield, remains a cult hero for some.
This winter I had the opportunity to observe a Caravaggio painting upclose and often: his Supper at Emmaus (1601) was on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago from its permanent home in London’s National Gallery. From the Century offices, it was only a few steps across Michigan Avenue to see this vibrant, dramatic painting.
Wee Agnes Sawrey widdow & Dorothy Tyson Spinster do severally make oath yt ye Corps of Margaret Tyson of Gryzedale in the Parish above s’d beeing buryed the first of Aprill 1696 was not put in wrapt wound up or buryed in any shirt sheet shift or shroud mad or mingled with Flax Hemp or any Coffin lined wth cloth or any materiall but what is made of sheep wooll only according to a Late Act of Parliamt made for Burying in Woollen. In witness herof wee the saide Agnes Sawrey & Dorothy Tyson have sett our Hands & Seals. Aprilis, Ano Di 1696. —Parish document in St. Michael and All Angels Church, Hawkshead, Cumbria
In Norway when you die, they clothe you in a gown of purest white. Egyptians sucked out organs, layered presoaked linen strips around each desiccated limb. It matters what you wrap a body in.
I am one of the few that walk the footpaths on the fell today who put on wool against the sharp October air. The scattered sheep are unimpressed. Warming these hills with active tongues, they are unaware that Parliament, to buoy the trade, once ruled that only wool could be the spun and woven garment of the dead.
Agnes and Dorothy held to the law, picking softest weave of shift or sheet or shroud to lay against the body of their Margaret— like the Marys in the story, who laid his body out, washed and oiled, and put, wrapt, wound up, and buryèd each limb in swaddling clothes to match the ones his little body wore in Bethlehem—the cloth he wore to meet with life and fight with death— he who newborn slept among the shepherds and their silent, woolly sheep.
Mark Bustos, a stylist at an upscale salon in Manhattan, gives free haircuts to homeless people every Sunday, his only day off from work. He started the practice during a trip two years ago to the Philippines. The response was so enthusiastic that he decided to make the same offer in New York. Many of the people whose hair he cuts are very thankful. He especially remembers the man who, after seeing what he looked like with his new haircut, asked, “Do you know anyone that’s hiring?” (The Week, August 29).