On Bended Nose
Once, rather long ago, a wee baby girl curled up like a seedling in her mother’s womb, and maybe she was eventually pressing her face against its warm walls so hard, trying to see what was going on out there, that her little nose got smashed, or maybe she was trying to look away and the nose got flattened against the back wall; or maybe it was just that some teensy whisker of DNA stranded itself exactly like it had been told to, like its Daddy’s, and made that nose like it was. I think the latter; and then she got born, with much difficulty, for she was lying trustingly across the passage rather than heading out of it. And maybe in all the crush something got tweaked. But really it seems it was the father’s unintentional voice that came down through all this and created a sideways bend in the little bit of cartilage that extended from that child’s nose-bone (short as yet like a Tibetan’s) and ended somewhere in the regions of the inner nostrils.
And that small girl grew and though she was allergic to nearly everything, milk and feathers, cats and dust, and so on, it was not her nose in particular that suffered, for it seemed to work mostly as it ought; it was her skin. And her mother rubbed ointment on the little knee-backs abraded by Santa Ana winds (for she was particularly allergic to those) and the child rubbed it right off again onto the curtains when no-one was looking.
And so nobody paid any attention to her nose per se, and she grew more, to become a teenager. Then of course she began scrutinizing her own nose in the mirror, as every teenager is required to do; and she even drew pictures of it in the normal course of making self portraits to explore who this person might be she saw there in the toothpaste-spotted glass. And she noted that it had a sort of sideways jog to it and a certain tilt in one area, curve in another; and that, if she held her head back and peered, the right nostril had a sort of little bit of inner noseness sticking out and the left did not. But none of this was serious, and none of it caused her grief, for all in all it was a pretty nose, and even she found nothing to fault it for. In a family of strong noses, forceful noses, noble noses, rounded noses, sometimes generous to sip the air; noses going more powerful with age – her nose was unusually ordinary. It was nice in profile, sticky-out enough yet not too; and though the right side-view was different from the left side-view (one went down, the other up, but not very much in either direction) from the front it was unremarkable completely. Only her oldest brother (she had five) had such a reserved, elegant sort of nose.
Now this girl was a poet, and an adventurer, that was what she wanted to be and that was what she was; and she dared and she travelled and she got herself into many situations and she got herself out of them; she got herself across the world and back again and away again and on and on. And along the way she wrote and shopped and sewed and loved and danced and sorrowed and dared some more; and so many things happened to her that one can hardly help but be amazed.
Now, in the East there is a tradition as old as old – far more ancient than the young folks of the West can imagine – that a worthwhile thing for a human being to do, is to sit quietly and watch the inner regions of herself, and see what there is to be seen; and go on watching, until finally the seen is seen through and the seer remains, calm and collected, happy as a goof on a hill dancing in the sunset for no reason. To enter into this pursuit is a cataclysmic astonishment for the being, and results in many a diversion, many a detour, many a glorious interlude, many a session of weeping to clean out the obstacles in the way. And the somewhat-grown-up-now girl entered into this strange carved doorway and has never come out again; and all that has gone on has been miraculous and revelatory, even on the days which were banal, even in the waiting moments and hours – maybe especially there; and she watched and wept and danced and loved within the great world of attempting to watch herself. For once one has entered that old carved doorway I have just described, the world gets bigger – so huge – and goes on expanding. It is not an entry into a finite place.
And, of course, her nose came along with her. Now, this girl, becoming in a rather helter-skelter fashion a woman, tended to extremes. When she loved, which was almost always, she was jealous as a tiger, clingy as a sloth, exuberant as a herd of elephants in a river. When she danced, which was daily, she flung her arms widest, leapt highest, whooped loudest, waggled her hips most hippily. When she dressed, which was daily too, she put into it all the joy of a princess regarding her satins with approval and combining them with tailoring, ripped accents, and lace. She shopped like a spy behind the lines, scoping out all the possibilities and raiding the stores with all her mind and nifty fingers set on creating the most interesting outfits, not one or three but dozens set in motion by the spy’s own inner plans. When she travelled, which was a great deal, she bought round-the-world tickets, and all along the way she visited and shopped and wrote and drew and laughed and thought and often, very often, sat still – and then would write or dance some more.
When a person sits still, in the configurations of physics her body becomes a sort of pyramid – here is the rear and here the knees, giving a baseline; and here the point – the crown of the head – and, as electrons do in all of nature, the invisible tiny wanderers stream towards the point and stream off of it into the air. On their upward journey they just happen to pass through interesting areas of the human – her tummy, for example, and her heart. These wake up a little more, sit a little straighter, find themselves unfolding flower-like into the day.
Now, when that same energy – those electrons – pass up through the head and face and so on, and try to get out the top of things, the nose is a natural ski-slope for them – but going upwards. Well, in the complications of life actually energy would go both ways – out the point of the nose and also up out of the top of the head – and that’s fine; we can live with complications here. In fact complications are what this story is about. For with the bend in the ski-slope, downwards and upwards, energy gets diverted and kind of takes a jog, like a country road nobody planned out and it just kind of grew to go around a certain tree or something. And when the lifestream, slipstream jogs it also flies – and goes off sideways, hurled there in fact, and ends up in places nobody forsaw.
For example, somehow hurled energy hits a place above her left eyebrow, inside and outside, and kind of gets stuck there – it can’t get up again as there’s not the smooth road for it, and so what can it do? Well, some of it stays stuck and just adheres uneasily in those skull/brain/forehead regions, but a great deal of it busies itself then with thinking; and those thoughts seem to concern themselves with diversions, since their very existence is one. So they want to shop and make cakes for nice men to eat and write books and go for walks and buy things on the internet and go far away to hike in Iceland and ride in rickshaws in Indian bazaars and sit on the slopes of an Alp having a picnic. And those thoughts never get tired particularly, since there is such a constant stream of them being shunted off there, and the nose is the nose night and day. And in effect a pressure is created, though not unbearable by any means; and so the head goes on being skewed slightly sideways in various degrees here and there. But the woman – for by now she was one – was brave and yet unknowing and it took her a very long time to figure this out about herself. And along the way she conceived unintentionally above her left brow a fat throbbing garbage-bag for all that unspent energy, that somewhat-tortured energy, that really used energy – for along the way too she had been training herself to harness the place between her brows (as well as the lands of all her body and vision) and use it to do certain magics of x-raying humble and good humans who presented themselves to her for this purpose. And it had worked; but it was all too much eventually for that brow and its contents and its muscular intensities. And so one Christmas she was delivered of a gift – the gift was, to have the garbage-bag removed from her head, and she was free.
But the nose of course remains bent, and so the story goes on – a leaping firefly, a butterfly of life and love, a shopping/creating baker and garden digger continues in her state of diversion; yet with the capacity to watch the whole process; somewhat bemused, somewhat amused, often full of love for herself – for love does not depend on noses.
You might ask, “Why does she not get it fixed?” and indeed her conclusion was that that would be a good thing to do; and so she sought out doctors on two continents. For as everyone knows, people are always getting their clumsy and heavy-footed noses made delicate and fey; and people with blocked-off noses are getting them cleared like roads after a storm.
Now, these doctors have their own language, and they live by rules that they have learnt in books; and all of this is fine except that they have a very strong tendency not to hear or give credence to anything that doesn’t fit with what they have studied. And they have studied much; and it is okay as far as it goes; but it does not take into account things that cannot be seen. And there are many of those.
And so, when the woman tried to explain to them the reasons she wanted her nose straightened inside (and she had deliberately chosen doctors from the East, who should have understood) they refused, and quoted their books which said that only a nose made useless by extreme closure was to be fixed – for the operation has dangers, and it would not be worth the risk. This was not to be argued with, as far as it went; but she had the feeling that the doctors could not embrace her reasonable hunger for a straight avenue up and down which her energy, so full of longing, could stream like a trapeze artist in full flight and flow.
And one of the doctors added that it was not possible to make it straight anyway, that un-Roman road; and that it would always be wayward to some degree, despite all the skills of their lasers and their blades. And so she was almost convinced.
And so she had to go home again and sit with her eyes closed and her thumb and forefinger raised up, straightening that cartilage and feel – the freedom, the transparency, the peace, the relief from pressure – of having a nose which went properly straight and sent the energy properly upwards, instead of roundabout. And she pondered, when she’d taken her hand away (for with the nose straight, thoughts streamed so forcefully upwards that they vanished) many things:
Did I decide to get born wih such a nose? Why? Because it is good for my soul to be a horizontal rather than a vertical person in this life? Does it make me more grounded here on planet earth, amongst its details, its frescoes and flowering trees, and dog poo that must be noticed on the sidewalk? Perhaps if my nose were straight I would have the Buddha Disease – such an obession with spritual ambition that I would bother myself with notions of Enlightenment, and forget to be humble? Or is it just an unhappy accident, like flat feet (which had saved me from being a ballerina, so maybe they too were deliberate on the part of my soul?) When I die will I feel that I’ve wasted my life in being an artist, when I could have been a sage? Or is it enough just to love myself, nose and all, and wait for another lifetime to have a nose straight as a ruler, uncluttered? Could someone perhaps invent a device that I could wear whilst meditating, or even going about the house, that would straighten the nose for an hour, without doing any harm; and I could get to experience the relief of thoughts taking themselves off to the top of the world and beyond, like arctic explorers gone so far north they just exit right out into the sky? Like angel mountaineers? How many, by the way, brain and near-brain tumors are caused by these wonky noses? And, she wondered – this perhaps most of all – why aren’t all those people running around with straight ones – and that’s most of the people on earth – enlightened/happy/simple throughout? How come they can make so much misery for themselves, when nothing is in the way of the straight streaming of their electrons? And of course she had no answers.
The medical name for this anomaly, like many anatomical labels, is Latinate, solemn and peculiar – ‘deviated septum,’ it sounds like a garment for a pervert priest – and the woman found the term uncomfortable. But these things are no doubt here to stay. Like the innocent cartilage inside that pretty nose – just doing its best; just getting along the best it can.