“The word breath comes from Old English, bræth, meaning scent or smell,” Mary Mandeville tells us in “Inheritance.” We are proud to share Mandeville’s meditations on breathing and the precious gift of life it implies in this week’s entry to our New Voices catalog. Read on.
I count my mother-self lucky, in a way. For some, death by asphyxiation is no kind of choice.
I crave breath. Not just the ordinary in and out, chest rising and falling, inspiration and exhalation. I long to huff and puff, to pant, to strain. Collarbones rising, ribs expanding, diaphragm tenting, lungs gasping. I want this hard breathing enough to chase it every day—running, hiking, jumping, pedaling. Calf and thigh muscles contracting and pushing until my breath comes hard and ragged.
In yoga classes before COVID, I sat, buttocks on a block, knees bent and feet behind me. “Close your eyes and bring your mind to your breath,” the instructor said quietly. “If your breath is shallow, let it be shallow, if your breath is deep let it be deep.” We sat like this for a minute or more before she encouraged us to fill every centimeter of our lungs with air on the inhale, then to squeeze every last drop of oxygen out on the exhale. Now I repeat this exercise alone. I see my breath as a sunshine yellow light moving in and down, up and out.
I’m willing to work hard for breath, to know I’m alive.
To continue reading “Inheritance” click here.