"Inebriate of air am I..."


That's a rather embarrassingly romantic line I copied in my journal right around college, freshman year (1995 or 6), I think. I say I'm embarrassed by it, but it has stuck with me and popped up every now and again, seemingly unbidden, in my memory. I had to look it up again to discover it was Dickinson and -- as though prescient in my "tweet" of yesterday -- remind myself that I didn't come up with it. Yes. I subconsciously tried to purloin Emily Dickinson. In my defense, I'm certain I'm far from the first, and I'm definitively certain I'll not be the last. Miss Dickinson's poem, in its entirety:

I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove's door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

Odd to imagine a famous shut-in using inn and pub imagery, drunken bees or no.

The line recurred to me this time because I was thinking about my recent acceptance into the cult of Twitter, and my choice of moniker there: AcroRaven. I hesitated to use it. At first I was trying all different permutations of "Jeff Wills," as it is my brand name as an actor. Alas, I arrived on Twitter too late for such luxuries (I still owe Expatriate Younce a big 10-Q for getting me on to Gmail early enough to claim my address there) and I've just never adjusted to the idea of numeral incorporation into naming. Hence, AcroRaven. Right? Of course right.

Of course wrong. Both my embarrassment and my desire to use that name have quite a bit more to them than pragmatic consideration, or mere awkwardness over labeling myself using a species of bird for a site that claims all non-mute birds as its mascot. (Someone needs to get on some flightless bird sites. Cluck-er? Crow-er?) The fact is, I love ravens. And I've never seen one in person. The fact is, I call myself an acrobat. And I still can't stick a one-minute handstand. And the fact is, "AcroRaven" sounds like a really bad superhero, if you can even figure out how to pronounce it, and that's part of what I love about it.

There. I said it. I made up that name because I love big black birds and acrobatics and seeing myself as a superhero.

The line from Dickinson spoke to me and I isolated it from its original context because it reminded me of how I imagine being a bird would feel. Maybe birds hate flying -- how would I ever know? I find their flight beautiful, however, and it reminds me of breathing deep and loving it. Exhilaration. There's a lot that feeds into my appreciation of birds, and ravens in particular, but suffice it to say that it's an animal that has come to symbolize for me my aspirations, turning my vision of who I could be into who I am. I may never be a bird, or renowned acrobat, or a superhero (in fact, the more I examine the reality of vigilantism, the less appealing it becomes, super-powered or no) yet a few years ago I never imagined I would know how to lift people to my shoulder, or have friends in Italy. These things came about because I can identify with the possibilities my dreams present.

Part of what finally launched me into the Twitter-sphere was a possible collaboration with a good, old friend of mine (one who dates back to my days of first admiring those crows that are the closest things to ravens Burke, Virginia has to offer). We're talking about creating a performance rooted in the ideas -- and maybe even the devices -- that allow us to have a creative collaboration in close-to-real time between East Coast and West, so naturally Twitter came up. As with any collaborative effort, not to mention plenty of the solo ones, it's difficult to say if anything will result from it. All the same, I'm looking forward to throwing those ideas out there, across the atmosphere, to see what sinks and what flies. Inebriates of air, aren't we all?
 
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