the vagulator’s map

I want to be somewhere unfamiliar and yet I know it is merely a swirly chipped vision I see in my head. Outside a stone house at dusk, looking down the hillside at a copse of trees, wood smoke trailing from the chimney to the violet sky above, a pungent scent to breathe in, to savor. Gravel crunches underfoot, a lantern swinging from a hand slants yellow light across the path, scrape of the gate latch, a figure strides into darkness, never to return.

Canadian art house films don’t help, the lush scenery a starring role in itself, stealing the limelight, all humans fade to flat. I care less about what they are doing to each other, probing each other with words and organs, wrecking lives, all-too-familiar narrative arcs, but what about the waves forming across the lake, lapping onto the stony shore, the way that mountain looms like a haunted face over us all. These things matter. They outlast flesh.

I like words that start with ‘wood’. A woodnote is a song or call of a woodland bird. A wood nymph is a nymph of the forest. I would imagine a wood troll is a troll of the forest, or perhaps an orchard. A wood pussy is informal for a skunk. Wood sugar is xylose.

There is a bird (actually two of them) called a wryneck. These Old World species can twist their necks into unusual contortions. Perhaps they also demonstrate a dry sense of humor when relaxing amongst their bird friends and colleagues. I’d like to fancy myself a wryneck, but an old cycling accident prevents it.

In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses the phrase ‘vagulous phosphorescence’ to describe an old lady. Vagulous is a word that Woolf apparently made up (see p. 7 of this article), meaning ‘fanciful formation’. There is also a verb form, vagulate, meaning ‘to wander in a vague manner; to waver’.

In the woods today there were more birders than birds. The bird to birder ratio was not in my favor (and yet as I now review other reports online from that location today I see that two rarities were found, both of which would have been life birds for me…sigh). Even the typically less-traveled trails held women with feeder blobs secured to their midsections, guffawing young ones with canine friends, a full orchestra of humanity tuning up for the day’s symphony. And why not. The humidity broken, temperatures dipping to livable levels, cotton puffball clouds clotted a blue painted sky. Why not all converge in one spot.

I rose above it, literally, and found a Brown Thrasher. And an American Redstart. I need less input, more output. Rather, more filtered, structured input. Less information to influence, to make one waver. The vagaries of the vagulator, vacillating with vociferous vim and vigor.

In the port-a-john there was a violent-looking spider. It was perched calmly in the corner at seat level. This raises questions in my mind. Are spiders vindictive? Was that spider thinking I know you all hate me and think I’m horrifying so I will lurk here in this portable toilet until you sit down and then I will jump into your naked lap, possibly onto your private bits, scaring the living shit out of you and causing you to never use a portable toilet again? Was it thinking that? Or was it just thinking, damn, this sucks. I am stuck in this portable toilet. How am I gonna get out. Or was it thinking, I’m a spider, I’m a spider, I’m a spider. Or the abbreviated: spider, spider, spider. Or not thinking, just being its spider self, in the portable toilet, unaware of any special significance attached to its location or even its existence.

When you start researching things on the Internet you tend to see the exact phrasing used in Wikipedia articles repeated over and over, in blog posts, news articles, and ‘answer’ sites (which presumably exist for people who know how to get online and ask questions but don’t understand how to use a search engine). Take for example, the vapors (or vapours, if your people prefer the ‘u’), which is described in these exact terms in Wikipedia, as well as a million other places: “Vapors were considered to be the female equivalent to melancholy found in men.” So, really the movie I watched last night should have been called Vapours, not Melancholia. And who assigns gender to a planet, anyway. Of course the Earth is a she isn’t she and we have been legitimately raping her for years haven’t we. Maybe she will magically expel us all soon. Better get in your magic tepee, teepee, or tipi.

These are the days, the days we are living.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m sorry your birding was less than satisfactory, but surely wandering through vocabularies is some small solace. Thank you for introducing me to the wryneck.

    Reply

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