r.i.p. grant hart

Musician Grant Hart, drummer/vocalist and co-songwriter with Bob Mould and Greg Norton in the band Hüsker Dü, died from cancer yesterday at age 56.

Hüsker Dü was one of the more important bands discovered in my youth and one that I have never stopped listening to through both good and bad times.

You will be missed, Grant.

 

If there’s one thing that I can’t explain
Is why the world has to have so much pain
With all the ways of communicating
We can’t get in touch with who we’re hating (Who we’re hating)
And now we can’t get in touch with who we’re hating

So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news
So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news

I hear it every day on the radio
Somebody shoots a guy he don’t even know
Airplanes falling out of the sky
A baby is born and another one dies
Highways fill with refugees now
Doctors finding out about disease
With all this uptight pushing & shoving
That keeps us away from who we’re loving (Who we’re loving)
That keeps us away from who we should be loving

So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news
So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news

(Words and music by Grant Hart)

darkness to light

‘Darkness to Light’ was the title of a heavy metal song that a high school friend of mine proposed writing, though never to my knowledge expanded beyond the chorus:

Darkness to light, darkness to light
Darkness to light, darkness to light

which he would sometimes lean over and emphatically whisper-sing to me and one of our other friends in the middle of Biology II class, much to the consternation of Ms. Geyer.

For a heavy metal song its message is uncharacteristically optimistic. Perhaps that’s why it’s become one of those automatic memory shards that frequently ricochets around in my head so many years later.

Who knows what triggers these recollections. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, course through my brain each year. Effluvia of the past, often with no clear relevance to the present or the future. And yet, still they persist in bubbling up and clumping together, forming a glut in the cerebral soup slopping around inside my skull.

The past always retains a strong magnetism, sometimes merely by virtue of its sudden incongruous intrusions into the conscious mind. Upon encountering this detritus, a natural inclination arises to ponder its significance—to sift through and separate the individual elements, perhaps searching for answers to some present conundrum.

The key, though, seems to be not holding on for too long. Each moment spent dwelling on/in the past lures one away from now and down into proverbial rabbit warrens. It feels safer to scan what surfaces with a neutral eye, then let it fall away and dissolve back into the unconscious. Its ultimate significance lies only in whatever self-imposed layers grow over it, all of which are no doubt discursive in nature and the inspection of which leads to nothing helpful whatsoever.

field report: bridges

For once the speakers outside Hard Rock Cafe are playing a song I want to hear so I stand leaning against the bricks and listen to the lengthy bridge from ‘How Soon Is Now?’ It’s the part of the song I have always particularly loved. Just as Morrissey starts to sing for the last time ‘I am human and I need to be loved’ a generic man in fancy slacks and blazer walks by mouthing the words. The song fades out and I walk to the suspension bridge that always buckles in the wind. As I reach the bridge a man visibly down on his luck addresses me. He asks me if there is a mission where he and his wife can get a hot meal and I tell him there is one on the Fallsway. He replies that it’s closed. So I say there’s also one on Gay Street. He responds that it too is closed. I have no money with me so I tell him I can’t help him and wish him luck. He says nothing and turns away. I continue across the bridge and then I walk across the map of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, sometimes cordoned off and sometimes not, that is etched into stone in front of the fish prison. I make a halfhearted attempt to look for birds in the habitat islands but I feel like I have experienced way too much in the past few minutes so I return to the office and read a few more pages of Konwicki.

lunar encounter

The moon above Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

The moon above Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

solitary sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper at Irvine Nature Center, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Solitary Sandpiper at Irvine Nature Center, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

[Despite their name, there were six of them feeding in close proximity to each other]

eastern towhee

Eastern Towhee (male) at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Towhee (male) at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

at the border of writing

It was almost easy for him, there where he lived, to live almost without a sign, almost without a self, as if at the border of writing; close to this word, barely a word, rather a word too many, and in that nothing but a word from which, one day in the past, gently welcomed, he had received the salute that did not save, the summons that had awakened him. That could be told, even if, and especially if, nobody were there to hear it.

Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond [translated by Lycette Nelson]

the awareness of vytrox

Suddenly Vytrox felt aware that he was having an experience. This awareness soon grew to such outrageous proportions that it began to seriously impede his enjoyment of the experience. With growing alarm Zonitor now sensed Vytrox’s awareness of their shared experience and subsequently also felt a significant reduction in enjoyment of the experience. Vytrox looked at Zonitor and knew immediately that their experience had been compromised. Zonitor returned Vytrox’s gaze and instantly saw this realization in his eyes.

To recap: they now both knew and also knew that the other knew.

What do we do, cried Zonitor.

We must leave the island at once, Vytrox replied. I can’t live like this.

But we can’t. You sank the boat the other day.

Dammit. I forgot. Maybe we can fix it?

Doubtful. It’s at the bottom of the ocean.

Well, we can build a new one. You always said I’d make a good carpenter.

I may have been joking. But I’ll start gathering materials. You draw up some plans.

They set to work as the sun crested the palm trees on the summit of Mount Dessication.

[some time later]

Vytrox noticed as he was drawing up the plans that his hand was moving without accompanying thoughts occurring in his brain. As he sat back and watched, the crude form of a boat appeared on the yellowing graph paper he had saved for just such an occasion. Pleased with the result he ran out of the hut onto the beach to find Zonitor.

Zonny! Look!

But Zonitor was unimpressed and sent him back to the hut to work up a second draft.

[more time later]

The sun was now high in the sky and Zonitor was exhausted from gathering materials. Instead of waiting any longer for Vytrox to finish the plans, she expertly crafted a dugout canoe, waterproofed it with pine tar, and carved two oars. She then dragged the canoe into the surf and took it for a test run around the island.

Meanwhile in the hut Vytrox’s hand had stopped moving independent of his brain, leaving him at a serious disadvantage considering he knew next to nothing about boat design. To make matters worse his awareness of the experience of not knowing what to draw began to grow. It grew and grew and grew until Vytrox felt like his eyes would soon explode and awareness would shoot out the empty sockets in two parallel streams of hot showering sparks. He sat down and mopped his brow. Out the window of the hut he saw Zonitor paddling back and forth in a canoe. Relieved that the situation seemed to have resolved itself he rushed out of the hut.

Zonny! You did it! We’re saved!

Zonitor pulled the canoe ashore and cast a critical eye over Vytrox’s visage.

You’ve been further compromised, haven’t you.

Um…well, yes, maybe just a little bit.

What’s happening right now.

Oh, don’t be that way. Let’s just get ready to go.

He went to the hut to gather their few possessions. Zonitor stayed behind and pondered the situation. She wondered if she could ever hope to have an experience again without Vytrox’s awareness impinging on her enjoyment of it. Are they now condemned to a life of hyper-awareness suffusing everything they do together? Just exactly how far have they been compromised?

Luckily for her Vytrox knew what to do. While she was out on the beach fretting over their shared future and, to be perfectly honest, considering in the vaguest of ways whether she should not just sneak off in the canoe on her own, Vytrox was inside the hut trepanning himself. At the very moment of completion, Zonitor turned on impulse and saw a long stream of sparkly dust flowing out the window of the hut and up into the air, heading straight for the sun.

Seconds later Vytrox emerged beaming from the hut carrying their two carpet bags.

I found these bags in there, he shouted with glee, pointing unsteadily to a small grove of coconut trees located a few clicks west of the hut.

The connection was tenuous at best but Zonitor took it in stride.

Good work. I’ll take those.

She stowed the bags in the canoe as Vytrox stared at the sand, his beatific face erased of all worry lines.

Are we going somewhere?

Yes, and I think I better handle the navigation. But if I show you what to do with this paddle, do you think you can help move us through the water?

Sure! That sounds fun.

After an intensive four-hour lesson in paddling and canoe safety they were ready to leave. The full moon welcomed their sturdy craft out onto the open sea. Zonitor checked the sextant and pointed Vytrox in the right direction. She knew it wouldn’t be easy but at least now they had a chance at full immersive experience. And she was already warming up to the new Vytrox. As she watched the shadows play over his vacuous expression she knew he’d made the right decision. Shedding his awareness like an exoskeleton, Vytrox had bypassed a full compromise of their positions. She would ensure his sacrifice was not made in vain.

ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, female/immature type, at Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, female/immature type, Cromwell Valley Park, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

eastern cottontail eats grass

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