ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

field report 1

Each morning the elevator guys gather in a circle on the sidewalk in front of the building, sort of like a team huddle in organized sports except they don’t all put their hands in the middle and shout “Break!” (unfortunately). They are upgrading the elevators one at a time, a project which is slated to continue into 2015. The “new” elevators talk to the passengers in an electronic woman’s voice, announcing each floor as it is reached. They look sleek and modern, and the exterior light is red instead of the previous green. (At the library the other day, it was observed that the elevator inspection certificate had expired over a year ago. As a precautionary measure, the stairs were taken on the return trip to the first floor.)

The humidity is ridiculous. How can weather be such an affliction. Days of high humidity oppress, while days of low humidity, perhaps with a slight breeze, uplift and rejuvenate. The city has acquired its summer bouquetreminiscent of a rancid, bloated dead thing dragging its entrails down the center of these hot asphalt strips known as streets and roads. Holding one’s breath in certain areas is advisable. Downtown recalls arrival day at an abattoir, as sweating, panicky beings stumble down the sidewalks, pursued by an unseen assailant (presumably the Humidity God), in desperate search of calm, air-conditioned respite. But such respite offers a false sense of relief, lulling one into a settled state that is immediately shattered upon re-entry into the outside world.

Anthropological studies remain on hold, thus leaving a dearth of source material. One sighting was recorded of the now-elusive cigar-smoking man, though the GISS (a common birding term short for General Impression, Size and Shape [also spelled as ‘jizz’, particularly among Brits) was not quite right. Could there be another cigar-smoking man? Unlikely. He was unaccompanied and bicycle-less. His fleeting appearance triggers a meditation on change, the constant flux of life, and the acute twinge of feeling left behind. It is not so much resistance to forward motion as it is a relentless cycle of stepping forward only to be overcome by a sensation best described in visual terms as Homer receding into the bushes.

Nothing is so elusive as place. In the bushes, the branches are closed in around the body, waxy leaves brushing the arms, feet rooted in the loamy soil. The eyes might be able to glimpse out, a partially obscured view akin to tunnel vision. Maybe no one can see in. Regardless, the body does not know if it can be seen. It may assume as such or not, but either way it won’t ever know what, if any of it, is actually seen. And where is the bush situated. Does that matter, and if so, how much? When the body leaves the home place (and/or the bush?), never to return again, what effect does this have. Does this severance yield a wound that cannot be healed, no matter how many salves are applied, no matter how many times a fresh bandage is wrapped around it. Is this the reason the other bodies around the body always appear distant, blurred, out of reach and alien. Is this why even familiar landscapes do not ever fully conform to the feet.

As usual, more questions than answers…

this is not happening

Stage directions: Early April. Temperature outside the workplace claws its brutal way to 96 degrees, the highest recorded temperature in the United States for the day. No, this is not Death Valley…or is it. I am at a loss. The sun beats down with relentless fury, portending bleak times ahead for the mad captain of this ship.

I.  When the heat descends, the city upends. Delirium sets in within hours. Citizens spill out into the streets in a jumble of hot bodies and rude noise. The secrets of indoors suddenly become the public spectacles of outdoors. Sidewalks strewn with condoms. Arguments on front stoops. Dogs shuffle with constant tongues hanging. The pavement shimmers. Desperation spreads like smallpox, every sun-bleached surface contaminated. Crime soars. Murderous intent quickens. We are all immersed in the cacophony.

II.  Morning, I ride the white-pink gauntlet of Calvert, the cherry trees having all plotted the night before to explode in a synchronous burst of clotted blossoms, their rich fragrance drenching the air. Evening, opposite direction, strong winds shower me in white-pink snow, the pavement scattered for a moment with spring’s transient joy.

III.  The suddenness of everyone outside alarms me. Days before, winter still proffered its shield. Now inside is hot and none of us want to be there, though the basement calls to me with its cool concrete floor. How I wish to lay my fevered face against its chilled surface.

IV.  At night, strange explosions reverberate in the thick air, like automatic gunfire or heat thunder, ricocheting from east to west and back. I pause in the glow of the sodium lamp, my skin bathed orange. Abort mission, return to home base.

V.  Morning breaks open the day like a grey egg. And once again there is nothing to fear.

subject to unmeasured confounders and biases*

Inside it’s freezing cold. Outside it’s blazing hot. I walk out there into the world and my arms remain cold to the touch for a time. After that passes, my hair follicles feel like they are burning in my scalp. My coworker is back visiting from Dhaka, where she reports it is hot, crowded, and smelly, so not much different from Baltimore in summer. I forgot my music today. I don’t even have headphones. This pains me. I also forgot my ID badge. I have no identity. I am no one. I am all of the things we don’t say. And that is a lot. If we even knew them, whatever would we do. A thing occurs and it causes effects and those effects affect you and you wish the thing never occurred even though you made it occur and you could have not made it occur. That was your choice. But you took a stand, for better or for worse. And now there’s just this sort of empty place. Anyway, I read a book and it was the Collected Stories of Carson McCullers and I wrote a long review of it over on Goodreads, but I want to mention it here because I loved it so. I read a lot of it in the cabin when I should probably have been talking to people but I wasn’t, because that is how I am and I know I won’t change and I don’t even want to change, so there. And this book included the novel The Member of the Wedding and it was sad and dark in the way many good books are and it placed me even more in awe of Carson McCullers than I had been before. Growing up is hard and life is not very kind to adolescents and then suddenly you are an adult and what the hell is that. I mean, it’s hard being an adult, too, but maybe not as hard as being a teenager because at least when you are an adult your youthful idealism has been wiped away instead of still in the process of being stomped on by the awakening realities of life and the human condition. I feel strange today, but not in the way I felt strange last week. Perhaps it is the heat, perhaps it is how today is my only day of work this week and it’s odd to me that tomorrow is Friday already. It seems like it should be Monday. And it just keeps getting hotter and hotter and I fear we all may explode like ants under a magnifying glass. But the tomatoes and jalapeños are ripening and new cucumbers are growing, so I guess a few more of them were fertilized after all. The heat is good for that, but not for my mental state. The radio tells me this heat may last well into August and if that is so, I very well may lose my mind. I will lock myself in my room like Kurtz and plot and read and scratch out words and maybe something good will come out of it. But first there is this and that of which I don’t feel like doing on account of my awfulness, and so I will sit here and brood over my jasmine tea for I am into brooding these days and perhaps the tea will warm me up.

Note:  In the American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd edition, the third definition of brood reads as follows:  a) To be deep in thought; meditate.  b) To focus the attention on a subject persistently and moodily; worry.  c) To be depressed.

I am thrilled that this definition of brood offers such a varied and expansive range of what I do so often. I can use this term broadly and no one will know if I am actually worrying, depressed, or just deeply in thought. Some words are so convenient.

*Title of post lifted from a random journal article I saw in a list of search results

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