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.

life won’t leave us alone

When we close the windows and doors of our house and stay inside, we feel very secure, we feel safe, unmolested. But life is not like that. Life is constantly knocking at our door, trying to push open our windows that we may see more; and if out of fear we lock the doors, bolt all the windows, the knocking only grows louder. The closer we cling to security in any form, the more life comes and pushes us. The more we are afraid and enclose ourselves, the greater is our suffering, because life won’t leave us alone. We want to be secure but life says we cannot be; and so our struggle begins.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, Life Ahead, p 54

‘to reduce the fever of feeling’

Outside the wind howls. Inside a trio of snowmen converse in the vicinity of a conference of paper birds. Last night the ‘artsy’ neighbors continued their grand tradition of slamming doors and other unidentifiable objects against floors and walls for several hours between approximately midnight and the archetypal 3 AM hour. Result: current state of apathetic grogginess. Desire for absence of shared walls swells with each passing night of lost sleep.

Days less measureless than before. Crystalline structure of incipient routines inches out beyond the borders of a now worn and tarnished impersonation of L.B. in Rear Window. Except there never was anything even vaguely menacing to observe, only a sea of moment-waves rocking gently against the fragile hull of this origami sailboat.

Return to Pessoa’s words: no novelty in the universal, no comprehensibility in the individual. The old ruse of intentional obfuscation falls flat. But still the urge to fit words together roils inside. Maybe to do it, like Pessoa says, ‘to reduce the fever of feeling.’ Yet if all is unimportant (which it is), why bother describing any version of it. Unless perhaps to merely locate and handle the words themselves. To dive to the bottom, seeking words buried deep in a consciousness whose mirrored surface rests fathoms above undisturbed layers of sediment. Yes, perhaps it is for that reason: to extract anything worth contemplating from the granular level, to slip some small truth from the interstices and examine it from all sides, even if only to then return it unseen.

a feeling for all living things

It is odd that we have so little relationship with nature, with the insects and the leaping frog, and the owl that hoots among the hills calling for its mate. We never seem to have a feeling for all living things on the earth. If we could establish a deep, abiding relationship with nature, we would never kill an animal for our appetite, we would never harm, vivisect, a monkey, a dog, a guinea pig for our benefit. We would find other ways to heal our wounds, heal our bodies. But the healing of the mind is something totally different. That healing gradually takes place if you are with nature, with that orange on the tree, and the blade of grass that pushes through the cement, and the hills covered, hidden, by the clouds.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti to Himself, p 10

life’s splendor forever lies in wait

“Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”

Franz Kafka

(thanks to kafkaesque-world for summoning Kafka’s splendor)

words from winterreise by gerhard roth

“I always think that life still lies ahead of me, as though I had organized my previous life only for a short while and I were about to start my real life not too far in the future,” thought Nagl.

“It all simply happens to me,” he kept thinking. “I live from day to day, without asking many questions. Mostly I take everything for granted so that I don’t think about it. I don’t resist, nor do I give in, nor do I tell myself I have no choice.”

—Gerhard Roth, Winterreise

the people

We made up names for the people we didn’t understand. This helped us decode their mysterious juxtaposition to our lives. The names we gave them were based on our keen observation of their behavior. We categorized this behavior, internalizing its significance, and assigned the names accordingly. Over time, a parallel world began to form, separate from the one we were living in. This world was inhabited by these people we didn’t know or understand. However, the strange thing about this world was that it existed in the same plane of time and space as our own. On occasion, we saw these people. But the question remained: could our lives ever intersect? And if so, what would happen to the lives we’d imagined for these people? Would the detailed personalities we’d dreamed up for them withstand deeper scrutiny? Or would they melt away in the acid of reality?

We had spent many hours carefully crafting the stories of these people and we were not prepared to alter those stories so readily. These people had names, held significance to us, in the world we had created for them. The idea that they, in fact, might be different from how we had imagined them was anathema to us. Our theories, constructed as they were from toothpicks sutured together in idle hours, began to quiver. We feared their collapse under the cold authority of hard evidence. We worried that we’d be proven wrong and exposed as frauds. Or worse yet, as unlicensed judges of human character.

In the end we left. We saw no other solution. The authorities had discovered the parallel world. Someone leaked it to them. We came home late one afternoon and found workers in the street, their industrial saws cleaving the invisible fabric. I’ll never forget that day. I stared in horror as our most intricate creation washed away under the silent cresting breakers of two worlds joining. The people were out there, too, watching as their lives closed in on our own. I could tell they didn’t even know what it all meant. That was the worst part. And now they will never know who they might have been.

the town

The highest point of the town held a water tower and once I rode down that hill on my scooter using my new shoe as a brake and when I reached the bottom I found the scooter’s tire had burned a big gash into the heel of my shoe.

The lowest point of the town held a lake and once I stubbed my toe in its silty bottom resulting in a trip to the doctor who poked holes in my toenail to relieve the pressure.

The town took away and it gave and it took away and it gave, sometimes it left parts of itself in me, parts that had to be removed, other times the parts remained encysted and grew into hard black stones that never went away.

The town visits me now, frequently, in my dreams. It is the setting for all types of absurd scenarios, completely unrelated to actual events, only tapping memory for details of setting, and even then playing sly with the facts, bending and shaping, but always leaving things just recognizable enough.

I find this unsettling as the town means nothing to me in my present life and I have not been there in many years. There is nothing there for me now. And yet it is the skeleton of my early life. The streets are the bones. There is a house somewhere that serves as the skull, with windows like eyeholes, looking out onto a world I was seeing for the first time.

I feel a pull toward the town and I don’t know why. I think it is the aching for a home, a place I know so well it is a part of me, inseparable from who I am and what I do. A known setting for my life, however I choose to live it, with scenery grown like vines through my blood and bones. The place where it all starts and ends. Home.

tuesdayish

On Walking Backwards

My mother forbad us to walk backwards. That is how the dead walk, she would say. Where did she get this idea? Perhaps from a bad translation. The dead, after all, do not walk backwards but they do walk behind us. They have no lungs and cannot call out but would love for us to turn around. They are victims of love, many of them.

–Anne Carson, Plainwater

Couples who walk around with their hands in each others’ back pockets proclaim a clear statement, I think. And that statement is, we don’t mind you watching us grab each others’ butts.

There are ghosts. And they haunt us. This can happen in nontraditional ways.

People work harder to make their lives easier.

At work we now have the same meeting every week, but every other week it is called something different. This, I believe, is some kind of trick.

I am waffling over something, and this makes me hungry for waffles.

Sometimes a piece of mail can frighten you. Imagine the worst, then wait awhile to open it. I don’t advise this.

Plans make me nervous. Once I’ve made a plan or been made aware of a plan that involves me, I often secretly wish for it to unravel. I’m not sure why.

Open statement to any UK policy-makers landing here as a result of a Google search:

Please don’t cull the badgers.

yes, wednesday night is movie night

When you watch a film it’s full of so many intense moments and none of them are real because life is not really made of those moments. It’s full of different ones, many blanking moments between a handful of sparking others that brighten and never wane in your mind, only in your heart. And it’s not the moon. It is ever the sinking sun. On the rocks, the desert floor, the pink and orange and blue, like that trip so many years ago. A film is a distillation of all these things, it is a prickly intensity of which we are not so used to in our daily lives, at least not in later years. In youth life can be like a film, though we lack the perspective required to appreciate it. And I imagine the people who make the sorts of films I have been watching make them because they want to see their lives like a film when they are young, but with the perspective that allows them to see it for what it was.

Tonight I was excited to go walk in the warm night air, even though it is October and it should not be so warm. The crickets yet fiddle and when I touch the inside this night it does not feel so tender. And yet when I talk to someone about his plans to leave this place, even though he’s been around awhile, he’s still a decade behind my next curve in the road. So maybe you can grasp the urgency I feel snaking around me. And if you can grasp it perhaps you could do me the favor of wrenching it off me so I can breathe lighter and freer.

Everything is profound in the late hour. It bears down upon you with a ferocity daylight would never allow. You start thinking about the beginnings of endings and the ending of beginnings and the brutal flatness of middles. You think about contours on a map and start seeing your life through a cartographer’s squinted eye, with those squiggly lines circling around you and they’re all the places you’ve been, the walks you’ve chosen to take, the daily ribbons of flayed flesh stripped from your shrunken sides.

This is not to say…anything, really. When I start typing nothing is ever as it seems. Words touch other words like hot wires and who am I to pull them apart. This hovers before me like a psychiatric tinderbox into which to dump the fantastic and the absurd and what torn shreds are left of the real. The box is metal to minimize the explosive risk? Not that any match will strike and catch this fire.

There is never a conclusion to reach and that appears to be the point. Which is fine, I guess. But can a person reverse evolve? I think I’m becoming a mollusk. Or a bioluminescent dinoflagellate. Foxfire! That’s it. I want to be foxfire. I want to be the green glow you see hovering in your woodpile as you gaze out upon it one evening through the icy windowpane.

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