I do not want to bore you but I need to mention the weather. How it changes so often. Grey one day, yellow the next. Warm then cold then warm again. The brightness, the whiteness, the way the light shifts inside a room. And the way to compensate with the artificial. Our lamps. Our electric manipulation of the shadows.
I am reading this book wherein the main character feels inauthentic. He keeps trying to capture the feeling of being real. He goes to elaborate lengths using methods only possible due to the generous settlement he received following a traumatic accident. He wants to relive his body’s response to the trauma. The natural opioids flowing through his body. That tingling serenity. But he doesn’t know this. So he keeps trying. He exerts control in an effort to manifest a desired outcome. He too is concerned with how the light moves across a room. Yet he cannot control it for the Earth is always changing its position relative to the Sun. He cannot count on it always being the same. I want him to know that it’s all real. That it’s not a matter of recapturing a feeling of being real. That he must awaken to it.
In March the weather changed so often. Now it is almost April and I am learning to walk again. It has been a long and strange winter in more ways than the most obvious one.
I wonder if the world is really different. Is it really changing. Or do we just perceive it to be doing so. A person can pretend that it is not. Quite easy to do that. Everything is happening all at once and one can only choose to pay attention to so much of it. What will catch your attention. A call to action, perhaps. But there are no more manifestos. They cannot breathe in this information-choked environment. So maybe the world is different. Maybe it is different in how words have become both so much less and so much more important. Words spew out around us at light speed. Our eyes and ears are bombarded by them. Words are cheap and they pile up around our feet by day’s end. But there are a few diamonds in that pile. Which of these will we choose to hear? Which ones will we allow to penetrate the filters now affixed to our eyes. And how will we respond.
I continue to ruminate on the act of writing and what purpose it serves, if any. The consensus among writers I admire is that the point of writing is not to say something. As the writer of the book I refer to above quotes Kafka:
I write in order to affirm and reaffirm that I have absolutely nothing to say.
To take it to the furthest extreme, I’m reminded of Enrique Vila-Matas and his novel Bartleby & Co., which chronicles an array of “artists of refusal,” those who chose not to write. Now Vila-Matas clearly wrote his book with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and yet there are indeed writers who have chosen not to write. One can certainly see the appeal, especially when confronted with the dread of the empty page.
In his short story “The Library of Babel”, Jorge Luis Borges wrote:
The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into phantoms.
Even taken out of context from a piece of fiction that sounds harsh. And I don’t agree (nor do I think Borges did). While this certitude can get me down, I refuse to be negated and I am certain of my realness. I am not a phantom. At one time I may have believed I was, but no longer. Writing for me now is an attempt to perpetuate this realness. Of figuring out a way to convey actuality in prose. Of removing the filters and exposing the words in all of their stark, fragile beauty. It is likely an impossible task, but it is the striving that fills the pages.
Posted by birds fly on March 31, 2017
There is full sun and little wind. No cloud cover.
The pedestrian suspension bridge is open. Yesterday it was closed. Criteria for closure unknown, but suspected to be related to wind speed.
Tourists abound on this day in early February, a month not known for its tourist activity.
The habitat islands offer less mystery in the winter, having lost much of their greenery.
A child wearing a leash crosses the street. The leash, dragging on the ground, protrudes from an animal-shaped backpack.
An oversized police officer fiddles with his phone while purporting to guard the building.
Birds observed: several Ring-billed Gulls, a small flock of House Sparrows, and one European Starling. An unimpressive count, but not unusual for this time and place.
Posted by birds fly on February 11, 2015
They always walked the same way, which was, in fact, the opposite of the way I walked. The one felt strongly about walking that way. The other reported this to me when I inquired as to why they always walked that particular way. She told me that the one felt that way was far superior to the way I walked, although no reason was given that I can recall. So when I began walking with them, I of course walked their way, despite the fact of it going against my natural inclination to walk the other way. Then the one left, not long after I had begun walking with them. She went elsewhere, leaving the two of us on our own. The other and I continued walking. For the most part we continued walking the way they always used to walk, although sometimes we altered course and walked my way. It was strange, the fact of us continuing to walk the way they used to walk. Neither of us felt strongly about that way. From the very start, it had been the one who had imposed her will on the other. By the time I came along, the route was already set in stone. There was no question of whether they would ever walk my way, so I didn’t even bother suggesting it. Eventually it became second nature for me to walk their way. When exiting the door my natural inclination was now to turn left. Even later on, after the other had also gone away and I was alone again, I still found myself turning left, walking against my original inclination, which was either straight ahead or on occasion to the right, but never to the left. While walking, it would sometimes occur to me: ‘I am walking their way, her way, in fact’. She, whom I hadn’t heard from in years, continued to impose her will on me. And when I found myself walking my way, I would sometimes gloat in my mind, thinking, ‘Ha! I am no longer walking her way. I am walking my own way‘, which gave me a sense of satisfaction. This sensation felt strange, though, given that she wasn’t around, nor had she been for years, and in fact I had never felt that strongly about my way versus their way, or more specifically, her way. Naturally there were pros and cons associated with each way, and over the years I pondered at length over the merits and disadvantages of both ways. I never came to a conclusion as to which one was superior. However, after much thought, I did conclude that my occasional negative feeling toward her way originated more from an anti-authoritarian reaction to her insistence on always going that way than from a belief that my way was indeed superior. In fact, I would go so far as to say that she assumed that her way was the only way to go, that in her mind there was literally no other way to go, that my way was in fact dead to her, that it did not even exist, and that if I or the other had ever started walking my way, she would have immediately disavowed the both of us as walking companions, and we would have become as dead to her as my way already was. Still, there was something compelling about her.
Posted by birds fly on January 29, 2015
Today the clouds demand close observation. Why is everyone not looking at the clouds. Absurd. All colors today are vivid: the dark and choppy white-flecked waters of the harbor, the green sloping lawn of the former Civil War lookout, the red of the restaurant roof below it. Now is the time when the first psithuristic hints of the autumnal approach appear. Observance and acknowledgment of this occurrence is essential.
A passing child of about 7 says, apropos of nothing: ‘I hope I get a lawnmower soon…a real one…vrrrrrm [presumed lawnmower noises].’ His family chooses not to acknowledge this proclamation. Theory: this is not the first time it has been uttered.
A large black dog (LBD) enjoys the grassy, treed oasis behind the seafood restaurant, complacently chewing a tennis ball as its person paces in circles while jabbering on her mobile phone.
Shirtless males run on the promenade.
Tourists relentlessly take photos of a boat, the so-called ‘Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor,’ by far the most photographed object in the vicinity.
My doppelgänger walks by, as he is wont to do.
Midway through the reading period, sudden drama rushes in when cigar-smoking man (CSM) arrives on his bicycle, only to find LBD lying in the exact spot where he traditionally sets up his legless portable chair. For a few moments the air crackles with anticipation. However, this soon dissipates as, undaunted, CSM approaches the occupied territory and sets up his chair immediately adjacent to LBD. Soon, the fragrant scent of cigar smoke floats upon the strong breeze as CSM cracks open his book, occasionally casting a shrewd eye upon LBD, who pants in patient oblivion as its owner continues chattering.
On the return trip, while walking, a man pauses to execute a precise ballet move: a half-knee bend followed by a jump in place, arms outstretched. The grace of this move is surprising given the man’s overall GISS. He then taps a light pole with the thick book in his left hand. Further on, he thumps the book in his hand like a revival preacher, resulting in a few turned heads. A strong temptation rises to follow him for research purposes, but alas, recess is over.
Posted by birds fly on July 28, 2014
The orange glow of the street lamps illuminated her steady path along the still snow-covered sidewalk. She walked north, staring straight ahead, crossed the east-west street, continued north up the same side, crossed over to the opposite side, soon crossed back, and returned south by the same route. It made no sense. There was nothing up there, not on either side. Her choice of location for reversal in direction seemed arbitrary, yet the boldness of its execution indicated otherwise. The night was cold, with a bitter wind, not a night many would choose for a stroll, unless perhaps a fire was in one’s head. But her pace did not betray heat, so measured was it. So measured it was and yet lacking in any destination of obvious distinction. Crossing the street immediately prior to her southbound return was particularly puzzling. Now it was true that she was dressed warmly, suggesting predetermination. A hat covered her head and she wore a heavy coat, though not of any great length, for visible below its hem were woolen tights covering her legs. She moved with swift, even motion, as if in a rush, and yet a rush to get where. To get there, and yet there was nowhere, to an observer’s eye. A brief glimpse at profile, from a point several meters to the immediate west, yielded the features of an aquiline nose and a set jaw, the latter betraying further evidence of explicit intent. The heels of her boots struck the concrete in staccato rhythm, fading out as she moved further south, a sudden sound of certainty struggling to be heard.
Posted by birds fly on December 12, 2013
A man who works in my building rides his bike across the street to the grassy patch in front of the seafood restaurant. There he sits on a portable chair and smokes cigars during his lunch break. I find this an interesting pastime.
People from other countries stroll on the promenade. I can usually spot them before I hear their foreign tongues. It’s usually the subtle or not-so-subtle differences in fashion that tip me off. Others just don’t look American at all. Something in their bearing or gait or facial expressions. Less fleshy and stupid looking.
Tourists swarm the place because it’s the high summer season. Overheard for real: “Should we do Hard Rock?” Imagined rest of conversation: “It’s so nice to go to other cities and see all our familiar places. If things were different it would be scary. Oh look, it’s the Cheesecake Factory. I hear they hate gays just like all my friends back home.”
Here we have the National Aquarium. It’s not like Sea World, but it still makes me think of that episode of The IT Crowd when Roy is dating a girl whose parents died in a fire at a Sea Parks (the fake British equivalent of Sea World). He becomes obsessed with figuring out how, with all that water around and considering the concrete stadium has a total of 12 exits, they could have possibly died in a fire. Much like all IT Crowd episodes, of which I’m not ashamed to say I’ve watched at least two if not three times each, it is hilarious. Of course it’s British. The mainstream American humor palate is so much less refined.
But I digress from my walk.
The harbor smells like a rancid cesspool. I hope the visitors bureau is working on that.
Many women walk around with babies attached to their chests like parasitic blobs.
I don’t walk long. It’s important to strike a balance. If I’m outside too long I feel worse when I go back in. However, at least the temperature in my office is no longer hovering in the subarctic range. That is a plus.
In the lobby I assess the elevator situation. I hate riding with other people in an elevator. I hate everything to do with elevator use, but I will not go into it all here. Building security keeps the stairs on lockdown so even though I only work on the third floor I’m supposed to ride the elevator every time. You can go down the stairs (not up), but according to the sign on the door you’re not supposed to do so unless it’s an emergency. This enrages me. I still go down them, as do others on my floor. Anyway, if there are a lot of people milling around waiting for an elevator I usually go to the other side, which is what I do today. I’m about to enter an empty elevator when a man comes running across the lobby. How can anyone be in such a hurry after lunch that they can’t wait two seconds for another elevator. I’m embarrassed for him. He chokes out a breathless ‘thanks’ before fiddling with his smart phone. They all do. Smart phone fiddling has replaced watching the floors light up on the sign above the door as ‘the’ activity to do in an elevator. I stare at the floor.
Posted by birds fly on August 21, 2012
Straighten your papers, the ones you never look at. Never touch a paper twice, that’s what they say. Avoid information overload! Never touch a paper twice. Look at it and file it or throw it out. Don’t straighten your papers then, see if I care. Log in. Er, try to log in. Oops, forgot your password. How many are in your head. How many are the same. You fool! Don’t use the same one twice! You must use a combination of four numbers, three symbols, and no less than six letters. We will not accept anything less. Also we’ll need you to change it again as soon as you begin to remember it. Forget it the first time you try to log in. Request new password. Make up new one, but not the same as your email password. And don’t use your pet’s name. Your neighbor might hear you calling him outside and hack into your account. Throw a few papers out to make yourself feel better. It’s okay, I know you touched them already. Just throw them out so you won’t touch them again. There, isn’t that better? Now go outside and breathe in some car fumes. It might be better than recycled office air but honestly science hasn’t bothered to find out. No corporate funding would touch that kind of study. So it’s still up in the air. [Don’t laugh at that!] Walk around and pretend you’re not an insignificant speck, not just another cog in the machine (you are, even though you purport not to be by affecting a continuous broadcast of apathy and cynicism to the world, and to yourself– the worst and most damaging lies are always to yourself. We learn this over time.). Return to the office. Pick up another stack of paper from your mailbox. Leave it on your desk for weeks to gather the appropriate office patina. Then recycle it. Or think you’re recycling it. Everyone knows the cleaning staff just throws it all in the trash anyway. It’s common knowledge. It doesn’t matter. Recycling can’t save us, Derrick Jensen says. Only complete destruction of civilization will save us. Would you prefer that? Read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and check back with me. I’ll make tea and we can pontificate. Then we’ll pack our emergency preparedness kits. Leave work behind now. Go home and attend to the needs there, the ones behind the scenes of everyone’s public life. Nourish your body. Attempt to nourish your mind but mostly just numb it and then maybe squeeze in a little bit of nourishment before sleep. If you’re lucky when you’re out late walking you’ll look up and see Venus glowing above the rooftops. Or maybe a full moon. If you’re lucky a breeze will rustle the cottonwood leaves and leave you breathless. But you won’t be lucky tonight because it’s winter and the branches are bare. So go to sleep and dream of spring. Dream about the end of civilization. Dream of anything at all. Like Amy Hempel says, that’s where most of us get what we want.
Posted by birds fly on January 26, 2012
Concentric circles radiated outward across the water’s surface, each one born of a single drop of rain. I could have easily stared for hours, the quiet moments punctuated by the rattling cry of a kingfisher racing at low altitude back and forth above this portion of the stream. But instead I moved on, muddled thoughts swirling in my head as my eyes struggled to extract the beauty from a natural scene blighted by humanity’s grotesque reminders: the ubiquitous plastic bags hanging like profane ornaments in the branches along the stream’s banks, the silver hubcap gleaming obtrusively in the bushes, the child’s beach ball bobbling in a section of rapids. I thought, I could clean it up, spend hours of my free time picking trash from the water and the surrounding bushes and trees. But I know it would be a fruitless never-ending task. Instead I entered the arboretum and stood listening to the chickadees, cardinals, and robins as they no doubt discussed the weather. I walked around, read the signs, checked out the aqueduct system and the rain barrels. I left then and began to climb the hill. As I climbed, I noticed some early spring bulbs poking their heads bravely out of the soil. A few daffodils have even bloomed, splashing surprising color here and there across a still mostly dull brown background. Last week in Texas, it was shocking to see so many trees budding out, some already in leaf, and the beds at the Dallas Arboretum bursting with flowers in full bloom. Soon things will turn the corner here, I thought. There are signs we will yet vanquish winter. I arrived back home then cold and a little wet, but with a calm mind.
Posted by birds fly on March 15, 2009