it’s never just about the weather

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.

field report lucky 7

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.

field report 5.0

Today the city simmers under a Code Orange air quality alert. It does not seem so hot, though, and certainly not that humid. But the sun is bright, warranting protection for the eyes, strained as they are from squinting all day at the twin telescreens.

A tourist family clusters close to ask directions to a nearby seafood restaurant, one of them eagerly exclaiming ‘Seafood!’ in a fit of giddiness.

The pedestrian suspension bridge sways under the collective tourist weight as it tromps dutifully toward the Fish Prison, a popular destination also known as the Aquarium.

A man cooling in the shade from his maintenance duties politely requests a match but receives no fire. An apology is made and graciously accepted.

A ring-billed gull makes a raucous proclamation from atop a lamp post. Is anyone listening.

Gaggles of office men dressed in identical business attire perambulate as one, exuding comfort and confidence from their pores. They still own the world, and probably always will. That is, until it implodes under the weight of their gargantuan needs.

(The impending extinction of individuality hangs over the land. To be different is to accept relegation to the edges, where the view is perhaps better and the air certainly cleaner.)

field report 3

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.

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…

a knoblike process

Creeping crepuscule, descrescent light, harbinger of dreaded return to EST, where darkness dampens day’s early end. Decumbent drone diminishes daily, drowsy in the drawing room. Sip long from murky melodies, muddy froth spilling forth in rivulets, dirgeful delights diverging in drone’s ear canals. Mellifluous miasma of musical melancholia!

Dismantling of outdoor seating commences! Desperate attempts to affect staring at nothing continues. Doctor Chumply the Mouth Breather appears, Mickey D’s in hand, heart-attack-in-waiting, following with tiny aggrieved steps the trail of nitroglycerin tablets strewn across the decking. Take the elevator, not the stairs, for they are locked, despite the sign in the kitchen encouraging good health through stairs-taking. O, Dr. Chumply, what will become of you, will you follow those tablets to the Haunted Wood™ where the witch stokes her stove as she awaits your fleshly delights.

[But Christine, what of loneliness, standing there behind the invisibility cloak, always working, always writing, what did engagement mean for you, O Invisible Author, did you drape yourself in a duvet woven with words…]

Glossary

lumpfish: Any of various fishes of the family Cyclopteridae, especially Cyclopterus lumpus of North Atlantic waters, having pelvic fins united to form a suction disk and a body bearing prominent tubercles.

tubercle: A small, rounded prominence or process, such as a wartlike excrescence on the roots of some leguminous plants or a knoblike process in the skin or on a bone.

Quick now! Homophone challenge question: would you rather your words resonate or resinate. Think about it while staring into the clouds.

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.

the one and the other discuss the weather

What is up with this winter, other.

I don’t know, one, but it is a strange one for sure.

I have a bad feeling that this winter is going to be like last winter where I felt so unworthy of spring!

Ah, yes, I remember…you were in a state, one, a real fragile state.

I know! cried the one. What ever will I do if it is like that again?

We’ll make it through together. Please don’t worry, one.

Oh thank you, other, thank you…you are too sweet. Tell me again how you got to be so sweet. Tell me the story. Tell me, other, telllll meeeee!

I took a distance learning course!

Wheee! You are ridiculous, other. Did I ever tell you that?

Yes, one…many times! But now I must go lie down.

Ohhh…do you have a sadness in you today, other?

Yes, one, I do.

Can I help?

Just your being here is helping. The way I feel you listening even when there are no words, one…that means so much.

I’m glad, other, I really am…but this sadness, see, I just want to wring its spiny little neck! I want to banish it!

I appreciate that, one. I really do.

But does it ever go away, other? The sadness…does it…does it ever leave you…

Not really…there are always traces. But it helps to not feel so alone with it.

I like to help you, other. I don’t always understand but it’s okay, right?

Of course it is! You help me so much, one. Now, where is that chocolate bar you’ve been saving for emergencies…

ice wrench grip

Clutching the bedside table again. After so many nights with it lodged against my hip. And now while cross-checking your references. The calming effects of copyediting, the sly satisfaction of reducing months of hard labor to a few sentences in need of tightening. I reach in with my wrench and look for loose bolts, as in my ears the sun kills the moon. And now the wind blows. An exchange of smiles is a warm point of light in ice. Now occupied with the business of shuttering another week. So carry me, carry me, Ohio.

indicators and implications

Water main break sends me scurrying yesterday from the building. I tried to stay but the fire alarm went off. I think they were trying to flush us out. Begone, you office trolls! It seems there are water mains breaking everywhere in this city. Our aging infrastructure simply cannot handle a violent shift from warm to below freezing to warm again. Get home, pull up the shade to a turkey vulture gliding overhead. I resent the implication this bird is making toward my general state of liveliness. I am not dead. It’s simply not true. Maybe the vultures should go feed on all the dead water mains instead. Crunch, crunch.

This may sound familiar to long-suffering regular readers, but how one reacts from inside an elevator to the sight of another person walking (hurrying, even) toward said elevator, defines at a base level the kind of human being one is. Most other indicators are largely irrelevant to me; they require too much interaction, too much time to reach a satisfactory conclusion. If I want to know in an instant, a blinding flash, what kind of person a certain human is I will hurry toward the elevator in which she or he stands, looking out at me with either compassion or disgust, and I, at her or him in return with either gratitude or disappointment. What transpires in that brief moment shall inform me of what stuff they [sic] are made. I am reminded of my experience at the revolving door the other day. The simplicity, the stripped-down bareness, of this moment, two humans moving in opposing directions, yet united in one shared motion to move themselves, and each other, forward to where they needed to be. To ignore the sublimity of these moments would be tragic.

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