Altitude

And the ones who come down.

In another world, everyone lives in the mountains where time falls more slowly. To boast in this world is to speak of the heights you knew, have known, will soon attain. The elites put their houses on stilts. 

Only the careless leave the peaks for the valleys, to feel the soft grasses and the waters of the streams and lakes. The people of the heights watch them and scoff at the waste, but sound is denser in the lowlands, so the swimmers cannot hear them––not with the all of the birds and the crickets and the lowland creatures in the grasses and not with the water in their ears. It took them by surprise at first, the noises spilling out of these lowlands.

What’s that? They wondered at first. Later, they knew it was time. The creatures released it. The visitors caught what they could and threw it back. They began to make their own and it was music.

***

Inspired by one of the worlds described in Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams, (“26 April 1905”).

Incandescence

All that glimmers.

The first rule of mosaic is the play of light. An irregular surface invites its dance. A photographer writes volume after volume in light. It’s an ambiguous form. Are you making or finding?

It’s one of those questions that sounds more absurd out loud than it probably did in a theoretical dream space. Sight is impossible without shadow. Still, there’s a common impulse to drive them out.

As in, are you here or do you remember? Is your home private or in the public space? Same questions apply to your body, your books, your truest confessions, the ones you wrote in light across the faces of strangers that stopped for you. You wrote the same letter over and over again, and each time you picked up your instrument to look, you began with the first light of the world.

To a Young Magician

Regarding those dreams of flight.

I know you all want wings but try this. Reach only one arm up and keep the other here, palm flat in the soil, feeling what moves. Here’s the cup, the instrument, the elements. Here is the snake at your waist, tail in its mouth. Is the magic real yet? 

Look, the buds are opening to meet the bees. Watch these visitors fly to their welcome. Let them move you to remember. In all your dreams of flying, to whom did you ever return? It was always up, up! and out, away! without a passing glance back to the buds or the roots, or even the open windows.

You missed the treefrogs waiting among the fern leaves thick with eggs waiting to drop, and the octopus hiding in a coconut. You never gave a thought to the white-throated dippers on the rocks perched to dive, or the stag stopped in a snowstorm, looking back. You missed the burrowing mole and the sloth crossing the road after the flood.

I’ll fly away, you kept singing, your focus ever on what you flew from and the relief of oblivion by altitude. Is it really any wonder that someone had the insight to deny your constant request?

***

Partially inspired by these images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

Inspired Interference

The urgency of destabilizing symphonies.

Here is a signal and here is noise, interfering. But what happens when the noise is the signal, calling us back to the fire? When everything is permitted, nothing is necessary. Now the artist becomes the cacophonous jester to unmask and unmake the quiet throb of lies from the seat of power.

What is unpredictable is not random. Consider the rhizome, its growth an explosion of connections. What’s real is not the direction but the becoming. In a world of free-floating signifiers removed from context, an artist makes noise to negate the negation of life.

To navigate the soundscape, a listener will learn away from selection and discrimination of important from unimportant sounds and learn to maintain a continuous span of listening. The art in this is how such surrender makes it possible to read meaning where it seems to be gone, when all known categories collapse into an unknown being, distant and familiar.

***

Notes while reading the opening section of Joseph Nechvatal’s Immersion into Noise.

Turn

The sound of planets in orbit.

Every poetic center has its gravitational pull, multiplying repercussions between these miniatures and their attendant skies. Here we go again, pivoting around the lamp sun at the center of an ariel table, and she keeps us moving by the music of her pen. Without this, we would be permanent invalids, plunging ever away from some distant possession, our placid faces dumb with belfry daydreams pretending to be lessons in solitude. In this concert hall, these skies, we hear the saplings grow green and the crawling trellises; the bitter rain on the long road until the high wind yelping names of the dead finally expires into the silence, the axis on which she turns us with the next opening notes. Wait.

***

Inspired by and with borrowed images from the section on miniature in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.

Badlands

With Mary Hunter Austin.

In the country of lost borders, where hills squeezed from chaos and sculpted by wind rise over the blue haze of narrow valleys, it is not hard to forget that everything looks closer than it is.

In the land of lost rivers, where dust devils dance, there is so little to love, but try to resist the urge to return. Given enough distance, a body will dream the unimagined help, nearby, within reach of the mesquite roots, heralded by the vivid green of creosote.

It’s easy to wonder who lives here but stick around. You’ll soon learn how it can trick your sense of time, so that you always mean to go, but never do. This is what it’s like in the land of lost travelers, waiting with the legends of treasures long buried in these sands.

***

In honor of the birthday of American writer Mary Hunter Austin (1868-1934), today’s post is composed of images and phrases from the opening pages of her classic, The Land of Little Rain.

Contingency Plans

Welcoming the unexplained.

We’ve all heard and held some fixed ideas, but what is up for grabs? If it is true that there can be no knowledge of the impermanent, can we be so confident in our ideas of any knowns––or of their position in the hierarchy of seeking?

When so much is up in the air and out of the blue, these fragments of mind and their attendant doubts are percussive in the right hands, against the right drum––and the left. Handled well, they sound ovations to unknown galaxies, hidden chambers, and the neighbor on the porch.

There can be no point of reference when the point remains at large, dancing among us, the ache and the torch by which we seek, by which we chart these territories, and the greatest virtue of any map is a commitment to presenting a decidedly incomplete picture, with most of the details missing. It’s enough to read by, passing through.

***

Inspired by an introduction to the work of philosopher Hilan Bensusan.

Becoming Unbecoming

Undoing: an anti-manifesto.

In the spirit of helping, we began to work together, and in the process, unmade ourselves. Now we live in a hall of mirrors of our own creation, accompanied by nightmares and jokes. Some of these are our creation, others not, but there are no guards at the door. There are no doors either, so you get all kinds.

Don’t walk through here barefoot. There are shards of utopias all over the floor. If you look at certain times of day, the light playing in these is a wonder to behold. 

If there are any unbroken ones out there, you can keep them. Heroes, too. We are done with all of that. Keep your mastery, your individual agency, your sense of your own significance. In our madness, we think human beings would be a good idea.

Let us play. The game is you are not yet and neither here nor there. The game is care. The game is adapt. The game is laugh. Let us begin. Begin by stopping right here.

***

Inspired by, and with borrowed phrases from, the opening of Hyposubjects: Becoming Human, by Timothy Morton and Dominic Boyer.

Glitch

Gremlins in the web.

Suddenly, it happens: a tear in the fabric between the real and the virtual, blurring the distinction again. From the messenger, an unbidden memorandum of old photos, remember this?––and you don’t, and who took these, and the answer, you already know, is any one of the someones in your circle, keeping constant vigil on the eerily mundane, to send it back to you in surprise morsels like this, to knock your balance slightly in time like a friendly hip-bump on a moving train. 

Another call, appearing local, heralds an automated voice. A mixed sense of betrayal and vague remorse after hanging up. Surely there are better directions for these sentiments.

Open the screen at your lap, looking. How many windows open simultaneously in this chamber and what gale comes to rattle the lamps? The curtains are gone since the last storm, a pretense anyway. The office party returns to the bedroom. See the frozen faces, pixel blossoms and broken voices, seeming to speak. One emits partial words, something like a sentence, beginning with We and ending with Here before the screen goes dark.

***

Inspired by (and with borrowed images from) the opening pages of Nathan Allen Jones’ Glitch Poetics, Open Humanities Press (2022).

What Dreams

Journey on the river.

Imagine a world of your dreams, people will say, as if to conjure some vision of attainment, as if this is not the world that stops you in the night to hold you in its grasp, its hot breath in your ear, a ceaseless whisper.

There goes Death again, walking into the sea. Meanwhile the clock tower burns, the sleeper exits through the window, the hermit takes a first step. At an altar, lovers wait. Now comes a covered chair above the river, bodies pulling it in opposite directions. The cloaked rider holds a small flame straight ahead.

It’s a wonder the rider continues. Wouldn’t it be easier to walk than to reconcile these opposites, using nothing but posture, mind, and force of will? But this is how it happens in the world of dreams.

***

Inspired by an encounter with the surrealist photography of Nicolas Bruno, particularly his Somnia Tarot.