The Wait

Coming soon: some idea.

This is what they say you should do if you want some sight to come in.

Insight?

That’s it. So, I’m waiting but all I see is this ant river following the sidewalk lines.

Well, do you hear anything?

Just the leaf blower in the distance and those kids counting hide and seek.

What about the wind, you don’t hear that?

In the trees, sure. But––

There’s a swarm of bees down the hill.

I know, driving up that way I didn’t want to open the window.

These squirrels are something.

Sorry, guys. I don’t have anything.

They’re kind of insistent, aren’t they?

Awww, look! Baby sloths! 

Where? 

Someone posted them. I’m in this Animal Lover’s group. Those faces, look! They don’t even look real!

I thought you were waiting in stillness.

I know, I know. Just had to check something real quick.

It’s getting dark.

I wonder what it would be like if it got real dark.

You mean without all these lamps?

Yeah, let’s go inside. Look at all these moths right here. Don’t let any in. 

Look. Even now, with all the lights off, all these glowing things inside.

Like an indoor constellation, practically. Check out this cat.

You’re in bed less than a minute and there she is, on your chest, doing that pizza dough thing.

I know, she won’t let me move. I was gonna keep looking, you know–

Recovering Nature

What’s in a name?

Sure, you can try to recover it, as you say, carefully filming this walk into woods, but consider the violence of a name. Nature, as in outside, as in opposite of this separate, sanitized, self-satisfied sanity. I am not fit, perhaps, to hold it on my tongue, so unrefined is my palate. Sure, this is one way to defend your dominion. No one can touch you. No one can touch the finery of such an idea whose hands are still furred with dirt.

Almost Endless

For a Monday morning.

We all fall from our infinities. These landings have a way of knocking the wind from the lungs. After the crash, there’s a stillness before it begins again. Inhale, exhale.

Loquat, cypress, tire swing. Field mouse, damselfly, dark-eyed junco. Brush rabbit, baby, coyote. All of this before you even find your feet again.

What will you do without your delusions of endlessness? The unbound forever vanished, here is a beginning instead.

Look at Us

Albums in space.

We started with the basics––abstractions, really: circle, star maps, a few terms. Then the images of planets, as if to open conversation. Have you seen this, too?

Look at our moon, we are so proud. See our double helix, watch our cells divide! Behold our anatomical diagrams. Here is conception, fetal development, birth. Nursing mother, father with child; now a family. Consider continental drift, oceans, desert, shore, dunes; consider forest, leaf, mushroom, sequoia, snowflake. Insect, vertebrate, seashell. Dolphin, school of fish, tree toad, eagle, crocodile.

Yes, some notable omissions: war, poverty, disease. Idea being, best foot forward. Also omitted: visual art. Whatever would we choose, and how would we explain ourselves to our critics? It’s like that with art.

Animals at a waterhole, hunters in the bush. Craftsmen, dancers, pipe smokers. Mountain climbers, Olympic sprinters, schoolrooms, children at a globe. Harvests: cotton, grapes, fish nets, supermarkets. Shared meals, construction. Architecture, cityscapes, factory interiors. Trains, planes, radio telescopes.

Here is a page from a book. One of our astronauts: how like the floating fetus with its cord!  Now a shuttle launch, now a string quartet. We convert these images to sound, place them on a record.

Hello, can you hear us? Are you there? Do you understand?

Have you seen anything like this before? 

How about since?

What now?

***

Inspiration: Jon Lomberg’s “Pictures of Earth,” in Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record, by Carl Sagan, Ed.Drake, Ann Druyan, Timothy Ferris, Jon Lomberg, and Linda Salzman Sagan.

Waking

When the ice thins.

After the long search, hungry; after securing the space and leaving the guards, after the long drop into winter shade with your muted heart, wake.  Now emerge. Watch as you enter this peril to begin again, your life.

***

Inspired by this article about findings from recent studies on hibernation habits among bears and other mammals, with particular focus on adaptations to global warming.

Soliciting Questions

Wise fools convene at the threshold.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Your local fools!

Not interested. We’re doing serious work here. 

On?

Existential matters. You wouldn’t get it. Bye, now.

But some problems have a way of lurking at the threshold. What better subject?

With enough construction within the discipline, anything can be explained. You really must depart now.

You mean from standard principles?

No, I mean from my porch. But yes, that too.

And yet, even the most careful practitioner rarely gets above theory.

Sure, but finding a given to begin with is harder than it seems.

Can you hold this?

Being, when it isn’t sticky, tends to be too slippery.

You could try putting your hand in a jar of honey. 

I know, then try to feel where hand ends and honey begins. Old hat.

Well, to the extent that being can be known, it won’t be with knowledge.

Maybe not, but you can use what you know to construct beings in sequence.

What do you know?

I really don’t have time––

Here’s a mirror! Wanna start with the eyes? Then you can get to all things seen and unseen, and the whole arrangement until you get to the point where you are asking why we’re here and not there, while––

Really, I don’t––

Awww, look at this cat! Hi, kitty! Oh, aren’t you gorgeous! Okay, yes, yes.

That’s my cat, Oliver.

Are you sure?

That’s enough.

Oliver is licking his teeth and turning away now. How do you read that, exactly?

I’ll ask him later. But now I really have to––

You know, you may be waiting a very long time for an answer.

Speaking of time, I can’t––

Maybe we ask questions like daubing at paint, to give us something to do––

––I have plenty to––

––with the eternities we can’t seem to keep from conjuring, even as our skins crack in recognition.

Of what?

Of the endless amusement we provide at our own expense!

You’re not leaving, are you?

Maybe later, but I’m really into petting this cat right now.

Well, do you want a chair?

Nope, just wanted to leave you this paintbrush. Later!

Sooner?

That’s it!

Animal Histories

Early theories about Birds of Paradise.

Perhaps they were fallen angels, these wingless birds. Their plumes were like haloes. Perhaps they moved as comets across the sky, in perpetual motion and only occasionally visible. They might be immortals in the flesh, or they might be the Phoenix. Whatever the case, it seemed impossible that they could land, given that they had no feet.

Theories sprouted. That the female must lay eggs in an internal chamber of her body where she incubates them until they are ready to begin lifetimes of continual flight. Or that they might rest after all, from time to time, using their featherless extensions like strings from which to suspend themselves from the branches of the highest trees. Perhaps they would twine these together while mating. Here is an image of one. See how it drinks the rain. 

Some hypothesized that the birds would never submit to close study, so averse are they to the prospect of being sullied by this world. As context for these speculations, it can be helpful to consider the earliest arrival of these birds on the continent. They had arrived, after all, as the precious cargo of a colonial ship, far from their songs, their homeland, and their days of flight, with legs and wings removed.

***

Inspiration for this post: This morning I learned that today is the birthday of Conrad Gessner (1516-1565), the renowned swiss zoologist who published the Historia Animalium (History of the Animals), which was the most widely read natural history in Europe during the renaissance.  It was summarily banned by the Catholic church as heretical. Having once been harshly scolded as a first grader in Catholic school, for depicting a unicorn at the center of my elaborate marker drawing of the Garden of Eden, I felt my sympathies drawn toward Gessner’s work. In my unsuccessful efforts to find a readable digital copy of this extensive work, I came across this article about early theories of birds of paradise. To his credit, Gessner was among the first to speculate that the birds must not subsist entirely on air, rain, and vast internal fat stores, but must eat actual food, somehow. 

Minor Challenges

Interrogations at terminal velocity.

First, a threshold. Questions about the roots of things tend to call common sense from the jury box to the witness stand. Being may be what knowing apprehends, but answer: can you point to an essence outside knowing? Yes or no.

No further questions, Your Honor. 

Recess. Outside, cellophane angels drop into boxes. Here are the signs. We’ll attach them like armor, with the same duct tape used to silence those objecting to being objects of study. 

Bells again, wait. We were at a threshold, trying to begin––what, though? And were we calling it? I’ve lost––the engine’s speed has thrown me back again, and as for the thread I meant to follow, before the angels and the tape, where now?

In Search of Lost Time

Overheard.

What are you looking for?

Time, I was going to reference an old story––

That’s gone out of print. There’s no catching it now,

but get this. A ventriloquist and a bullfighter walk

into a bar and learn that it isn’t one. The place is

a bank now. “I disagree!” remarked one or the other,

you can never tell with ventriloquists. They walked

out dazed, looking for a sign they could read.