Recent Findings

I once was lost, but now this.

From time to time, when feeling vaguely haunted by a general sense of loss, it can be useful to turn to the oracles of online message boards for reminders of the abundance that has recently been found. For instance, a small but costly kite has been discovered in an ice plant container, along with some keys at the ledge of the walkway near the dog park. Someone walking along Chollas Creek recently came upon a skateboard, and a foray into the Costco business center led one unsuspecting traveler to discover the proverbial box of money. 

It’s not just the bounty of these findings that’s worth noting, but the fact that person after person is going out of their way––after work, traffic, everyday aches and pains, in between nagging health concerns, personal grievances, and untold losses of their own–– to locate the rightful owner and return the treasure, resisting the age-old maxim of finders keepers.

I won’t comment on the sensitive nature of the personal items the dog keeps finding in the marsh, but there is reason to believe that they will be returned without any questions asked about how exactly they got in there. True, there is still no sign of the teeth that were left in a Skittles bag on a picnic table in Oak Park, but there is no shortage of found kittens ready to soothe the toothless without judgement. We are all on the lookout for the lost parts of ourselves, and what are we here for, anyway, if not to be ever returning them to one another?

***

I have an odd fondness for taking inspiration from Craigslist ads. Although I have never actually used them to locate any goods, services, or people, I take great delight in reading them. 

At the Threshold

Studies in meticulous meditation.

So much depends on the scent in the air, the texture of ions, the nuance of birdsong. Add to this detailed considerations of ambient temperature, the auditory interference of nearby machines, and the possibility of mice. A lizard will do, perhaps. But perhaps not.

Where the dog will bound headfirst with nothing but blind enthusiasm for all that may be moving, anywhere and at any time, and the resident human might emerge easily, absent of mind before recalling some vague purpose, this one waits, a portrait of pure intention, poised.

The perennial questions of her forbears course through her consciousness, distilled in this moment, to a single one. In, or out?

She waits, leaning. Everything hangs in the balance. Suddenly, some inscrutable truth revealed, she pulls away. No, she decides. It is not time. Not yet.

Much remains to be seen. We wait here together.

***

Inspired by Buzz, the resident cat of many moods, who is begrudgingly teaching me the ancient ways––as long as I concede to a daily tithe of salmon feast for gravy lovers.

The Form is Not

Urgently seeking answers.

Are you there? I need to know what happened.

Sure. It started with a long walk and a begging bowl. Then it was time to sit.

I have some questions.

Who doesn’t? For answers, consider impermanence, inevitable extinction.

Yes, got it! To everything there is a season. A time to––

But don’t hold onto the idea, or any other. No more T-shirts or bumper stickers, okay?

Right. I’ll try to focus on action. How do I give?

Without counting.

What about appearances?

What about them?

Never mind. Let’s get to the real teaching. I’m ready.

What you learn isn’t supposed to be a trophy, but a raft.

Okay. Let’s talk fortune.

Give it away. What did I just tell you?

Right, right. Okay, what about this stream? How do I enter?

What stream?

Um, like the path––you know, the levels?

Forget about those.

You say that a lot. What should I remember?

Only teach.

But I don’t know anything!

There you go.

But seriously. I can’t even control my mind yet.

Hah! Which one? The past, the present, or the future? None of them are made for holding.

[sigh] 

Can you just give me some answer?

Fine. But I’m about to lose service here. The reception in these mountains is terrible.  Ready?

Yes!

It’s–––

Hello? Hello?

***

This morning, I learned that on this day in the year 868, a copy of the Diamond Sutra was printed in China, making it the oldest known printed book. Prior to this, the teachings had long been conveyed orally. Naturally, I got to imagining an attempt to convey urgent teachings orally via cellphone. I have spotty service at home and pretty good service in most other places, so many of my conversations have at least a few moments where one or the other party is saying, “Are you there?” or “Wait a minute, I’m walking outside. I might lose you.” I consulted Burton Watson’s translation here.

Obsolete

The art of preservation.

What do you do?

I preserve the obsolete. Take this instrument, for example. Plucked keys, no mallets, every note the same volume––rigid, raw, it sounds almost modern.

Why the harpsichord?

Because we always think of music as living. But I am always thinking in terms of loss.

How do you select your materials?

I look for what is unfashionable. I look for what people have turned from. I want to make them think about it again.

Why?

I am constantly stressed about what is disappearing. It’s a kind of chaos swirling around.

Can you describe your process?

I am the last to know the relationships between these materials.

What is your ideal workspace?

I like the idea of a studio that looks like one of those outmoded cubicle offices, where everyone is together but separated by partitions, and everyone is working on their art, but you wouldn’t even know it. 

What do you do?

Usually, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out something that has no purpose. 

When I was a child, I used to mix liquids in containers. I called them potions.

Exactly, that’s what I mean! Ask anyone to consider some of the things they most loved doing as children. Then have them try to find the point.

So, you’re preserving childhood?

That sounds too lofty. Childhood’s an ideal, anyway. I’m not sure what to make of it. Maybe I’m just interested in preserving a kind of sensibility, a space where a kid can just––be, you know? I don’t want this to disappear, this space.

***

I saw a video with the artist Cory Arcangel, whose primary obsession is working with near-obsolete technologies. I encountered him in a video from the Met’s (now discontinued) Artist Project Series.  He was speaking about the harpsichord.  I felt a strong affinity to some of his impulses. The above is an imagined conversation that borrows some of Arcangel’s ideas, but should not be taken as an accurate rendering of his vision, which I have heavily distorted with my own useless play. . 

Non-Linear

Regarding some equations.

On first introduction to the idea of convergence, it is natural to take an optimistic view. However, in certain cases it is clear with moral certainty that whatever else happens, convergence does not.

Consider subharmonics. Proving their bare existence, we begin with a theorem of our own before beginning any proofs.

Suppose a positive constant, some fixed function bounded by a given. From there, find a local maximum. Suppose the velocity of a given around a stationary point, spinning.

Consider any variable whatsoever, and let it be x. It follows immediately that the notation parallel to that for symbol y is denoted by an alternate symbol.

We are always supposing. 

We suppose always,

assume the truth.

***

Today is the anniversary of the death of celebrated British mathematician, Dame Mary Cartwright (1900-1998), who is considered one of the pioneers of what came to be known as chaos theory. This exercise is a collage of phrases found in this paper she published in 1945.

Poet of Things

For Francis Ponge.

Let’s go to the mute world of things, beyond the reach of the tyrannical hordes and the hordes of tyrants-in-training with their drums set to the old standard, Idea! Idea! Idea! always keeping the beat of self-proclaimed righteousness.

I’d rather listen to the drum before it’s conscripted into the service of some march or another. After that, I’ll go visit with the soap, whose songs are vivid with suds, its cheeky humor always slipping through the grasp.

I speak for no one and would never presume to ventriloquize one of these––or anyone else, for that matter. But I am drawn to their ripe quietude, each like a waiting page, like the open hand of a familiar stranger, inviting the next dance. I am, after all, a creature of language, bound by fate to remake each daily scene one day at a time, and my humble purpose is for noticing what happens at the interface between these winking syllables and these never-ending odds and ends, waiting to be new again.

***

This morning I learned that it was the birthday of French writer Francis Ponge (1899-1988), an essayist and poet associated with the surrealist movement, who famously reimagined the inner lives of ordinary things in his workI admire the gentle playfulness and generosity of his spirit.

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.

Souls

In conversation.

Some will deny them altogether. It’s almost easy to do this, with so many ways to stop the ears. For others, these are what sweat, cry, laugh, dance, sing;  being made of fluid form means to be forever leaking, absorbing the drips, sounds, and reverberations of an ongoing other, to become our strange strangers, waving Hello, hello! Who are you?

before an embodied response, 

like this one here, arms out,

cry spinning drops of body 

in every direction. 

Come, they are calling, it

is almost and before, it is

the never you feared and 

the someday you painted 

like sunset with your 

watercolor pulse, into

this awake.

Yes, You Can

Monday blues vs. DIY inspiration.

When the malaise of Mondays pounds at an unprecedented pitch, it can be helpful to bear witness to the fountain of human ingenuity available on DIY posts across cyberspace. A few keystrokes can renew the world-weary spirit with fresh perspective, not to mention a  wealth of insight on overcoming everyday challenges and turning ordinary items into upcycled treasures.

If your car is giving you trouble, don’t worry. You can convert your ten-speed to an e-bike by installing some easy-to-find hardware. While you’re saving money for the auto repair, you can tune up your table saw with a few simple steps, and while you’re at it, tune up your table saw skills by building this floating key organizer. 

Did you know that it is possible to avoid seeing yourself on video calls, even while keeping the camera on? No more forehead strain while trying to hold your face still. Not only that, but you can become a digital ghost, change the settings on your smart phone, and use time-tested strategies to claim decisive victory over Wordle. 

Want to show off your wild side? You can start a fire in the rain and make a fine side dish out of edible hemlock needles and sidewalk snails––locally sourced! And there’s no need to let another week go by without harnessing the life-changing power of cornstarch. While you’re basking in the glow of the best scrambled eggs you’ve ever tasted, possibilities abound. You might crochet a decorative hippopotamus, make a bucket swing from cutoff jeans and sturdy chain, and replace your normal eyeshadow routine with a festive leopard-print design. Me-ow!

Does the thought of having to take a shower and go to work get you down? It would probably be lots more fun if you had taken the time to up your hygiene game by infusing some soap eggs with plastic dinosaurs! It really pays to think ahead. Just don’t forget to submerge the figurines completely into the mold before it hardens. 

Yes, the world is your oyster. Not only that, but those leftover shells may be the secret to upping your domestic interior with some choice beach-themed home décor ideas. While the lighting fixture projects are recommended for the advanced craftsperson, anyone can make a compete set of oyster-shell Santa heads for next year’s tree, and who couldn’t use more of those? Onward!

Dirt

What found us in our play.

We were not sanitary children, somersaulting in soil, clods of mycelium matting our manes. Our hands, handling humus, were the opposite of pure. We marveled in the muck of it, colluding with colluvium. Saturated with smut, we loamed our elements, barnyard babes absolved by absorption in the dirt that knew us, holding tight.