Sunday 27 August 2006
I will wake at 7am, walk 4 miles, write for 9 hours, turn around and walk back again. I will bruise the inside of my left forearm and thighs carrying my desk. I carry it only a short way, but it is awkward and full of books. I will play a game of comparison. "You have to compare. It helps to keep a little distance" (My Life as a Dog). After all, I'm not being sent into space with a month's supply of kibble. Or walking into a javelin. I am only porting a desk.
I am setting my desk down in the Theatre of the Tulip Trees. I am taking my books out of the drawer, unwrapping my glittering letters, p, o, e, t. I am hoping, secretly, they will not approach. I am hoping they will let me write a while. It is not that I haven't been so wonderfully alone this week. I have. It's not that I haven't had enough time at my desk. I've had perhaps too much time. It's just that I'm having difficulty rolling this stone away.
Mornings are for emerging.
An outlaw is emerging from Sherwood Forest. Standing at the border, feeding the ducks, showing his humanity, practicing communion. I cannot hear what he is saying. He is probably speaking the truth. He is mad of course.
Is this about me recognizing them, or them, me?
Every so often, I lift my head for a minute, randomly recording the number of bodies passing my desk. Below are three counts for today. Following (in parenthesis) is the calculation of bodies that would pass by in nine hours based on these figures.
Morning, 9:19am – 26 bodies (14,040)
Mid-afternoon, 2:13pm – 17 bodies (9,180)
Late-afternoon, 4:57pm –12 bodies (6,480)
Artist Paul Chan, in a recent issue of Contemporary Magazine, raises the notion of de-linking. "I am part of the second generation of the internet age, a generation of people who believe that the burden of interconnectedness is…not necessarily good. One of the most profound ways that you can actually live is to be disconnected, to cut yourself off." Chan is not the first to recommend a rollback in consumption. Bill McKibben has long been advocating for less, with best-selling books like Maybe One and Enough.
What Chan is describing will no doubt resonate for most of us. The burden of interconnectedness. When we strip away the buffers (the tv, phone, car, washer, dryer, air conditioner) we begin, or we simply begin, to feel. To communicate. To work. It's not that we must throw technology away, it's that we must order it in line with our lives, passions, compassions, experiences and families. Technology can not obliterate the heart of a society. It cannot interfere with the dance or poetry or wine or love of our lives.
While today's buffers might seem more plentiful and complex, they are only slick replacements for older, friendlier forms. No better or worse. We haven't created a 25th hour, we have only shifted focus. Delinking takes Chan to "a new responsibility" in drawing. Not only in drawing, Paul, but in poetry, film, sculpture and dance. In politics. In relationships. In life.
Which to prefer? The burden of responsibility? Or the neglect of it? Lifting the weight? Or putting it down?
BURR DENS BIRD DENS
The burden of interconnectedness.
The burden of family.
The burden of hair.
The burden of small talk.
The burden of glass.
The burden of feet.
The burden of the intellect.
The burden of hunger.
The burden of society.
The burden of nutrition.
The burden of a car.
The burden of a plant.
The burden of good health.
The burden of politics.
The burden of history.
The burden of language.
The burden of grass.
The burden of an image.
The burden of a dream.
The burden of a conversation.
The burden of burdens.
Wouldn't it be easier just to walk away? Wouldn't it be good and right, to have no greater expectations than your own? No forced affairs of the heart and mind based on a name? From the moment you acknowledge an aunt or father, a son or neighbor, from that moment forward you devise a prison of compulsion that must be forever nurtured and repaired. Trapped in a web. Forever making calls and decisions based upon it, planning holidays and visits, subjecting yourself to the same criticisms and misunderstandings you'll spend the rest of your days fighting.
Family bears the greatest burden. And it bears the greatest salve. The salve of knowing. Knowing the catalysts of one's dysfunctions. Knowing why you must move forward. What you're moving from.
"Cut yourself off." Does Chan mean to include the body? Cut off the body, the senses? Will this bring us to the spirit person, the thusness of being? Or will it simply display the ways in which the spirit force drives the senses, tunes them to its desires?
And when everything is off, then does the frog resound in the ancient pond?
Breaking the silence
Of an ancient pond,
A frog jumped into water-
A deep resonance.
Chan recognizes our desperation. "I think in America it's a fairly desperate-feeling time and so everything gets motivated to articulate that desperation, whether it's affirmative or negative." The Circlers recognize it too. Ross, a frequent visitor, talks about catatonia, a feeling of shell-shock, in relation the others at the lake. It is impossible to surmount some of the barriers we construct. "Seattle's a hard town to meet people in."
Deb and Karen of West Seattle have just come by offering a poem. A poem remembered from childhood.
I saw above a sea of hills
A solitary planet shine,
And there was no one, near or far,
To keep the world from being mine.
- Sara Teasdale, American Lyric Poet (1884-1933)
Teasdale offers humanity as an obstacle to cosmic order. An obstacle to the order that calls out from the heavens and is rewarded with instinctive submission. The order that Western Civilization thinks it's superceded. But the individual, that unique soul isolated on the hillside, is there to foil to all this. The bane of human systems. Especially now, in these post-avant, post-modern times, when our systems contradict so greatly the natural order, we need to take ourselves out, alone, on the hillside and relish in the sea, the solitary planet.
Deb remembered stars for hills. A sea of stars, she said. In reaction, perhaps, to the natural order.
Bruce stopped by today, suggesting a poet to explore. David Whyte, an English-born, Northwest poet and writer who offers thoughts on one's place in the world, through work. Whyte presents lectures on leadership and management to large corporations. He uses poetry as a tool for dialogue and resolution. His teachings offer work as a pilgrimage of identity. If we are lucky, he says, we might find our persuasion, that is, our work identity. It would be a great loss, says Whyte, to go through life without having explored this persuasion. But what of Whyte's poetic business? What of his consumptive clients? Who is to say whether or not he has turned his back on the altar to serve as a buttress?
GREEN LAKE AS SUMMER'S DAY
I see here today all the energy one could ever need. All the curiosity. I see here a wealth of information and knowledge and points of view.
Green Lake as intellect bank. Green Lake as creative bank. Green Lake as community bank.
Who can say what Green Lake is, and take us there?
Ryan and Peter would call it life, because they are life. They carry life around with them. They have followed the great poets in their search for meaning. I sense greatness in their lives. And a sense of unquiet. The kind of searching that precedes great speech.
More outlaws in Sherwood, give song to the forest. 40' to the east, behind a tree trunk. I get only random strums, a note or two. Then someone, blown out of the rotor wash of Aurora, approaches from behind. I do not turn. Let happen what is going to happen. Let the woman in white write my name on her folder. Let the guitar comb my hair. The sun bake my feet.
In time, they bring their song to me. They bring their stories. Dave and Adam. Adam will be married next month. Dave, as always, is traveling, within himself. "Leaving home meant leaving nothing behind. It came too, all of it, and waited in the dark" (Jeanette Winterson, Orion).
It is 3:30pm. I have been moving my umbrella clockwise around my desk. I brought a fishing pole today, no reel, no tackle, just a bare cork and glass rod. I taped it to the leg of my desk and secured my umbrella to that. As the sun circled, I moved it from left to right, outside to in. It has been a relief not to have to hold an umbrella all day. The burden of an umbrella.
10:56. Chimes 12:51. Bells. Tintinnabulum. The monks are lining up.
Peter what a quiet man you make. What a sweet face. Tintinnabulum. Off to the monastery. Off to Mt. Athos. After 5 years of indulgence, he's divorcing the world. Dissatisfied with what he writes the minute he writes it and intimidated by the masters, he is going now to be quiet.
While Peter is talking in his diminutive way, Dave, the outlaw, is cross-legged in the grass between the tulips and Scots Pine, on a prayer rug, chanting mediation. Facing the sun, now in the west, his song is deep and long. He is chanting through Peter's eyes, which are outlined by an Irish cap.
Peter, a tall man in decidedly clerical clothes, dark slacks and a black and white Havana shirt, has unwavering eyes. That's what I admire and envy about the boys. Their ability to engage fully despite belief. Their ability to believe. Their belief.
And their pile driver eyes.
They are going to plough right through. A glance of those eyes and you can sense the dust. And if you were to call their bluff, if you were to see right through, you would win the slowest of smiles. And then they would plough right through. Can you not sense the dust?
The sun is warm and high, but tiring. I am walking on the east side of Aurora, picking blackberries as I go. Now I am in The Middle Place. Fourteen motorboats are migrating west. The wind is nice, out of the north, fueled by the traffic. I am their queen bee, their hive. They are beginning to nose in under me, dragging their shingles of water.
Today I wish for less. Only to continue to draw the artists in. To light and honor the spirit.
It was a beautiful day. I was opened to so many quests. And that encourages me. For today, I wish to linger and spread.