Monday, August 4, 2014

Waggle Dance

Just before I fell asleep I heard Lucinda Williams sing “the air is getting hotter, there’s a rumbling in the skies,” which kicks off Dylan’s wistful song “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven.” I like the way she does this song, with her world weary feminine voice, very western, the kind of woman who does a man’s work and has a man’s toughness but is still very much a woman.   

And yesterday was full of thunder, weird summer showers in which the rain sparkles in sunshine and you wonder where is the rain coming from? You look up and see a cloud and wonder how all that water can be up there, how did it get there, evaporation obviously, but still, it’s weird on such a day, and later it rained so hard on our way to Stevens Lake I thought the windshield was going to crack from the hard splatter of it.   

And by the time we got back on I-5 after our visit the sun was out and it was hot enough to get the air conditioner going.   

Lots of people yelling and lighting firecrackers last night as Seattle concludes its Seafair Parade with fanfare and fireworks. To his day I know little about that celebration other than it has pirates, locals who get themselves up with black patches and hairy chests and turbans and three-corner hats and ride around on a float made to look like a Spanish corsair and terrify the population with their hijinx. And then there’s a hydroplane race at the far south end of Lake Washington and somebody wins and trophies are presented and drunks fall off their boats into the water and the Blue Angels scream overhead and close-toed shoes are required to visit the hydroplane pits.  

Me, I prefer being at home watching Deadwood with Ian McShane and eating hot dogs and three-bean salad and coleslaw.  

And again the Blue Angels today. One flew over Roberta as soon as she got off work. She could read the writing on the wing: U.S. Navy, in yellow letters.   

I have a head full of roars, motor noises, rockets. Someone yelling. There is always someone yelling.   

Great inky eternity walks by in a cricket bikini. I find thirst in delirium, delirium in thirst. Extraterrestrial zippers and nihilistic éclairs. It helps to wax delinquent about a lip.   

Apparently the real Wild Bill Hickock suffered cataracts, a result, probably of a sexually transmitted disease. He had buckshot in his body left over from his gunfight with the McCanles gang. He wore his favored Colt Navy revolvers butt-forward in his sash for a cross-draw.   

Gravity bleeds monsoons. I consider the cumulative energy of hair.   

And beards. Tinctures of glass. Candles. Puddles. Spitgots. The irreducible sound of emotion in a nipple of music. A fountain my mind plays, the image of it, water squirting up, cherubs and angels pissing, jetting it from the mouths, the bivouac of turtles, the parchment of bark.   

A mind like Mallarmés “Reminiscence,” the smell of travelers, the snow of summits, lilies, or “other white things constitutive of wings inside.”  “Gymnastic feats that go along with daytime.”   

Poets, writes Duncan, hear languages like the murmuring of bees. They swarm in the head where the honey is stored. He speaks of an instinct for words where  - like bees dancing  -  there is a communication below the threshold of language, a clairvoyance of wiggle and buzz.  

We go shopping at QFC for root beer, wine, and fried chicken. Roberta disappears into the wine section. I go looking for her. She’s nowhere to be found. I go past the aisle on one side, then past the aisles on the other side. I see the same two people pondering bottles, a woman in her 30s, and a bearded man of roughly the same age. People always looks so studious pondering wine bottles. But no Roberta. I go back out onto the floor away from the wine section and glance around. Still no Roberta. Then it occurs to me that maybe I’ve been imagining a wife all these years and not I’m not married at all. And now I’m suddenly awake. And single. But if that’s the case, who were those people I was with yesterday? I finally see Roberta walking toward me from the dairy section. What’s she doing down there? I was looking for you, she says. You were nowhere to be found.  

At home, I become greatly intrigued with that communication below the threshold of language that Duncan mentions, and Jacque Lacan’s statement that the unconscious is structured like a language. What in the world does he mean by that? My mind is still stuck on the goo of wax and honey in Duncan’s image of a hive. Like bees dancing, he says.  

Bees do, indeed, dance. They do a dance called the waggle dance, which is a figure-eight dance in which information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen can be found, to water sources, or to new housing locations. For instance, a figure-eight shaped waggle dance of the honeybee (Apis mellifera) oriented to 45º to the right of ‘up’ on the vertical comb indicates a food source 45º to the right of the direction of the sun outside the hive.  

The name was inspired from a part of the dance behavior in which the bee standing on the comb shakes her body from side to side 15 times a second. She runs in a circle back to the point where she started waggling, repeats the waggle phase, and again runs in a full circle, but this time in the opposite direction the starting point, so that the two parts together approximate a figure of eight lying on its side. Flowers that are located directly in line with the sun are represented by waggle runs in an upward direction on the vertical combs, and any angle to the right or left of the sun is coded by a corresponding angle to the right or left of the upward direction.   

At least this is the general idea. The direction and duration of waggle runs are closely correlated with the direction and distance of the resource being advertised by the dancing bee.  

The mashed potato begins by stepping backward with one foot with that heel tilted inward. The foot is positioned slightly behind the other (stationary) foot. With the weight on the ball of the starting foot, the heel is then swiveled outward. The same process is repeated with the other foot: step back and behind with heel inward, pivot heel out, and so on. The pattern is continued for as many repetitions as desired, and may or may not indicate a source for pollen or water. 


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