Opened the door yesterday and got a frightened yelp from the meter man, a middle-aged black man in a fluorescent orange vest. I yelped, too. We yelped together, yelp to yelp. This happens a lot in our building. I open the door and holy shit! there’s someone standing there. Or, I go to open the door and just before my hand connects with the knob the door opens and Jesus! there stands a neighbor bug-eyed with fright.
Mingyur Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist Master, suggests observing whatever thoughts float through our heads without focusing on them or attempting to suppress or pursue or modify them. Just let them come and go. Because that’s what they do: they come and go. The mind’s cumulus. Roiling, rolling, brewing. Thundering, flashing, turning to vapor.
Athena lies on her pillow licking her belly. There is coffee brewing on the stove. I’ve been hearing the clankety clankety sound of a drill all morning coming from a construction site. Fortunately, it’s coming from a distance, and is mercifully muffled. I can, as always, hear my tinnitus.
I have a fantasy about my tinnitus. I’m on the Starship Enterprise and Bones passes a wand over my head and tinnitus goes instantly. Bones laughs when I tell him tinnitus was incurable on earth even in the 21st century. The Enterprise drops me off at a Denny’s and I wave goodbye. I go in and order a Reuben. I think about Jupiter, about the silence of space. The quiet at the center of a muffin. Folds of space and gravity in the waitress’s hair.
Does Denny’s still exist? I can’t remember the last time I saw one still open and functioning. That tier of Seattle seems to have been wiped out by the tech industry. Most of the restaurants lean toward the chic, hipsters full of tats and hefty paychecks from Google and Amazon. These cats dig sushi. Artisanal pasta.
I like to gather things. I like collections. Amalgams. Goblets of gold and silver in a glass case at the Louvre museum. Shields, swords, armor. Anything interconnected and multiple. Systems, compounds, compositions. Oysters, samovars, tugboats.
Aldous Huxley thought Joyce’s fascination with etymology and words as magical powers a bit strange and this at first surprised me. This came up in an interview conducted by Alan Watts. Huxley was suggesting, I think, an immersion in language so deep and so intense that it becomes its own reality. This is what he found disquieting. And I remember his discussion in The Doors of Perception about the foolishness of putting labels on things, and not being able to see the whatness of their essential condition because of the obfuscating tendencies inherent in language.
I don’t see Joyce fancying himself as a modern day Prospero flaming amazement in the streets of Paris and creating banquets in the air, but I can see Joyce hammering down on a word as if it were a geode and smashing it to see the formations of crystal on the inside.
Words do command a powerful reality of their own. I have to remind myself constantly that a rose by any other name is still a rose. Or is it a kacay? Words are so powerfully compelling. You really do have to wonder sometimes just how interconnected language might be with our neurons. Each word is a tegument, a site for sensory receptors to detect peppermint, damascene, and sunset boulevards. The magic is in the imagination. The magic is in the gathering, the folds of the mind, which are waves, which are energy in movement. But is there a tangible relation between language and external reality? No, of course not. And yes, of course there is. Both are true and not true. Reality doesn’t stay still long enough to get it into focus.
The word ‘recueillement’ comes up a lot on the French news with regard to the recent terrorist attacks, particularly the one in Nice, in which a radicalized Tunisian living in France drove a 19 ton cargo truck through a crowd of pedestrians on the Promenade des Anglais killing 84 people. ‘Recueillement’ means contemplation, a moment of reverence. It comes from the word ‘recueil,’ which means ‘collection,’ as in the phrase “recueil de données,” data collection, or “requeil des besoins,” defining of needs. Contemplation is different than thinking. When we think, we expect an answer, or at least a glimpse of something coherent, something that will help explain an event or phenomenon. Contemplation doesn’t have that expectation. It’s a form of searching, but without any clear resolution cemented into the deal. It’s a form of dilation. Focus is contraction. Contemplation is an amplification. An enlargement. A letting go of the things that cause blockage. Hatreds, obsessions, grudges. You let go of that or at least give it a shot and hopefully the next sensation will be that of widening, opening, broadening. Sparkle of a wave moving over an oar. A new shade of blue.
I’m amazed every time I run down Seattle’s waterfront at how powerfully the Sound smells. Acrid, pungent, salty. The waters shift from green to blue in an instant. It’s the liquor of life. The Dragon, a big tanker from Nassau, fills with grain at Pier 86. I see the shine of a battery wedged in a crack in the sidewalk on 5th Avenue North. We stop to examine a tiny black and white sider, Zebra Jumper (Salticus scenicus), on a railing of the West Galer Street Flyover. Roberta thinks the critter is aware of us looking at him. Or her. I’m thinking maybe at least it could feel the warmth of our bodies hovering near.
Story on the BBC this morning about the Mary Rose, a carrack style sailing ship that went to the bottom near the Isle of Wight on July 19th, 1545, during a battle with the French, required roughly 600 oaks (about 40 acres) to build. Construction on the Mary Rose was begun in Portsmouth, England, in 1510. The ship was salvaged in October, 1982, and is now on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Later, on the way back from our run along the Sound a couple, middle-aged man and woman, emerge from the tent I’d noticed earlier, it was so utterly motionless and quiet, was anyone actually in there? do they get hassles from the police? how long have they been homeless? rolling things up, packing, getting ready to move on into the rest of their day.
Blisters on my right hand from trying to remove a locknut from the bottom of our toilet tank. It was a son-of-a-bitch to get off. Finally had to resort to removing a blade from a hacksaw and sawing the damn thing off. Meantime I’m panicking because I’m getting a slow steady drip from the water supply line. I call three plumbers. They all say “they’re jammed,” can’t come until tomorrow. What do we do till then, piss and shit in the park? I’d like to stop hearing “it’s easy you can do it yourself” from these service people, plumbers and electricians and carpenters. They need to respect their skill set more. No job is going to be easy. It’s easy for them because they’re skilled.
But I did get it installed. Fluidmaster 400a fill valve.
I’ve never told anyone “you should sit down and write a novel it’s easy anyone can do it.”
Nor will I. Because it’s not.
Hung my running shirt on the banister railing and kicked a leaf off the porch. Light green and oval with a smooth edge.