Monday, July 18, 2016

Schweigen

Oh, you're here. Can you hear the glass? The itching fault-lines, grinding, popping in that way glass does as it fractures? It's different than ice. Broken glass cuts. But I'll shift metaphors slightly: let's break the ice…

…that's cooled everything because I wasn't supposed to be here. But I didn't conceal the truth. I didn't alter my description of this world we share. I just didn't want to see you. Not now.

Please don't be upset. I'm not going to lie. I'm an only child and we don't lie very well. You'd see through it and be insulted.

I could have written something, but correspondence is one-sided. It requires love to be meaningful. Not just romantic love. You know I don't limit it to just that. Unless pure, unabridged emotion is offered as an insult or gush, then sentences are omitted, revised. The text is considered carefully as the writer turns in front of her three panel mirror of past, present and future tense. Does this fit right? Will she understand me? Will he get this? Will they even care?

I like to use words. When I was younger I could gush. Sometimes just for the sound. Sometimes for the complex stew of ideas I hoped would be measured in the depth of feeling. Or brightness of detail. But I learned that no one really wanted to listen to all that. Compression seemed better, at parties or work. Or here.

Have you heard this one?
I sat on the edge of the pond and marveled at the water-striders.
The wind scattered them like leaves and they remained dry.
I knew that I would sink and drown.
I learned it was even better to abridge my words. Elide the Latin and repeat what powerful men say. The silence of the smallest words came naturally then.

You think I've been avoiding you. You are right. Not all days. Just now I wanted to be alone. To have this coffee and air to myself and my thoughts. But now you know. I have been apprehended. Why?

After a life whereof I cannot speak, sometimes I want to be silent.

*(Schweigen is the German verb meaning 'to remain silent.' It's the last word of this book. A favorite of mine.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Closet Full of Lies

"Watch what you say."

An absurd statement when you think about it, since most of the sounds coming out of my mouth are invisible.

This is a literalist, one could almost say scientific approach. But why "watch?" Why not "listen?"

Perhaps watch is more immediate. Perhaps there is a notion that words affect one's appearance.

Words do not lie. People lie. They conceal. They reveal, each according to the game of the moment.

Will this phrase make me look pompous? Overcompensating? Would erudition be best presented with brief, terse statements?

Terse is unnecessary. "Less is more." Van Der Rohe could have said it about so many things.

But how well the world would know me, were it not for the layers of words that shape, tuck, and inflate me to the world. And would the world even know me without them?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Airport, Train Station, Chess

Wie ein Schachzug nicht allein darin besteht, daß ein Stein so und so auf dem Brett verschoben wird, —aber auch nicht in den Gedanken und Gefühlen des Ziehenden, die den Zug beleiten; sondern in den Umständen, die wir nennen: “eine Schachpartie spielen”, “ein Schachproblem lösen” und dergl.
Just as making a move in chess doesn’t consist only in pushing a piece from here to there on the board — nor yet in the thoughts and feelings that accompany the move: but in the circumstances that we call “playing a game of chess,” “solving a chess problem,” and the like.*
I am listening to Chopin and rereading Wittgenstein, at lunch, in a “break room.” Ich schweige amid the conversations of politics, children, summer vacations and other activities of the world (for children do not seem to be beings insomuch as they are universes).

I find that Chopin’s mazurkas and Wittgenstein’s Philosophiche Untersuchungen are as calming as thinking of a lake, “belly breathing” or other methods of mental relaxation.

Because I am not relaxing. I am traveling along a great river of thought. Both in the notes of Chopin’s composition and Wittgenstein’s relentless dismantling, with the gentlest touch of an respectful engineer, the structures we call music and language. Which are, akin, in a way—like a train station and an airport: both take us elsewhere, but may be beautiful in and of themselves.

*Translation G.E.M. ANSCOMBE, P.M.S Hacker, Joachim Schulte. Philosophical Investigations: Ludwig Wittgenstein: ISBN 978-1-4051-5928-9

**Photographs of Wittgenstein and Chopin courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Outside


The Master's words require an inside—
While it is true that a roof provides beneath—
Inside begs at least one wall.

For shear support, the wall becomes a corner
For enclosure, the third wall is added
Perhaps to keep out the weather

At this point the walls and roof agree a
A fourth wall would make things cozier
For what they are together—

By themselves, they never intended that.
Yet the Inside is nothing
But without it? How can there be structure?

The inside was nothing before
The roof cut off nothing from Heaven
And we did not have a word for Blue

And now when we go beyond the walls
We have a name for Outside and Blue
And we confuse Heaven with a roof.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Philosophy of Cherries (and Ice Cream)

In June, or close to it, I usually post something here about cherries. This is because the season is high for them in this place I live and they are my favorite fruit. I suppose that like anything which is brief, delicious, and red, the cherry was sort of asking for it in terms of being a symbol.

There is also an entire tree waiting inside the stone, which also points backwards and forwards to the blossoms of spring. Floating worlds of ephemera? Or relentless Hegelian process?

The blood of cherries looks very much like our own. Perhaps that’s why I think of periods and such: that regular visit of blood, which, in my case represents a sort of blind will: my womb keeps barreling along, oblivious of the blank spaces: the empty bassinets and such reminders of a bitterly resolved freedom.

Or should I return to the sterile but beautiful double-blossoms of ornamental sakuras? That is the sort of question: aesthetic over utility. Is an aesthetic a sort of utility? Where is the categorical imperative of pink and white?

I like to think of the trees taking on their grafts. Another mode of expression: at one moment they are languages delineating their borrowings, growing this way and that and doing just fine. At others, I think of grafted limbs being friends thrust upon the same trunk—living together and ultimately dying together.

But let’s be honest. The real reason cherries exist is to take one of two paths: either into Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or, a double scoop of Molly Moon’s Cherry Chunk ice cream.

Close by there is a park and there is a bench. There is the sun and lovers on the grass. My thoughts, for a moment no longer graft and struggle in the enormity of this life. At quiet times like these the world seems loudest. But one spoonful of cherry ice cream and hot fudge and... the parliament of my soul is silent.

Dare I call it causality? Synchronicity? Or just delicious?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Refuge of the Sky


It could be a day like any other day. No, it's not. It comes and it goes. It is June and no June is exactly like the other. 'So complex there is no way its an accident:" for some that is proof of God and that is fine. I don't think this God cares which direction people pray, what they eat, whom they love. If it is an accident, well, am I supposed to be overawed at the spectacle of physics? Then that is perfectly acceptable as well.

Look at that thing. Is it even a thing? Is the tree a frame, is it leaves? Is it billions of constituents so small it needs a God to understand. Would God want to? Does God really need to?

I'm really just a woman lying in the grass watching a cloud go by. That is one story. That is one small event. all part of the perceptual framework I suppose. Wavelengths. Goethe versus Newton and all of that. I side with Goethe today, and give Newton his due some other time because that is a maple tree and no apples shall fall and taint the Earth with sin of knowledge of good and evil. As if they have a place here.

I have no funeral to go to. No son to find. That is someone else's story but it is so part of me now, but each word is a miracle. Snowflakes. Time does all of that as well, and the only permanency are the fleeting ghosts in the borders of this place. Some are mine, and some are others.

The most melancholy ghosts walk in the shadows of a summer day, but Immanuel was right. I can't really know the Geist an sich. Or was that Georg? Or is the day so beautiful I conflate the two? I'll take his arm and go walking with him and get a vanilla ice cream milkshake and we'll return to this symphony I will never hear the same way twice.

Yes, I said. Yes. I will. Yes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Place for Writers

For a long time I had things to say.

I had written others words for so long. Like a lot of people around here I was somewhat listless in my 30's. I was over-educated and not making very much use of my degrees. Of what use is someone who wrote her senior thesis on Kant? I was working part time in a library and as an admin assistant and notary.

But I've done many things, read many books and traveled to many places. Those experiences kept coming in words.

The words came on the ferry, or standing in line for a slice of pizza.
Mountains of desolation, the special kind that is not wilderness but a great heap of rock and soil that is returning to the benevolent senility of wilderness because the people of the mountain are gone.
The sentences crowded out his sentences when it was dark and all he could talk about was his job.
Twilight in Arles has a cast of sapphire, the really deep kind that appears as a light, some inverse of brightness that lives and carves memory. The stars are punctuation.
The paragraphs ran out, like coffee after the initial rush of the spill—soaking every paper, making emotions and thoughts.
I will never escape the smell of wild fennel and the river. Cold, fresh water has a mineral smell, that remains there beneath Coppertone and hops. The cold, fresh water ran deep near Ancil Hoffman Park.
But there was no place for me to write. I will skip over the years of loneliness for that place. I’ve written about it before and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t found a place to write. One night my friend Shannon took me to a poetry reading at a place I’d heard of called Richard Hugo House. That was the first time I had heard Elizabeth. It was wonderful and thoroughly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable? It was hard to discover this powerful stranger had been inhabiting my mind-and-being for years it seemed because how else could she have written those words?

I remember buying her chapbook on the table and sheepishly getting her to sign it. After enduring my fumbled words about what I was doing there, she simply wrote out “you can do this too, Ada, -may your writing thrive.”

And I came back. Alix suggested I talk to Chris about volunteering at my first Write-O-Rama. Kate figured out it should have been tapioca flour and a villanelle. When I see a Yankees cap in town I hope it’s Brian because I want to ask him something. John let me borrow a book by Li Bai. Peter finally got that novel out of me. Michael was running the lights on the first time I read out loud in the cabaret. Claire and Kristen loaned me a $20 after I forgot my purse at the Palace after ERH. And Tree, Laura, Rebecca, Jeremy… I am leaving someone out because there are so many people in there.

The old Roman mnemonic trick of a memory palace has returned to the consciousness of the 21st Century. It also answers a crucial problem for those who mourn the passing of the old Hugo House building. Remember your Murakami: like the End of the World, Hugo House is always going to be there.

Because place is not some physical sensation—an architectural memory of space, planes, textures and cold draughts.

It is the people who make imagination possible—who make a place.

June 25th is Write-O-Rama from 1:00-6:00. It’s a half day of mini-worshops where you can get a taste of what’s being taught and by whom. And you will meet other writers! Consider upping your  ticket to a membership and start writing. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s a great way to see the new temporary home of Hugo House at 1021 Columbia St.Seattle, WA 98104

For more about Write-O-Rama, visit the page and get your ticket today.