Saturday, August 13, 2016

Preservation



There is a plum tree out in my landlady's garden full of fruit and she lets me pick as much as I want, as long as I give her some of the canned plums afterward. I realize this an ancient, albeit much watered-down version of agricultural servitude. Yet it is a benevolent one.

And the days are pleasant and warm so I can stand here in a thin old muslin dress that is too ratty and threadbare for public but perfect for preservation.

I eat them too, but there are too many of them to binge on. I think of them in crostatas around Yule—my friend Celeste is a professional baker and has the best recipe for plum crostata. Maybe there will even be a lonely day in February where I can curl up with Kafka on the Shore and a bowl of pearl tapioca… and plums.

Stone fruits of all kind remind me of process better than any other. I'm not sure why. Apples blossom as well. So do raspberries. There is something singular about the drupes that makes them easier to understand and extend the metaphoric bridge. One blossom, one fruit, one seed, one seedling, one tree and I stop there because of course I am literally processing an entire orchard's worth of trees.

But they will never grow into trees. Celeste says that to make the plums taste better that you should either leave the pits in, or put them in the simple syrup. I remember something about amygdalin and cyanide being destroyed by heat. Perhaps that sweet, avoided death is what she is talking about.

But I keep a few pits. My old dress has a pocket and I put a few in there to keep for the year when either I no longer live here or Mrs. Wong dies and they rip down her house and garden to make apartments. The tree will be gone and so will I. I used to fantasize about being wealthy enough and important enough to actually transplant this tree. I could own a home and garden of my own and something as impractical as transplanting a living tree would be within my means.

It still crosses my mind, like other fantasies, but as I grow older I marvel at how quickly it disappears. Perhaps this is the first outrider of the acceleration in time I understand occurs in age. An impractical plot like a plum-tree-transplant could last for weeks in my 22 year old soul, but it only stays around for a minute now that I'm 46.

So I can, and put a few pits in my pocket. I still think of some place I can walk that is mine, more or less. The ratty dress will have a hole in the pocket big enough for me to leave plum trees everywhere.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Without You

I don't know why I come here. I guess it's habit. I went for a walk because it's summer and the weather is beautiful. And this is a park. You're supposed to go to a park with weather like this.

All the places we used to go remain the same even though they're changing every day. The people who knew us when we were together are polite enough to not ask me why I am alone. It's written on my face.

But you know the worst place was our home. You were always there when I came back. I was beautiful and you loved me, no matter whether I was cross, sick, soaking wet, or simply sad. In the kitchen, or on the couch, the sight of you would not leave the corner of my eye. I moved to an apartment with carpet because I could not bear the silence of hardwood floors.

I won't ever forget you. Enough that my body carries me here even when you aren't with me anymore.

I don't know why I bring memories of you with me. I must look strange—as though I've lost you. But I'm the one who is lost.

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 a 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.

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.