Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cold weather and medicine

Maybe I've just overdosed on cough syrup, but the sky seems extraordinarily blue today, the sun extraordinarily bright, the air extraordinarily clean. I either got lost or distracted (really, a little of both) on my way to campus, wandered along rustling sidewalks (or rather, sidewalks lined with rustling trees, I really have taken in too much, feel mildly detached, observant, like I'm floating over myself rather than in my body)(or like I'm watching me as a character in a movie or a play, sometimes it's interesting to imagine that, to script lines then absolve yourself of any responsibility for their utterance) and collected a tremendous variety of leaves -- pale, delicate maple, dark almost burnt-looking oak, old bronzed something-or-other with a small tidy hole in it (think very-hungry caterpillar).

It's autumn. The day should be spent walking a dog, raking up leaves, stacking wood, baking apple pie, oh a thousand things other than aimlessly roaming the streets of Manhattan Kansas desperate to be outside to be happy to find some sort of meaning in this place.

It is not an appropriate day for purpleness. Today is washed in hues of gold amber red brown light, not the light of Vermeer or Turner, but a light of poignancy that I've never seen painted, think perhaps shouldn't ever be painted, described only in poetry, in leaves, in the smell of sunshine against a blue sky.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Headstands at 2 a.m.

They say "turn that frown upside-down." I tried it in the middle of the night, wide awake with little pink marbles whirling. Didn't work, couldn't do it. So instead, I just turned all of me upside down. Indeed, with blood rushing from my toes my heart to my brain, I couldn't help but smile.

Then I realized: when upside-down, isn't a smile a frown?

Baffled by that, I thought of thunder fog. Yesterday evening, I made it home just in time to turn on the radio and hear the weather report -- "thunder fog" in the KPR listening area. ? Apparently, sometimes light, gentle mist at ground level belies more dramatic electricity in the upper atmosphere. If I could be a weather phenomenon, I'd be thunder fog.

That thought made me smile more, though, which technically would be frowning more. So I changed my focus to wet moths. When I opened the door to the Union yesterday afternoon, intent on slipping in out of the rain, I saw a moth fluttering against the glass -- trying to find its way in too. Then it stopped fluttering, just resigned itself to a corner, where it could see warmth and dryness and people people people bustling around, umbrellas folded under their arms and wet shoes squeaking on the shiny floor.

That thought made me forget to smile, but it also made me forget to concentrate on my balance. By the time I'd recovered from toppling over and sat upright, I again had a frown that needed turning upside-down. What can you do? Go to sleep and dream of wet moths in thunder fog.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Anonymous hands

A photograph on the cover of today's NY Times shows John McCain shaking hands with supporters at a rally in Westerville, Ohio. Presumably, you're supposed to focus on him, standing above the sea of faces and fingers. What draws my attention, though, is one arm in particular, sheathed in a sensible-looking beige ribbed sweater. The associated hand is slender, strong, with veins like the roots of an old apple tree. It's a beautiful hand. It has a story to tell.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


5 a.m. Sunday morning and I'm doing laundry. Hey, when you're an insomniac and there's a 24-hour laundromat a block away, it's the best time to wash your clothes -- after the drunken college students have stumbled back to their apartments (or at least passed out somewhere) and long before the donut-and-coffee crowd has woken up.

I always procrastinate on laundry, feel it's too much a waste of time. It seems so much more efficient to me to wash socks in the sink than to head to the laundromat. I don't mind sweeping the floor, though, find it rather meditative, and border on obsessive when it comes to washing dishes/keeping the kitchen excessively tidy, but laundry? enh. Maybe it's because I have to decide what needs to be cleaned, pack it up, actually lug it over there, put the coins in, sit and wait, blah blah blah, probably it's just that I'm not a big fan of doing personal chores in public places.

Especially when some guy walked in just as I began the only enjoyable part -- taking the clothes out of the dryer and basking in their warmth and freshness. Like spring sunshine, courtesy of Maytag and Tide. Oh for all my complaining and procrastinating, there's a delight in the smell and feel of clean laundry, a simple challenge in calculating the best way to fold fabric, happiness in knowing that your clothes look like new. I'm feeling very proud of my domestic initiative, think I'll go home and make a coffee cake while wearing my now-clean apron.

And perhaps tonight I'll be able to snuggle into my clean sheets and dream of beautiful, light things and not wake up until morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Red Shoes

I'm wearing my red shoes today. When asked why he sports his red Sauconys, Garrison Keillor once responded, "They help me to keep track of where my feet are." I find that very reasonable. Especially today. I was going to drive to the farmers market this morning, but when I stepped outside something in the air made me want to walk instead. Chilly deliciously autumny morning air. Also very foggy autumny morning air. I was very glad that I'd decided to wear my red shoes; otherwise I might have lost my feet in the clouds.

Speaking of feet on the ground, head in the clouds, I very glad that I decided to walk to the farmers market. Not only was I able to mmm stretch my legs a little bit (oh I miss sunrise walks, sunset walks, walks with my puppy, walks out into the desert, walking walking walking, see Thoreau. Or Pushkin or Tolstoy or Leopold or any number of Zen poets to understand the art of walking), but I saw all sorts of brilliant leaves along the sidewalk. There's such joy in discovering a leaf on the sidewalk -- a leaf with a particular color or shape or attitude that just commands attention, respect, appreciation. Appreciation for such pure beauty, delicate beauty.

The process of leaf-collection has four distinct dimensions: 1.
the serendipity of seeing a leaf 2. the realization that it has some sort of distinguishing characteristic 3. the almost involuntary desire/need to preserve it 4. cessation of whatever walk/conversation/activity you're engaged in 5. the actual act of picking the leaf up, with the associated surprise that such a poignant thing can feel so weightless 6. resumption of the interrupted walk/conversation/activity, but with a half-embarrassed, half-delighted little smile.

I have surrounded myself with leaves, collected from various sidewalks this autumn.

Leaves, and stones and driftwood and all sorts of silly happy things. But each of them would require pages more of description. And right now, my red shoes and I would rather go for a walk.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Meditations on clouds, etc.

So I like to begin writing with "so" because it implies a continuation, a conversation. Assuming that I'm picking up an already understood thread, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts (typed with full awareness of the repetition of thought and thoughts -- I have lots of them, they tumble so eagerly from my mind, moment to moment)

Earlier, for example, while sitting in Advanced Environmental Geography, I realized how appropriate it was that we'd spent Tuesday learning about "hydrometeors" while a cold, dreary autumn rain fell outside. But today, we were learning about clouds under a brilliant blue sky. Perhaps not quite as appropriate, but still inspiring:

  • Western New York suffers chronic stratus and nimbo-stratus skies, which should only be allowed on melancholy November days. Beyond that, they're just tiring. Arizona, alternately, experiences those breathtaking cumulonimbus monsoons, oh that just make you feel alive.
  • Cumulous clouds, meanwhile, are those deliciously white puffs that form during summer, which can be either annoying or comfortable to anyone who's trying to read outside -- either curse or appreciate the alternating sun then shadow then sun, warm cool hot cold.
  • Clouds can only be described with similies -- like cauliflower, like cottonballs; like horsetails, like anvils; like dragons, like turtles.

Moving on from clouds:

  • "Raindrop" and "snowflake" are onomatopoeic -- you can't divorce the word from the sound it makes
  • Great mystery of meteorology (let's hope it stays that way) -- no one knows exactly what makes a raindrop form.
  • Evaporation fog forms when cool air settles in over warm moist ground or a warm body of water. That's what defines the term, but the condition is less a weather phenomenon and more an ingredient for a poem.

So that's what I've been thinking today. Random snippets, flows. While browsing desperately for something to read Saturday, I found the Robert Frost shelves in the library, flipped through his published notebooks, found them filled with delicious half-references, scribbled thoughts. I'll never pretend to even begin to equate my observations with those of Robert Frost (in fact, needed several infinitive verbs to separate myself), but figure he's not a bad thinker to admire.