Glass as Dark Matter

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I’m sitting on a train, moving rather slowly, then stopping.

Yesterday was business, busy-ness. A multicultural quorum links up in a glass enclosed, grey walled conference room with views of the next building. There’s a coffee robot programmed to autocoffee everyone and twenty somethings sitting in smaller glass boxes, together in body but not in spirit, eyes down on the screens. They are quite beautiful, in a perfectly science-fictiony sort of way. One of them sits with the elder brain trust hive-mind, her braided hair piled high on her head, precisely speaking in her workforce jargon. Clear skin smart and tailored, she really can recite the language. I think of a seven year old piano player I heard play once, a technically amazing child and his piano, not old enough for any musical feeling.

I want to tickle the twenty something assistant and ask her if she’d ever spilled anything. Or if she’s afraid to. She’s too sweet or too perfect to deliberately fluster, although I consider it, a rather unprofessional thought.

Outside, also science-fictiony, the city swelters at 95 degrees. The brain trust and the coffee robot are safe and cool and intellectually elevated, but the homeless people, in the park, hide in sweatshirts that are way too warm. I saw them when I walked to the cool office on the fourth floor. I’m sure there were heat related deaths as we met and thought and latted in the glass box. If I am right, it was the park folks that overheated, and that information won’t make the news.  On screen news is for the senator, the rock star, and the ex football star, the people who are welcomed into glass offices. I was tempted to talk with the park dwellers, how did they end up living in a park? I didn’t. The park people are time travelers and their stories may not correspond to my lines and boxes; I feel I’m a slave to a clock on a phone. I worry about being late.

I answer my own questions about them with well known theories about how people end up in parks and under bridges.

There’s trash on the edges of the train tracks, and the shattered glass glints and shines and looks a mess. It’s mixed with paper and plastic, waylaid on the route to recycling.

After my glass box time, I head to the museum. The poor we have always had with us, suggests the  exhibition. Here is a portrait of an industrialist who built roads and bridges and fed the hungry and exploited the workers and stole the land. Here’s an Indian who was hated and hunted in life and now his effigy lays carved in static elegant white marble, not worrisome in death, in fact, he can now go into glass offices if we could hoist him up there, but he’s rather heavy now and so he stays where he is. In life he would have broken the glass windows and showed up half naked in animal skins, a presentation now boxed into video pornography, pretend wildness purchasable with plastic. He is running right out of the woods, not just on a screen for someone’s sexual exploitation or carved still for some post mortem admiration, but for his own purposes.

And he runs into the city park, right under the windows on the fourth floor, where the brain trust tries to figure out what to do with him.  Again.20170720_171419

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Stardust Melody

From which stars have we fallen to meet each other here?”  Nietzsche

I trudged across a snowy parking lot this morning and could not help but think of Zhivago, the poet at the time of revolution.  The writer Pasternak caught that moment in time.  The snow deep and then shallow, snow blowing into my scarf, into my eyes, seeing only my shoes….the snow gradually breaking into a muddy road.   Zhivago, with the soft eyes of the poet,  Zhivago, the doctor who loved and lost, Zhivago, who looking out across the Russian plains saw the summer fields of grasses and flax, thistle and wheat; in winter, the dark forests looming at the edge of meadows.  Zhivago who heard the grey wolves calling and saw them gather at his cabin in the dawn of early morning.  And Zhivago who saw the blood of Revolution splatter on his fields, in his forests, dark red blood falling on the white, white snow.  The poet who could not catch Laura and whose heart grabbed him with a fatal crushing blow.  Zhivago, who in the middle of a war zone saw only her.  Because love is what matters.

“…the rest is rust and stardust.”   Nabokov

Say Goodbye – Lindsey Buckingham

When things are overwhelming, when things happen of great magnitude, I think it must be better to look at something small, something   familiar, or something small and close, like dust:  tiny flecks floating in the sunlight of a window.  Or dandelions, dandelions seeds that float like wishes….or to think about the tiny dust mites that make me sneeze.  The horizon is too much.  For instance, when I look at the vastness of the sky, or think of the force that made our giant mountains, the burning of the sun, and the magnetic pull of the planets, the pull of the moon at the tides, the spirits of thousands whose lives were cut short before their time, the governments of the world– maybe it’s best to turn to the small things: the tiny particles, the quick smile, the blades of grass, the first glance of lovers, the laughter of friends, a chocolate chip cookie, a smooth rock on the ground.  If you blink you’ll see it.

You ask if I am angry, and I don’t have an answer.  He was my friend.  Just my friend.  But can the word friend be modified by “just?”   The first week after his death lasted a year…a lot of swearing —that he didn’t have to hear of my death, and he was not there to call.  Now I’d say I’m just astonished.  Sometimes panicked.  More than anything this weirdness… no trip to Asheville, no Fitzgerald, no Zelda.   We could’ve discussed madness and love….and now I’m left talking to myself.

I think of my own dying – will I savor each dying blink, each blink something holy?  With one blink a sunset, the next a wildflower, another a mountain stream?….or racked with pain, just colors and patterns…?  The latter much more likely.

We weren’t lovers, just good friends.  Maybe we’ve been friends for thousands of years, the Spock and Kirk of Athens.  (Or wait, that’s Pam and Janet).  We were more like Laurel & Hardy I think, cheering each other into comedy.   When he came to town we talked about physics –  Star Trek gadgets, the speed of change, the Higgs particle, biotech and wine.  We discussed Baudelaire and Bukowski,  Dali and Chagall… reincarnation and Catholicism…also cars and grocery shopping.  You see, I always looked forward to seeing him again.

Woodstock 

I was lucky.  So how can I be angry when I was so lucky?  I am not sure I’ve even processed it at all. And if I go deep, well it’s panic.

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I wanted to talk about Joni Mitchell, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get back to the garden…”  or Woody Guthrie, “this guitar kills fascists.”   I’d forgotten that you’d seen the concentration camps, and a memorial now comes to you.  I think we must stand up like Woody Guthrie…. but mostly it’s about love. I’m tired of division, of seeing how we’re different.  Let’s see how we’re alike, at least a little. One of the last things we talked about after election night, was what to do now?  He said “Right now I don’t even know what to do,”  I said “spread kindness.”  He said “that’s a very Buddhist response, Ms. Chaos. ”  I don’t talk like that.  I’ve never said “spread kindness.”  What the hell?  I must be so tired.  Just sick and tired.  Let’s be hippies.  I just watched the musical Hair.

Have you noticed the massive amount of brightly colored birds on the internet recently?  I just came across the “Golden Pheasant.”    I mention this because it’s just amazing and it’s better than anything I’ve ever written.  A silly bird…so much better than a poem.  So many colors for one bird.   And Kevin, he’d have liked a random bird on this page.  (Also we must not forget the Snow Geese. Since everyone else has.  Who will monitor the SuperFund sites? )

Click to see it walking.   Golden Pheasant   – we are stardust/we are golden…pheasants.

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The universe gives me all kinds of reasons for his death…he was under stress…he didn’t exercise enough…Trump got elected…the idea that when your “number is up,”  your number is up.  None of these are suitable reasons.    I go underwater if I  think too deeply about it.  My brain goes away as if I’m playing a deep game of poker, as Ferlinghetti would say, “Deep Chess.”  His friends tell me we’ll meet again in another life.   It’s not a bad thought…but just as massive and inconceivable….like  starlight, light years away, reflecting our sun, traveling across the universe into our eyes.  Blinking, soft, blinding.

What stars have we fallen from..?  We are all fallen angels trying to save each other when the demons come.  Dust of stars, dust of angels.  All this leads me to think of mortality, walking through walls, monasteries, Zhivago, the sudden brilliance of the sky, the sky more brilliant since his loss.  The nightly news rages on….and in what world do we dismantle the EPA?  In what world do we push through an oil pipeline without an Environmental Impact Study?  In what world do we separate immigrant children from their parents?  I can hardly watch the news right now, but can’t take my eyes off of it.   I walk through the unpolluted mountain streams of my youth, the cornflowers and black-eyed Susan pushing through the branches of willows.

Kevin was always leaving, the minute I knew him he moved away, we rarely spent time in the same city.  I am so sorry still at the loss of your friend, the one you lost so long ago, so much more immediate and hard.  I never knew how to make it any better.  I think they’re here with us in one way or another.  In spirit, as they say.

 I remember that when one falls in love, every song is about love.  I’ve dated too many musicians.   I didn’t date Kevin and he wasn’t a musician.  You see how great that is, right?   Now the radio mocks me…. plus I have this CD of goodbye songs from the last time he moved away.  After ten days, I’m now putting it away.

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 A few mornings ago, on the way to work,  a sundog rose above miles of prairie, changing as the clouds intersected it, moved it higher in the sky, making the blue deeper, the red brighter, the green darker…a vertical rainbow…until it disappeared, pushed away by clouds, but headed to the sun.  So cliché, my friend, I know– but still…. it was there.

 I understand how it’s easy to be scattered right now.  I want to be like the light, like the split light of prism…each color called out to reveal itself, each one brighter than the next.  Focused and brilliant and beautiful until I die.  Let’s be that.
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*  Stardust – Nat King Cole * Stardust – Michael Buble * Stardust – Frank Sinatra

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Stardust

unknown     “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

 

I’m writing this evening when my brain feels as scattered as stardust, blown about about the cosmic wind. My focus is lost; I think there’s a thousand things I should be doing with myself to oppose the insanity that has taken this country. Where to best put my energy? I come up with a plan, a theory, and the next event, the next encounter, changes my mind. I want to write about how sorry I am that you have had this terrible loss, this friend that is gone from your life, like the loss I suffered nine years ago..nine years! It’s so hard to believe she’s been gone that long. See how my mind races, I am irritable, and I feel that I’m no good to anyone.

Quite by accident I found myself this afternoon, with my boyfriend,standing in front of a Holocaust memorial. We had gone to Forest Park in Portland for a hike, and I needed one, as I felt the anxious energy building and building. I have gone to the Vietnam memorial in Portland several times but  I must admit, regretfully, that I never even knew where the city’s Holocaust memorial was.  We went a direction in the park I’ve never taken, and there it was, hidden in the enormous pine trees, a black wall, with some tiny memorial statues, not of people, but rather a broken suitcase, a teddy bear, a pair of eyeglasses, all in a place where one could trip over them, solid metal renderings of personal possessions. We took the time to read the entire history of Hitler’s destruction of Jewish people, disabled people, Roma people, and anyone else he decided to hate, but especially the Jews. The engraving told of  early history of the Holocaust, beginning with banning Jews from immigrating, then from stores and businesses, then from schools, and registering them, forcing them to designate themselves with a middle name of Sarah or Israel, mocking these honorable names.

Sound hideously familiar? I know it does to you.

My mind is still racing. Only in the past few years did I really understand that my father’s history is Jewish. His family seems to have arrived a long time before the Holocaust in Europe, maybe a hundred years. Names appeared in the more easily accessible records now available online..a great grandmother named Rachel, a great grandfather named Isaac. If they hadn’t moved to Illinois in the nineteen century, it’s likely I wouldn’t be here. Not that that’s so very important…it’s just likely.

Thirty three years ago I stood with my college classmates in Auschwitz, Poland, reading in our second language, German, the ugly orders that exterminated thousands or tens of thousands of people in “relocation” camps. Behind us was a plexiglass wall where tangled eyeglasses, the actual eyeglasses, kept by the Nazis, were piled up on display.  Another room, behind more plexiglass, was a ceiling high mound of human hair. We walked on silently to and through the gas chambers where the fingernail scratches of the dying, the marks of frantic scraping at the walls, were still easy to see.

The bus ride back to Krakow was silent.  I remember staring out at the bleak landscape and crying.

I will never forget that experience. I doubt any of my classmates have forgotten.

Now, at this moment, we live in a country that is banning immigration to a group of people based on their country of origin and their religion.  I see comments online that chastise the educated for believing their liberal professors and accuse me and other deeply worried citizens of “whining” and “not understanding national security”.  Now I feel angry, even enraged.   I think, I’d be happy to introduce these fools to the descendants of victims of their ancestors’ great sin, the destruction of Native Americans. Perhaps they worry that they will be treated the way their immigrant ancestors treated the actual North Americans when they arrived.  Failure to comprehend after this experience would then result in me ripping their lungs out.

That would not be very productive, I think.

It’s amazing how rage is catching, like a virus that spreads everywhere, infecting, infecting.

Anger and rage, part of grief. I feel such sorry for my country, and I don’t want to sound trite, but I do love America, I do. I wept when those towers came down, and I was both proud and humbled when, during my recent travels, a French couple told me no matter who the President, Americans are always welcome in France…This ongoing welcome,  I knew, because of World War II, when we opposed Hitler’s evil, although we were late, so late to the defense, but this couple, this pair, forgives America for that and for the current travesty, and welcomes me, and you, and America, even though most of us had nothing to do with that war, we were not even born.

I wonder, are you angry? Are you angry that your friend was taken from you when he was not very old? I was, so so angry, I had plans for my lost friend too, nine years ago, upcoming plans at the time, and I loved her.  He can’t contribute his talent anymore, we can’t look forward to any of his works, and you will miss his friendship, probably more than any of his writing.  I know I miss her, so deeply. I am not as angry as I was at first.

At the time of my friend’s death, she was working on a draft statement by psychologists, a position paper against psychologists contributing, by assessing or evaluating, prisoners who may be tortured. Guantanamo was a big concern and it seemed misguided professionals had somehow lost their way and gotten involved. The ugly possibility of torture has arisen again…the dangerous fool leading us has stated his support, and his uneducated! dare I say it! minions sell the American public on its “effectiveness”.

For some reason, and please recall I am scattered today, Carl Sagan floated into my mind. There was a part in the original Cosmos series where he reminded his audience…we are all part of the stars…we are all made of stardust. The Jewish dead,  the exterminated Indians, your friend, my friend, you and me, we are all stardust.  Today you and I hold a certain form that the stardust takes, a human form.  I hope the universe sends me a sign as to what to do.  Maybe I can combine the stardust that is mine, and the stardust that may have been part of others, and find the right thing to do, and I will be less strewn about, less angry and confused.

I hope.