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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Escape velocity, II…or Escape velocity, aye-aye you might say

We are hunkered down here in Colorado too, against the wind rather than the snow.  My town has recently recorded record-breaking 101 mph wind gusts.  No escape from the wind here, nothing to protect us from blowing debris or falling branches.  Best to stay inside. Maybe we need to move to Mexico close to the equator if we want to escape.  The earth itself can give us a push.  Did you know satellites are launched at the equator to use the spin of the earth to help them take flight?  Anything on the surface of the Earth at the equator is already moving at 1670 kilometers per hour.

You tell me that even Lewis and Clark were trapped by the storms, and all they had seen and mapped might have been lost had it gotten any worse.  Didn’t they draw all kinds of animals as well as mapping the mountain and rivers?   Species of birds and animals the East Coast had never seen before. And on the request of Jefferson – practically a king.    I think it’s a good thing to be reminded we’re not kings, even they were just as much trapped by the weather as a simple animal, even a bird for example, maybe a Snow Goose.  (Still no follow-up news on the 10,000 dead geese at the SuperFund site.)  Even if we were kings, (I prefer that we talk about queens, sick of kings with their narcissism and hate. Besides queens often had more power than kings, they wear the pants -except Henry the 8th with his quest for a male heir-  and who wants to talk about old men with power?)   even if we were kings, we can’t control the great raging force of wind and weather.  But we can pay close attention, so not to be trapped in a caustic lake.

In the way that one click  leads to another, I started searching for escape velocity and ended with a term in physics called “flutter,” or more correctly “aeroelastic flutter.”    It is apparently a term meaning the beginning of the absolute collapse of everything.    See the Tacoma Narrows bridge video of 1940:   https://vimeo.com/13323591

Not only is the bridge in the 1940 video acting as if it were a simple string in the wind, rippling like a wave in water, but there is an act of human bravery involved.  Rather, a brave man in a hat.   In the video, (in 1940 it was actually a 16mm camera) a man goes back on the swaying bridge, to retrieve a cocker spaniel left in an abandoned car.   The terrified dog bites him and cannot be rescued.   I wish he had been able to get the dog.  I suppose that only happens in Hollywood.   I’d like to be able to do that…to have enough faith or stupidity to think that I wouldn’t be dragged to my demise.  I also need to start wearing hats.  The video is hypnotizing, as we know that the ultimate destruction is eminent.

When I was a girl, I helped my older brothers to build epoxy bridges for a college class they all took, a class they all dreaded in turn:  Fluid dynamics.   It was very math intensive, and the final was a project constructing a bridge.  On their way to becoming chemical engineers, each in turn tried to create the bridge that would hold the most weight.  It was built out of epoxy and toothpicks.  I would dip the toothpick in glue and hand it to my brother, and he would strategically place it according to a design he had to come up with.  So, maybe that’s why a woman writer likes physics. Maybe we quickly connected physics and art.  I think you helped build epoxy bridges too.  If not then, now.

“Beauty for some provides escape, who gain a happiness in eyeing the gorgeous buttocks of the ape or Autumn sunsets exquisitely dying. “   — Langston Hughes  

I quote Langston Hughes this MLK day. My thought is that perhaps writing is an escape into the mind, an escape from some of the horrors or boredom of the real world.  He says in the quote it is “Beauty for some provides escape”, so perhaps writing is the study of Beauty.  I like that he mentioned the gorgeous buttocks of the ape.  If he lived now, would he have said the “ape exquisitely dying, and the eyeing of the Autumn sunset?”  In writing from the human spirit, there is no black or white.   As I look out the window, beauty is a study of wind.

“I took up writing to escape the drudgery of that every day cubicle kind of war.” –Walter Mosley

So it all  comes down to the Clash.  Should I stay or should I go?   See how much we learned in high school?  If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double.    When playing poker, I’ve been told, the correct answer is always: It depends.   

Sometimes it seems the flutter happens so quickly there isn’t enough time for an escape plan.  (See: dog in car.)  I think we’ve both seen women in abusive relationships who need a plan to get out.  That was my first thought when you mentioned escape velocity, something to be overcome.  Not just the gravity of the earth, but the gravity of a situation.  Nothing is ever simple, and leaving is also about surviving….about escaping a violent man she has deeply hurt or offended –by the act of leaving itself….it can be tricky.  Sometimes the flutter will follow her.  Escape is about money,  timing, surviving on one’s own.   It’s about admitting the mistake and facing the unknown.  It’s about putting your own survival above others, and sometimes that affects the children, children who you love more than yourself, even your dog.   I get mad when people don’t understand how abused women can stay with an abusive man.

I mean, it’s easy to see that Life (with a capital “L”) has a way of throwing you into entanglements.  I was never with an abuser, but I was with a guy who wanted to tangle me into his failing bridge, asking me to watch him drink himself to death.  Even now, after his death, I still feel that I did not escape that devastation. But few of us escape unscathed.  I guess the lucky ones just escape with a dog bite.  Part of me loves that escape of the soul, that drunken charisma, the carefree-doesn’t -matter-what-happens life.  Maybe when you’re trapped, its better to live in the moment.  You know, the gypsy soul.  It’s way too early to drink, so I turn to Baudelaire.

It is the hour to be drunken! to escape being the martyred slaves of time, be ceaselessly drunk. On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, as you wish. —Charles Baudelaire

What is happening in the news is alarming, and I think we are all sort of watching to see if and in what direction things are beginning to sway.  Even tall buildings allow for a little sway, and we have a constitution to protect us.  Signs and all indications have us worried that things are going wrong. At least for me, the swaying began the minute that a President was caught on tape talking about grabbing women.   That sway made me pretty nauseous.  I’m hoping it’s not as bad as it seems, and in four more short years, we’ll find a different bridge to travel, but as they say, we can cross that when we come to it.  Hopefully it won’t be in the middle of aero-elastic flutter.

A marathon of writing…

a response to Escape Velocity

Gravity 2 – plus infinity

All I know about gravity, is it’s some invisible force that keeps us from floating off into space.  I suppose someday we’ll figure out that it’s something to do with mass and speed and motion and density…or some hamster running on an eternal wheel spinning us around the sun, or  jibbers crabst might have something to do with it.  Hail Jibbers!  Or maybe gravity is just there to keep us from flying.

Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know.

 “Most gravity has no known origin. Is it some exotic particle? Nobody knows. Is dark energy responsible for expansion of the universe? Nobody knows. ”     Neil deGrasse Tyson

And all I know about infinity I learned by looking at a star-filled sky in the Arizona desert. Stars and stars and stars. A friend says he had a vision in the desert.  It was a good story about saguaros who saved him from falling off a mountainside.  Gravity could’ve killed him, if not for the saguaros.  I’m not sure what was altering his normal vision, but I can’t say it did him any harm.

I suppose the only response to being tied down by gravity is to rebel against it, to dream of flying and to look to the stars, or math, or myth, or something beyond what’s immediate in this messy, messy planet we’re living on.  Or maybe to imagine a different world, to turn to surrealism….Art.

Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali. — Salvador Dali

I want to be Dali!   What an incredible mustache!  Talk about visionary.

“A visionary, vision is scary, could start a revolution, polluting the air waves”   -Eminem

A vision is scary. Were you still in Phoenix when the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in yucca branches?  I think there were large crowds that gathered.  The branches were stolen before I could get there the next morning.  I mean, what kind of vision would just let herself get stolen before I could see her?  But there we digress into myth.  But I really like myth.

Maybe attaining vision just takes practice.  When I taught, I had my students write 50 lines about an object.  It was my favorite “writing exercise” because by the 10th line they were forced to imagine something just to fill up the other 40 lines.  Staplers became metallic whales, paperclips became little machetes.  I say “when I  taught” but I should say when I taught as an adjunct with no benefits and no support and no one to show me anything…. while raising three young children. Totally wonderful and terrible.

Have I mentioned, grey hair is really a sign of wisdom?

So really though, I guess I’m not clear where you draw the line with vision and The Imagined or The Other.  Doesn’t that sound literary?  I could’ve just said “what you imagine.”

The image of actual misty clouds in an unfinished church is a beautiful image. The viewer is taken to something 3D, or magical realism, or the natural world as miracle…

Isn’t recognizing those clouds something of a vision?  Isn’t imagining the thoughts of someone who lived a hundred years ago, isn’t that some sort of visionary practice?  Maybe to have vision we have to do a Jim Morrison road trip sort of deal…George Harrison tried to get there by meditating, which sounds wicked boring and drove Patty Boyd crazy, and also seems way too monk-like.  Not ready to be a monk.   Let’s go with Marilyn Monroe.

 “I defy gravity.”  – Marilyn Monroe

I was thinking about tossing a lot of stuff with the New Year too, it’s better to travel light as you say.  I mean monks get by without any possessions, right?   It must make things much simpler and clearer.  Clarity, intentions, vision….sounds good.  As long as one has food, clothing and shelter, and poker games to go to.  Wait, monks probably aren’t playing poker.  Damnit.  I had it there for a second.

Mentally I’ve already tossed out most of the people who make me crazy, or at least made their insanity more manageable to me somehow.   Being lonely is terrible, but if one tries it’s easy to learn new habits.  Like doing all the stuff you said you’d do if you had the time. Russian proverb:   друзья воры времени   “friends are the thieves of time.”

The only good piece of advice I’ve pretty much EVER received (except of course from my mom) was from a call-in radio show.  Yes, seriously, a call-in radio show. Maya Angelou was on the phone, and I knew she had many children and still found time to write.  I was able to get through and I asked her how she did it.  How she could write and raise kids.  She said she had to learn to say “no thank you. ”   And then she said, “Not just no, but no thank you.”   .

I am having trouble discarding things, so I made a list.  But I relapsed a little. I still have stuff that I should never have bought.  A pasta maker I’ve used once, a couple hundred poetry books.  I’m OK with it for the time being– my daughter pointed out to me that creature comforts are important.  God though, wouldn’t it be nice to just have a yurt and a camel and a million stars.

Or at least a car and a cabin and a fireplace.

Here’s the list anyway.

Things to discard:
Things that make you unhappy.
What you do not love.
What you can’t learn from.
What is too broken.
What spins wildly out of control
What endangers you.
What steals your time.
What takes your energy.
What others might find more useful.
What you find boring.

Things to keep, for awhile anyway:
What you’re obsessed with.
What makes you smile.
What you’re unsure about.
What you can’t replace.
What will change you for the better.
Things that are interesting.

Response Daily Prompt: Infinite

response to Gravity

Gravity

My intent, and it is time for intentions, is for the next year to be lighter. So perversely, my brain goes to gravity, and weight, and the burden of years, and things, and relationships and entanglements.

I stood with my daughter in La Sagrada Familia, the temple that is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, in Barcelona, just one week ago. Deeply impressive from the outside, towering, unfinished, above anything for miles, it is as if  an alien species decided on a city location for a sand drip castle.  The inside, however,  is nothing less than astounding. I have never seen anything both so weighty and so etherial and light. I can’t imagine what happened in Gaudi’s brain when he conceived of such a space, how a building can make heaven seem possible, colors saturated at the lower levels, hazy diffusion and clouds meters above.  Not painted clouds. Actual clouds, mists through windows. Heaven is obscured, hinted at but disappearing and out of view, just as it is in everyday life, in the everyday world.

My daughter, who flirts with an endearing combination of hippie identity and Buddhism (and has much to say on both subjects )was speechless for long minutes. I came close to tears.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!  William Shakespeare

How is it that an insight, a vision, leads to clarity of what to include, what to build, what to leave out, what to leave behind? I’ve returned home now, and there are objects all around, some useful, some less so, many burdened by the weight of memory, my possessions, and my partner’s things, are a jumble together, the weight is not gravity, seriousness and meaning, but gravity as burden. I need to lighten up, and I’d like a vision to appear to me to tell me how. Unfortunately I’ve never known visions to appear on demand.

One thing is certain, more of something, and maybe someones, will be left behind. I’m vigilant of loss, and I hang on to more than I should with a death grip, but hanging on is, paradoxically, death anyway. The best adventures don’t come with much equipment, and the useless is best discarded along the way. I only two pairs of pants with me by the time I got to Barcelona; I have ten or more at home.  I abandoned both my sweaters in Lisbon.  I didn’t need them, I didn’t regret the loss. I remember our beloved Leah had a white dress, a blaster, and some hairpins ( I think, how else did she keep that hair in buns) and guts. How little we need. How much we hold on.

Even harder to leave are the people,  the relationships that are worn and outdated. It’s a one sided decision sometimes, which causes pain, and I loathe causing pain. Sometimes the relationships just need an update; maybe it’s not all or nothing. I don’t have a five year old and a two year old daughter anymore, they are adults, and now I learn as much from them as they do from me.

And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.  William Shakespeare

One more statement, and then I promise, I’ll lighten up. I nearly died last year, and I was resurrected. I am no Gaudi. I may be closer to Leah. I have limited time, and my grey hair (some are natural blondes, and lucky, and their grey doesn’t seem to show so quickly) tells me that I must let go of what was, or with my tight grip, even more will slip through my fingers.  There are young women, and dare I say, perhaps some young men, that need my help.  What we were offered as young women, what we watched and noticed as a new princess took her place in a galaxy far far away…that needs protecting now. Pared down to the essentials, I am free for the next adventure.

Perhaps that will also include a more comfortable couch.

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La Sacrada Familia, 2016

Pilgrimage

I can’t mix the idea of the typical American with the idea of  a pilgrimage. I imagine disdain or at least discomfort with meaningful travel.   Modern travel is a status symbol. The suburbanite has already arrived; there is no need to travel anywhere for greater purpose. Travel means something to post on Facebook, making sure that your coworkers and “friends” know you can head for the tropics or the ski resort and therefore have something for the holiday brag letter.  Even for the world wandering millennials, travel is like a better car, an indication of an upgraded life, a signal that you can afford the latest rendition of the I-phone, which will be disparaged as out of date six months from now.  Travel destinations rack up like prizes, like pairs of shoes, at least for the top 5%.

Pilgrimage, in contrast, is something different.  A solemn procession of the pious, feet bleeding from hot sand, finally scratching up the steps of the church or the mosque.  So there an element of suffering.  THE Pilgrims, huddled together in a dank wooden ship, pale with scurvy and most barely able to keep their rations down, some who will end up on a different journey as their racked bodies are discarded in the ocean,  their briny souls seeking redemption in water instead of in the New World. So death is possible in pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is leaving behind, not just approaching. It is poverty seeking prosperity, not prosperity reaffirming itself.  It’s a no return policy, even if you come back to the starting point, you are not the self that left. It’s the heroine’s journey.

Really, why not just hit the beaches?

I think it’s because of love. I’ve been thinking a lot about love, how what I thought was love, was not, how I don’t like the idea of “pillow talk” because the murmurs of constancy and of passion are lies of the moment, or truth only of the moment, how love is inspiration for work, for pilgrimage! and how mopping the floor or driving to work because you want the kid to have flute lessons are really better examples of love than declarations of passion. If mopping the floor is transcendent care for those who walk on it, then a special journey to the Fitzgerald’s porch, where he faced a decision no one wants to make, that is the pilgrim’s love for Fitzgerald, for the idea of him, for his work and for what the pilgrim aspires to.  Pilgrimage is an interruption of love-as-duty for love-as-transcendence. The journey to Fitzgerald’s desk takes time, money, reverence and belief.

It may take more of your resources than you think.

It’s risky. You could dare to be more. You might not be able to bear the responsibility and the misunderstanding, like Kurt Cobain and Hemingway, or your foibles may interfere with your aspiration (like Kurt Cobain and Hemingway). You might less than you think, or more, and have to live with the knowledge.

Once I taught an hour long lesson to my daughter’s third grade class. The topic was Louis Comfort Tiffany and his glasswork. Six months later, we had a pilgrimage to  Samuel Clemen’s Hartford ,Connecticut home and stood in the pale light of one of Tiffany’s lamps.  It was November, cold and slushy. Certainly not a day at the beach.

She said, “now I see, momma”.

Tell me again, then. How many pilgrimages are too many?