Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I get why Thales fell in a well

I get why Thales fell in a well. The stars invented the word mesmerize for their own use.

I fling the kitchen trash bag in to the garbage can outside and crane my head back. The Milky Way, Orion's Belt, the dippers, whatever stencil you want to put over the night sky.

Philosophers and poets are kids, still fascinated by stars and clouds; still at home with their backs on the cool grass, their eyes searching, trying to make sense of the sky.

Thales is credited as the first Greek philosopher, before Socrates (pronounced "So-crates," Bill and Ted style), Plato or Aristotle who posterity came to know better. Thales, the story goes, was walking, eyes to the sky, and fell into a well, not paying any mind to where he was going.

You can think Thales a fool (history says otherwise) or you can envy his focus, his commitment to his sense of wonder. Philosophy and poetry both begin in wonder, expanding on Aristotle's notion.

When I take the trash out on a clear night, I get Thales. I'm glad there's not a well near our sidewalk.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shazam, the lightning

If we were loosed from our bodies, freed from these shells, what would we be? Nothing? Maybe. Or would we become the quality that most defines us.

Roll that around in your head. Laughter, lightness, anger, grief. What word would people use to describe you, would you use to describe yourself, and how would you dig being that quality, post-body?

We would blow like a wind, inhabiting people and places that conjured us--laughter at a party, anger and fear in a back alley brawl, tears at a funeral. If that were the case, would we be more careful what qualities defined us? Who wants to be grief eternal? I'd go with laughter or wonder eternal anyday.

Let our bodies hit the floor. Not in a speed metal, mow 'em down manner, but a casting off of weight or restraint. Look at what is left and if you are glad of it.

Lately, I haven't dug what I'd leave. It doesn't feel like me.

This line of thinking sprung from a tangent. Junot Diaz was describing a character in the later pages of "Oscar Wao" and says of her, "Neither Captain Marvel, nor Billy Batson, but the lightning."

It was a magical lightning that transformed Billy into the Captain, made him superhuman. To describe a person as that lightning. Wow. I wrote it down and rolled it around in my head. I don't know what to make of it, except that I am struck by for it... lightning.

Diaz's words are also that lightning, transforming my thoughts about words and descriptions. About how to look at people. About how to look at myself.

Our 10-year-old pushes the ball up at field hockey practice. Our seven-year-old and a friend are on the playground pretending to be spiders caught in a giant web.

I am perched on a picnic table, in between the two. While the girls are in motion, I am still. Writing, reading fragments from Roland Barthes, who is mourning the death of his mother. Wisps of wind and rain spin evening melancholy.

And I wonder, what quality I would be past my body. But more, what quality will the girls remember me being? Is it how I'd want to be remembered?

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Barn on Mulberry Street

I've always wanted a barn. It's one of those Eastern Shore landscapes aesthetics that inhabits me. Barns are churches, a symbol of rural ethics, a structure that says America.

But my barn would not be a haven for horses or cows. Hay would be at a minimum. I grew up with barns, but I also grew up with the Bat Cave. Not the Bat Cave to be a superhero, but the Bat Cave as man cave, as a place where you surround yourself with the things that make you, you. Things that inspire, motivate, elevate.

The walls of my barn would be transition so that I could navigate the floor and wall by skateboard. Along with barn architecture, skatepark architecture fills me with awe. It invites you to inhabit the space, and the world, differently. To create, to move, to experiment. And in my barn, in my world, motion, creativity and experimentation are paramount.

My barn would be a library and a writer's studio. I have no interest in spending time in a place where I am not surrounded by books and the lofty thoughts of those who have come before and along with me. Rather than a desk, the writing space would be a big open table, where pages can be spread out and imbibed together, a collage of thoughts and phrases, paragraphs and verses,

The barn as a temple. But not just a temple on the landscape, or a skatepark or a library, but also a temple for the body. I've always pictured the barn having gymnastics rings hanging from the ceiling, exposed beams, a rural jungle gym, to keep the body fit.

Oh yes, the barn. But living in town doesn't lend itself to having a barn.

Unless you live on Mulberry Street. On the way home, I saw a barn. But not an ordinary barn, this barn had a skatepark, and a library... it was a jungle gym. And Van Halen and Jane's Addiction and Dr. Dog were playing concerts there...