“Thoreau the “Patron Saint of Swamps” because he enjoyed being in them and writing about them said, “my temple is the swamp… When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most impenetrable and to the citizen, most dismal, swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place, a sanctum sanctorum… I seemed to have reached a new world, so wild a place…far away from human society. What’s the need of visiting far-off mountains and bogs, if a half-hour’s walk will carry me into such wildness and novelty.”
“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
― Jack London, The Call of the Wild
I saw this waiting for the streetcar to Bishop Arts district. What really sucks is that tree didn’t fall by accident, it looked like it was cut down (though it was dead and probably going to fall anyway). I guess once it fell on the meter, they were scared to move it. Somebody is not very happy.
“Information. What’s wrong with dope and women? Is it any wonder the world’s gone insane, with information come to be the only real medium of exchange?”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Wednesday evening, dark, cold, we were all sitting on the big wooden table for this week’s discussion of this week’s seventy page section of Gravity’s Rainbow. Somebody remarked on the relationship between nature and mathematics… “Mathematics is our way of describing nature,” and then brought up the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ration and the spirals in “Sunflowers and Pinecones.”
My ears perked up. Early that day I had stumbled across a YouTube video on the subject. Of course, everybody talks about those darned spirals and how they show up everywhere. This video was different, though. It talks about the Golden Ratio and then goes on to say why it shoes up on Sunflowers and Pinecones. It shows why it’s the only way to organize a Sunflower or a Pinecone.
Watch it or not.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir
Like all big evil cities – Dallas, in an attempt to add a little more “green” scatters trees along it downtown acres of concrete – mostly bald cypress – poking out from metal grates set in the sidewalks. But a city center is not a lush swamp – where the cypress feel at home – and they will eventually fail. Hopefully, this happens because the tree outgrows the little metal hole it is cursed to live in. The men will come along and break out pieces of the grate – but eventually the tree grows too big and has to be cut down.
I have mixed feelings about this. The trees do make the city more liveable. And you can’t really mourn a tree – it is only a plant. And the stumps do have an interesting look – sort of a mini-history of man’s failure to corral nature.
“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.”
― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries
The other night I had trouble getting to sleep.
I have learned to keep a bike (one of them, at least) down from the storage rack in the garage, tires pumped up, batteries for the running lights charged, and a helmet hanging from a handlebar. Better yet, keep it pointed towards the garage door.
That way, if the mood strikes, I can open the garage door, hop on the bike, and go for a short, quick ride. There is something about riding at night, going nowhere, at any speed, and for an unknown (and uncared about) distance. It is so stress free… it’s like flying.
So I found myself on the trail that runs behind my house on up to Huffhines Park, with its lakes shining in the full moonlight. I veered to the right, went around the softball diamonds, and back to the lakes. As I entered the parking lot, I saw movement.
Riding a bike at night, you see a lot of critters. This is the Duck Creek neighborhood, and there are, of course, a lot of ducks. Second most common are the rabbits. Also coyotes, possums, armadillos, stray pets, and even an occasional beaver on a bridge over the creek.
This time, though, it was a rat. One of the sleek, grey, tree rats, caught on the ground. He and I had a little race across the parking lot – I caught him near the north end and we ran side by side, me riding off his left shoulder, his little legs a blur in the dimness. At the end of the lot he veered to the right into a drainage opening and I turned to the left to get back on the trail.
I rode home, gone only a few minutes and far fewer miles, but I felt better and was able to collapse into sleep.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Oblique Strategy: Work at a different speed
I was driving up to McKinney for a photowalk, taking the route up the eastern side of the city. There were a couple of interesting looking taquerias, a line of small-time used-car dealers, and some place, little more than a shack, with a peeling sign that read:
Now, I know about a weekend fishing trip and how those things go together… this is Texas… but still….
Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.
Today’s story, for day 18 – Feral by Christopher Moyer
Read it online here:
Feral by Christopher Moyer
Our grandmother watches us some of the time. The rest of the time, we do what we want. At school, the adults asked a lot of questions about that, so we stopped going. We haven’t gone down to the school in weeks or maybe months, I don’t know—our watches stopped a long time ago, too, and after that we threw them in the creek down by the park just to watch them splash.
—-Christopher Moyer, Feral
I had always wanted to own a home on a creek lot. Our house technically is, though it is more of a ditch than a creek. At any rate, there is quite a cavalcade of critters parading by, other than the joggers and dog-walkers. If you sit in my back yard at dawn and sip a cup of coffee you will see the coyotes trotting back to their dens – I assume hidden in the clumps of trees along the fairways of the golf course. A family of beavers live under the road and sometimes can be seen on the jogging trail bridges at night. Rabbits, ducks, and possums are common, sometimes a fox will show up. There is a bobcat terrorizing the neighborhood – not much can be done.
Nature is never as far away as we think it is.
Today’s bit of flash fiction by Christopher Moyer reminds us, not only of the wild presence, but how easy it is to slip back… to lose our humanity… to become feral. Easy, and maybe not so bad.
The first time I bid on a freelance job to ghostwrite a doomsday survival guide, I was only asked one question: Did I have experience writing for middle-aged Republican men? I told the client that I had experience writing for a wide variety of ages and political affiliations, which was noncommittal enough to be true.
The client said, “Sounds good, bro.”
We were off to the races.
—From Confessions of a Former Apocalypse Survival Guide Writer, at Vice Motherboard
“Q: What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
A: I love reading anything about gigantic animate blobs of molten iron who secretly long to be concert pianists. It’s not a particularly well-populated genre, but in particular I’d mention, “Grog, Who Loved Chopin,” as well as the somewhat derivative “Clom, Big Fan of Mozart.”
― George Saunders
“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent van Gogh
The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.
Today’s story, for day fifteen – A White Heron, by Sarah Orne Jewett
Read it online here:
Day fifteen, halfway through. So much to read, so little time.
Today we go back into the past – A White Heron was written in 1886. Its themes, however, of city and country life, of man and nature, and of being faithful to one’s own instincts are as valid today as ever.
Sarah Orne Jewett was best known as a regional writer who produced works of “local color” describing the rural coast of Maine. The finely tuned descriptions of nature and the people of the area are the primary focus of her stories – the plot is secondary.
That’s the best way to read A White Heron – let the language take you to a specific time and place and don’t worry too much about what’s happening there.
Isn’t that among the best that a book can do?
Sylvia’s face was like a pale star, if one had seen it from the ground, when the last thorny bough was past, and she stood trembling and tired but wholly triumphant, high in the tree-top. Yes, there was the sea with the dawning sun making a golden dazzle over it, and toward that glorious east flew two hawks with slow-moving pinions. How low they looked in the air from that height when one had only seen them before far up, and dark against the blue sky. Their gray feathers were as soft as moths; they seemed only a little way from the tree, and Sylvia felt as if she too could go flying away among the clouds. Westward, the woodlands and farms reached miles and miles into the distance; here and there were church steeples, and white villages, truly it was a vast and awesome world.