Birds interest me. They are improbable. Birds remind me that while it doesn’t often feel like the seasons change in Florida, they do. The birds know it is spring. Even over the city sounds I hear chattering bird calls, almost constantly. In the middle of the night, the water birds on Lake Eola never cease, cacophony of avian life that makes sleep improbable, at least for this insomniac.
A blue jay came to my balcony this morning. Birds rarely land there. I watched it through the door, and wondered if it watched me. I liked that moment. Seeing it so close, I observed its delicate legs, and the puffing its down and subsequent settling and smoothing. Interesting, because I wanted to touch its feathers and couldn’t. Won’t ever. The bluejay stayed, then went.
There are superstitions about birds as omens. People want to assign significance to things. Birds rate often, I think, because a simple organism is able to do more in ways than man can, and that’s odd. A bird can’t write a book, but can make his feathers more deeply hued to draw in a mate, and a bird can fly. Birds are their own books. I don’t feel the need to take much as a sign. The need we have as humans, to justify and explain, find meaning, I can abandon it sometimes. I can abandon it in spring. The bird coming to me is not a sign of anything, and my brain reminds me to be my own book. A writer has to fight the tendency to live through their own words, but rather live.
I wrote about birds once. I have a story called “The House Sparrow Suicide League of Richmond” which is from a stillborn collection of stories set in Virginia. I’ll likely never go back to them. But I like the end of that story. A husband and wife have been having a civilized argument, her anger the more evident, him eating an entire bunch of bananas and throwing the peels to the trash, while rain threatens. She is frustrated by her own limits. Two house sparrows provide the ending. They both look towards the window. Two birds careen in, one in pursuit of the other, with dizzying speed. The birds fly so fast neither realizes they are indoors, in a confined space. They never realize their folly. In fast succession they both crash black beak-first into the plaster wall and fall motionless onto the linoleum floor of the kitchen. The second spent banana peel, still dangling on the side of the trash can falls onto the floor, too. It finally starts to rain. Cleo walks over, picks up the peel and tosses it into the trash, then crouches over the dead birds:
“House sparrows. They aren't indigenous to America. They were introduced for pest control, but they are invasive and kill native songbirds. Birdwatchers hate them. Oh, they're so small. Birds hardly weigh anything, like they're hollow, a fluff of feathers. Did you see the way they hit into the wall, going so fast? Is there anything more terrible than a dead bird? Poor things.”
Rex walks over to Cleo and puts his hand on her shoulder:
“You know, you're right. You could have been a good biologist.”
I am writing a new short story. It is about head injuries. This is not a romantic idea, a head injury, but it is a romantic story. Or post romantic, in a sense.
I love reading medical advice, in this case rating the potential severity of concussions: “If you vomit more than once, seek medical help.”
It made me laugh in a sad way, that moment of waiting to vomit the second time and the unknown. I think that is the explanation for my not so funny laugh.
I like the idea of trying to explain why a head injury might matter to somebody. I like the metaphor of it. It’s a good challenge. Medical terms have the built in romance and anxiety of Latin, too, so there’s that.
I’m watching my sea monkeys. I am drinking a cup of tea, chai with almond milk. Not enough spice in the chai.
I decided to put up a video of the sea monkeys. I was listening to music, not trying to make a film or something. It’s a beautiful day, but I feel like staying inside.
I think people want to be happy. That’s too broad a subject to cover.
I just wrote a good story. This one is funny because I knew (hoped) it was coming for a long time, and it broke (abraded?) the a spell of god awful nothing for almost a year on this manuscript which I wanted to call done because I didn’t know what to do with the beast until I knew something else was coming and was thrilled with thought that as opposed to just reclining in repose the thing might have legs and stand. I didn’t know how or why I just kept listening. I kept listening and kept listening and didn’t know what I even was listening for - and then yesterday - after I saw the violin shop with the hanging cellos two days ago it happened it all broke loose and tumbled apart, and yesterday, all day, I felt it coming when I shook apart and phrases fell and I had to record them in my blue notebook and wait wait wait wait wait and every minute was longer than it needed to be and I resented the obligations that kept me from it and I don’t know if the people that saw me yesterday knew I has full of a fever and lost. I had a nice evening, my mind moved like a fast horse, practice laps around the track, how many many furlongs. By the time I arrived home I was shaky and knew. I opened the blue notebook and stared at the two pages of notes and had the moment of reckoning that has to be. I let my mind go blank and I knew the few sentences I knew and I trusted the brain to string the rest together and I did not type it then, I felt it for awhile and had the last minutes of it still inside unformed. Like Christmas Eve. It kept me awake late late late and forget to turn out the light, sitting quiet by myself, and I sat still then slept less than five fingers worth of sleep and my early alarm sounded at the still very dark hour of night that is best for writing and I didn’t understand what the sound was because I hadn’t slept enough to know and thought it was the middle of the day because the light was on and I made a pot of coffee and turned the light off and sat and said this is it and when I started I was rusty. The muscles took a second to remember how the whole thing works. I knew the few good sentences, heard the voice, in an instant understood what had to happen and the way it moved and I heard the voice of it, heard it clearly. I wrote markers on the page to pull me. From how I understood it. I understood first a portion of the beginning and the end, but backwards, so it was dizzy for a second and even more than saying it, I knew to whom this one was said. I watched the clock, used the dark, and raced the sunrise. I wanted to clearly see how long it so I wrote the time I started on the page and then I let it all be said. I heard it was the main thing and stopped thinking and then, two hours and two minutes passed. I read the last words of it, new to me that moment, one sentence past where I imagined it would stop, and I thought how wonderful it is to be able to this. I walked to the big window and leaned against it staring at grey and overcast density of morning. How many times do you get this, as a writer? I understand how little of that moment you get. I understand how much I’d give to stay here, which is to say, everything I would, too. I wanted to understand what happened so I explained it to myself and understood something new about my process. I understood more the process of leaving yourself and coming into yourself at the same time that it takes and can only describe what happened to me in the moment of writing that as splitting the brain in half and making one half leave and one half stay and the half that stays gets to see into a dark hallway that suggests doors and is a room of hearing. The brain of a person that loves could stay in this hallway space forever in this imaginary place. But you can’t, like I said, you don’t get to. I looked back at the words and back at my pages in the notebooks. I’d made a diagram of the word “dissonant” underlines with arrows that self 1 and self 2. I did that yesterday, before I wrote, and I didn’t even know about what I do now. Consciously at least. I thought the story would be about that. It isn’t - it is about hearing! And I want to cry when I understand that I heard a work about hearing and it gave my own hearing back to me when I thought it might have been lost to me and I was sad and then now, not sad. There’s more left, the well not dry, and for a time, I think I will remember how to get to the place. The story is called “the notion that discharge of primary neurons might be in some way synchronized by an efferent system” and I won’t forget this one. I wrote it for my friend.
Certain streets are driven hundreds of times, arterial and venous, a system to circulate people in transition. One drives them almost eyes closed, the life on their sides largely unnoticed. The storefronts and gas stations, the bowling alley facades, whatever. It blurs, ongoing, a tangle of traffic signals and directions.
There is nothing unexpected. If it is explained to as such, it makes sense, listen: for any given situation, there are infinite (nearly, or maybe there an unbound limits, real analysis, in the heartbreakingly elegant notations of infinitesimal calculus) possibilities. Unbound possibilities. Lots of things can happen, let’s say. In terms of probability then, it is likelier that an unexpected thing will happen than an expected one? Predictive or constrictive outcomes are less likely. But really, the unexpected things shouldn’t be labelled as “unexpected.” Chance is predictive. Chance is less likely? Or more likely?
Back to streets. So asphalt and rubber do their thing, and the human body moves along, unobservant. Until something different happens, the unexpected (is there such thing?) easier to notice.
It is impossible to say I expected to be driving, head lost in a million thoughts, swimming in thoughts, and look up and see something that swelled my heart and stole my breath for a second. The disparate rectified, when I looked up, and on the side of the road ahead of me, was the brightly lit window of a music shop I never noticed once the several hundred times I took this path. Glowing, soft butter yellow walled, with a row of hanging cellos (gripped by their necks, back to front, so only their curving ribs presented ) in such woody warmth I think I gasped. The contrast, the shape, the color, the beauty, the oddity, the overlooked nature of it, the perfection in the moment - revelatory.
Cellos hanging, their f hole wonders reminiscent of symbol(ism)in infinitesimal calculus, of the unbound.
Traffic kept moving. I wanted to circle back, but did not. A wall of cellos.
To glimpse such a beautiful thing, and so briefly, is unexpected. But there is no such thing. So it either did not happen, or it the experience or outcome was exactly right.
The whole rest of the drive I wondered, what just happened to me? And who knows what I did not see on the side of the road the rest of the way home.
Improvisational strings. Here you go: