Monday, March 28, 2011

Spontaneous Jottings

These 2 entries are from my "city notebook"--a little notebook I take with me into the city. The second is a response to a display window at the museum of natural history.


Today is a day for description—for exploring, for inquiring, for nosing down the necks of long, bell-shaped flowers. Today is a day for discovery. So I vroom along the track—its brass rails ensconced like serpents in the snow—rushing forward, sweeping forward, without out a single regret that I have decided to spend the day alone, or that I continued to the train station, even after having lost my cell along the way. It lies, entrenched somewhere in the snowy path I took to arrive at the Bronxville station. Of course, I was not silly enough to go on without spending some time scavenging for it. But as I retraced my steps quite a few times and still could not find it, I decided to go on ahead. A phone can be replaced—but a day… alas, a day cannot. Why should one fuss, then? I rush forward, sweep forward, past slate-colored pebbles, fences and birds, under bridges, past other trains. The train rocks hither and thither, up and down. This is not the lulling lisp of the canoe or the boat, but the buzzing race of the train. It buzzes, it shifts, like a steed when urged onward by the whip of a coachman. We the passengers are the steed—its organs. We are whipped onward, urged onward—pursued— (here is the bell: “Harlem”) mesmerized by the metallic serpents leading us this way and that through the snow. We stop; we gallop. Smoke trails up from the rooftops. Now, we are an earthworm in the ground. (How amusing it is to think of all these unusual things, while a spectacled man in a green sweater reads his newspaper beside me, while Japanese words flute back and forth in front of me. What do these words mean?) The train stops.

The Birds of Australia

The hills undulate—mounting, delving, dipping—swelling like the waves of a sea, up and down. And so we dip with the waves, down the ‘eucalyptus- clad’ hills, as the little placard reads. What a lovely view! Let us remove our socks and our shoes. Let us sink our feet into the mulchy earth, from which wan shrubs shoot. Let us watch the myriad birds. Indeed, as you may have already noticed, a Dusky Swallow is perched in front of your face. It is ordinary looking enough. Perhaps what makes it so interesting is the way is stays still for you, staring ahead. Other birds scavenger through the leaves, through the earth. They peek ‘down,’ as if ‘down’ were off a cliff or into a well. Yet ‘down’ is merely the veins on a leaf, a caterpillar—white, slender—creeping between the weeds, between the stalks that appear to him as giant bamboo, between the shadows that the stalks form—lined, clustered. How exquisite to crawl through, between the stalks, as if— and yet who knows?

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