November 14, 2017

The Plant

At odd times of day I will remember this or some version of this: the mother having just removed the plant from the backseat of the car ( I did not see her remove the plant, I could not be sure she was the child’s mother, I certainly didn’t know the car was indeed her car); the child, perhaps her daughter, scrambling up the nearby grassy bank or slope or escarpment, on the way to their house; not a stand alone house, not a single family dwelling; the plant about waist height or better; and the mother, the woman, the adult, the parent, stooping to tend to it, the plant, as I passed between her and the girl, a girl who was probably her niece or her daughter, and who was about seven, on the sidewalk (not really a “plant” but a tree, a conifer, a bush, but tall and thin, if it was a bush). The woman fluffing it out and adjusting its branches so that none were entangled or caught up in the other branches, so that none were bent or awkwardly contorted or restrained, it having perhaps been transferred from the plant nursery to the home in a cramped area of the car, for instance, the trunk.

Passing so near to her I made ready to nod soberly and smile pleasantly, in acknowledgment of the presence of these two, if I was called upon to do so — but (and this was the thing) I was not called upon to do so, nor was I otherwise acknowledged. I was acknowledged neither by the grown woman, the parent, nor by the small child, the adult woman’s relation or charge, which naturally didn’t much surprise me (though I passed in between them so I couldn’t be missed) as it is such a common occurrence; didn’t offend or surprise me, I say, though we were so near together, and though, in a certain sense, I had “come in between” the mother and child, (between “the mother and her cub” I may even have remarked to myself at the time) albeit only in a spacial sense. I’m quite sure of all this, but for some reason the event (“the event” I have taken to calling it — as if it were an event) –for some reason, the circumstance has stuck with me, just like the memory I had of the cat which I saw a few days after these events, and which I also was thinking of while the men were by the barrel.

The Cat

The cat had crossed the road ahead of me just after sunset while I was on my way home. When I arrived at the place where he had reached my side of the road, I looked at the residential lawn to my right to see if he was still visible, and yes, yes, he was just barely still visible, in the last light of the summer day: I saw a dark batch of trees in the background, a pale darkness of grass in the foreground, and yes, yes, there I saw, in the center of my field of vision, walking in an unhurried way, away from me, the black outline of the just then disappearing dark cat.

I suppose, too, the grass had been mowed recently and this caused me to reflect on things I don’t now care to name, they seem so difficult to me now. I mean things such as youth and cut grass, things such as the pleasure of walking around in the dusk, things such as the pleasure of one’s own home when one is young, particularly if it includes grass that is cut, and hoses, many rubber hoses… It could never be the same when one grows older. I feel so much regret.

Freedom of Thought

Of the woman with the plant, I take it that in some sense what I so admired about her was her freedom, meaning, in particular, her freedom of thought. For in passing between the two of them, the mother and daughter, and even from the very first moment I saw the mother and daughter, even while I was still at a considerable distance from the two, the thought of them, of the mother and daughter, that I would be approaching them, these two people, dominated all my thoughts. That I was within five yards of them, became my thought. That I was within two yards of them, became my thought. That I would soon be passing in between them, that I was right now in the midst of them! such thoughts crowded out every other thought I might have had; of no other thing, past, present or future, personal, political, historical, philosophical, had I a thought; of no such thought could I have been conscious did it not in some-wise concern the near presence of these persons to myself. And she? She never thought: “here he comes, there he is, he has left,” but thought only about her own business, was focused on what she was doing, as was clear from her calm unhurried conduct. She had, it was clear, complete freedom of thought.

And it was equally clear, weeks later, I believe it was, as I watched the men while they were gathered at the barrel, that I still had yet to learn the lessons of this encounter, which I only sketchily recalled, it’s true; — for to all appearances I was gazing elsewhere, and minding my own business, and in the calm conduct of my own affairs, deeply focused on the issues pertaining solely to myself, while in fact my thoughts had been made the prisoner of the men by the barrel and were actually intensely trained on them. So that it occurred to me (and I apologize if this metaphor will strike you as a stretch) that my appearance was a little like the appearance of the mother of my memory, free and uninfluenced by the presence of the men, minding my own business, while my thoughts were actually like the plant in the trunk of the car, its branches sadly bent and constrained. (The trunk was like the two men.)

And this is to be the Addendum. Just by way of addendum or conclusion, I must remark that these days my memory of the episode of the mother and daughter is badly deteriorated, so that, although it happened only a few weeks ago, all that is left of it –I mean, that I can visualize– is the plant. I don’t “see” the woman or the child or the opened car door anymore, but just the thin potted conifer on the grass beside the curbing. And yet it would not in the least surprise me to learn that this plant should remain with me, in memory, for all time, immune to the deterioration that has corrupted the rest of the file, so to speak, an adamantine kernel in the mind. It is to be one of those statues in the world my memory has set up, I can tell, –as I pass the physical place where the memory first arose, there shall it stand, among many places else — the dedicatory plaque of which mentions something about my want of focus, dedicated to a person easily rattled, who hasn’t any real freedom of thought.


New Hole

November 14, 2017

The light is from the sun, the earth is France-earth. I’ve just laid my trowel beside a hole I have dug: a hole I now judge to be too wide and too deep for the purpose I have assigned to it: a purpose, which is to hold securely, and to be the new home of, the small flowerless plant that now sits at the top of the southernmost lip of the hole, a hole which seems gaping and huge as I now see the two together, the hole and plant. The hole, with respect to the plant, is so disproportionately large.

The size of the plant makes it seem to me rather the appropriate companion of my trowel, which I’ve just laid onto the huge pile of exhumed dirt. (“Exhumed”: It occurs to me, as I look on the dirt, that it is dirt I’ve removed from its grave. That the planet is a giant grave to the dirt.) And the trowel, likewise, seems to have so much more to do with the plant than with the pile on which it now rests, and with which, until just recently, it’s had so much to do, so much contact. As the plant appears very small relative to the hole it’s to be placed in, so does the trowel appear very small with respect to the pile it has dug.

Now something about this, all these factors, along with others I can’t even fathom, having to do probably with biology, with what they have called my network of cells, causes me to stop and question the whole arrangement. And with my left hand on the side by the plant, and with the right hand on the other side by the trowel, gripping with both hands the cold dirt, I lean over the hole I have made and gaze in.

I gaze in and rock myself back and forth over it, watching the appearance of the dirt and rocks alter as my head’s silhouette enters and exits the pit, the cool shadow of my shoulders on the exposed warming clay. I was in the position of a man who was about to vomit, but rather, something had come out of my mind; as if my spine, rather than my stomach, had vomited this idea up to my brain, rather than through my mouth, so that what now came to mind most was a situation of the previous day: a memory in which I found myself standing in an upright position staring vacantly into the “hole”, so to speak, of my opened knit cap.

I had just removed this cap from my head, my left hand on the left side of the overturned cap, and my right hand on the right side of the cap, (though this was a beanie or ski cap and didn’t really have what you would properly call sides.) I was holding it at around waist height, a bit higher, and looking into it, just as I was now looking into the hole I had made in the dirt, bent over it and with my hands braced on either side, though the hole was perhaps four or five times the diameter of my cap. (The hole was bigger than absolutely everything, it would seem.) And in fact, as I think of it, if I had made the hole have the same diameter as the cap, it would have been almost the perfect size for the plant. Exactly the sort of head-sized space that would have been perfect for my trowel. The plant would have been like an idea in my head, the hole, an idea I had worked to have, through my digging, with the trowel. An ideal sized plant for the head.

Then I thought: whereas now, looking into the hole, it is like I am staring into my stomach, my huge stomach, yesterday, when I was staring into my cap, it was like I was staring into my mind, my empty mind. Then I thought: no, now I am looking into my grave, then I was looking into heaven, into the afterlife, into my mind. Then I thought: the knitted cap. Then I thought: the knitted earth. And I wondered if, having dug this pit for the plant, had I in fact dug a cap out for myself? Was the most needed thing now for me to put my head into the newly knitted cap, a reciprocal or opposite of Atlas, balance myself upright in it? to pretend I was walking somewhere very fashionably with my new hat, which was nothing other than the earth? I thought then of the knitters I knew, and of if they considered their knitting a sort of digging, and of whether or not that was an appropriate contemplation. Then I left the hole, simply left it, leaving behind me the plant, the trowel, the dirt, and some other few items I had lying about; for it had occurred to me that the hole was about bathtub-sized but not quite as long and not quite as shallow and with the tendency more to make me dirty than to make me clean. And then it occurred to me that the earth was like all that was to be thought; and that my hole, in which I could immerse myself as I could in a tub, but which was to the earth an inconsiderable divot, was about all I could think; and that my plant was like all that I had or might think, that I really did think, and this contemplation just made me shut off so to speak, made me sign out, so that now I was just walking away in confusion.