At bedtime I was reading The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience by Ann Lauterbach when out of the darkness came the sound of owls. One was calling far off, Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all, and one was nearby, beyond the copper beech planted in honour of my parents, not responding exactly but making a guarded half-call. I was reading, remnants of hailstones on the deck, bright stars tangled in the Douglas firs.
What we intuit is that something needs to be solved, that an impediment needs to be absorbed and, as it is absorbed, to become manifest. The subject trying to find its way out of the long sequestered drama of suspension. If the impediment is merely formal, there is a corresponding aridity, the aridity of convention, of exhausted iconographies, vocabularies, habits of mind, a pretense of discovery. If all that is happening is a mirror reflection, or the old vocabulary recycled into new technology, the result is quickly perceived as arid and stale. You cannot experiment with only the history of experimentation as your archive. (page 65)
Ok. My vocabularies are old, old. The owls making their spring calls, the stars after hail, the mirrored world in my windows, the quiet corners of my room.
I was reading The Night Sky. I wanted something. A way to proceed in the terrifying world. Step outside. Not the woods I have loved for 40 years but the streets of the town where the virus has found my friends. Not the calm highway and the bigleaf maples in bloom, warblers feeding on the insects drawn to the honeyed flowers.
I have been asking myself about the nature of memory again. Rememory. It has occurred to me that when we are writing we are remembering not the past or an event in the past, not a thing or a person or a flower, a place or a meal, a painting or a song, but first and foremost we are remembering words. This is the primal quarry that sits under whatever specific sites we elaborate into what we write (about). When we write we are trying to remember the right word. (page 87)
This morning I had to reach into my memory for the name of the warbler I saw dart into the grapevine over the pergola we eat under all summer. Yellow-rumped.
I was reading, wondering if the world needs more books. (My own has gone to the printer.) A quiet voice, speaking from these woods, from the window where I stood to look out at the night sky, in wonder and yes, in terror, because a couple of months ago, in Mariupol, who knew everything could (would) be blasted into nothingness, apart from what was remembered? The owls were quiet. I hadn’t yet awoken to the warblers, their delicate feathers alluding to sunlight. Put down the book. Lie in the dark room.
Because the world doesn’t lend itself to the singularity of a voice anymore; it has become a chorus of competing voices, fractured and dissonant; and besides, the place of discourse—sorry about that word, it seems to have crept under the skin of language like a tick—has been debased, so we can’t hear very well; we don’t seem capable of a clear reception. We need to know who is speaking, but we also have become used to human speech without a particular human voice. As usual I am having a difficult time saying what I mean exactly.
I hear you. (page 164)
This morning, I’ll take the time to stand under the maples and look up.