Thursday, January 31, 2008


Yesterday I was thinking about aliveness.
At the bird center, the pelican with the partially amputated wing started bleeding. It was sudden and not sudden.
Earlier, on my way down to the pond, I passed the lifeless body of a grebe. Usually J puts them in the freezer and then they go to animal control or to ornithologists. Many birds arrive at the center already dead, or so starved or sick or injured that they are already beyond recovery. So I have grown accustomed to seeing these dead birds when I am there. I have thought/felt through it. But when a bird is still alive and is in trouble, I find that I rapidly decompensate.
Yesterday, I held this pelican in my arms while J removed its wing wrap. She wanted the wound to dry out. I had to hold the bird more closely than usual; with one hand I held its beak closed and I held its body between my torso and my arm. I was crouching down so I could hold its wing closed against my torso, and in its gray eye I could see my dim reflection. I was uncomfortable contemplating the pelican's consciousness. Even though we were helping the pelican, I did not know how to feel about the fact that we had to overpower the pelican to help it. I don't know why I was thinking about this. Every time we use a tube to feed a weak or starving bird, it is necessary to hold it. It took me awhile to understand how firmly I'd have to hold a bird; something about the feathers -- the way a finger can slip through -- made me worry that the birds were overly delicate. But I've had to use all my strength to hold a seagull's wings closed so it could be hydrated or fed. And I've seen that same seagull fly back to sea after it recovered. So I don't know why I was suddenly uncomfortable holding the pelican, but I could see every detail of its neck feathers and how they changed in color from yellow to white to brown and gray and black (sometimes, from far away, the feathers remind me of newsprint) and could feel its body inhaling and exhaling. After the wing wrap was removed, I let him go and the bird resumed his perch on a bit of drift wood. J went to the shed and I went to fetch a bucket of fish. When I came back, he ate and ate, which is always a good sign. And then I noticed the blood on the rocks under the perch, and saw the blood on the feathers. I was hot and cold and could not stand. I dropped the fish. I sat on a milk crate and gripped the chain link fence so I would not fall off. I knew I had to get J, but it was difficult to stand. I clung to the fence as I moved toward the gate. I felt like my feet were cinder blocks. I wanted the pelican to stay alive. The blood was so bright and red and so alive that I could see just by its color that it was warm. When J and I came back, a group of seagulls were feasting on the fish I'd dropped. J moved the fish and I followed her back into the pen. We had to hold the pelican again so she could re-wrap its wing. I knew that the pelican was okay then, that the bleeding had stopped, but I was shaky and jittery. And I still feel that way today. But not just because of the bird, but also because I am worried about a person I love. I want everything alive to stay alive. I don't care if the world gets crowded or is too full of living things. I just want everything to keep living living living

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

the dreams this afternoon were all encounters with friends. In one, I was with E and we were running through the complex I live in now (the mushroom houses) but the houses were arranged in the backyard of my childhood home in sc. We ran into the home of another friend, R. Her house/apt was filled with lovely cooking smells and also all these toys from my childhood. She has a child, and the toys were his, but I was marveling at her prescience -- the way she had carefully saved all the toys from her childhood so that her son would have them. There was a picnic basket shaped like a chicken, and a red barn, and blocks and colorful dolls and plastic animals. There was also a sloping area in the middle of her place that was fenced off. It was like a carpeted well. I asked why she had nothing down there and R said that there had been a fire and had been told not to use it. I went and stood in the well and said that I would use it. E and R laughed at me. Then R called us up for snacks -- she had made pancakes for dinner and they were delicious. She also made a pastry that had warm strawberry jam inside.

were we to thicken

Saturday, January 26, 2008

perhaps the point of the dream is that I ought to be mindful/pay attention to what it is I give away. In the dream last night I was once again in an apartment that seem pre-occupied. In the cupboards there were things like bowls and candlesticks that were not mine. And I was trying to improvise in the bedroom. I had taken a number of multi-colored silk skirts and attempted to make curtains with them. I tried and tried to close them but they were not enough. And when the former occupants returned (all girls, again), they were annoyed. But I did not know the rooms belonged to them. There was confusion. I tried to smooth things over. I had a small glass of spicy vegetable juice (mostly carrot -- it was delicious), and I offered them a sip. I thought that we would pass the glass around. I thought it would come back to me. It did not. They took the glass. I returned to the room with the skirt curtains disappointed. I thought that maybe I should not have offered them the juice. Outside I felt that it was san marcos. That it rained. That the world was no more than shopping centers with crumbling parking lots. I did not know whether to stay or leave, and if I left, I did not know where I would go.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I miss K so much and he has only been gone for hours. I dozed on and off as he packed last night, trying to assuage the separation anxiety by occasionally lifting my head from the pillow to make observations about his upcoming trip: "there will be delicious food to eat," and "don't forget to tell them the rabbit-in-the-hat puppet is from me." Then he left in the dark rain which temporarily stopped but seems likely to start up again. I slept for two hours and then left for the birds. On my way to the bird center, driving up the hill to get to June's, I saw the mountains were still capped with snow. Everything was cold and muddy. I helped June change the wing wrap on a pelican that'd had a wing amputation on Monday. June speculated the injury was from a seal bite, which surprises me. I simply cannot picture a seal biting a pelican, though it is admittedly something I am not keen to picture. Yesterday it rained and rained and I had to go out and make a ditch in the mud outside our back door so the water wouldn't come in the house. Today, the steep pool of water is greatly reduced, but I am worried that when the rain resumes it will once again come close. I am glad for the rain, as it has been incredibly dry here. And I feel weird living here in this little mushroom house sometimes, because I know where it is built should really be a wetland. You should see the field beside the parking lot -- all the fields around here actually. They've all become flat silver ponds filled with birds.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice Day
I had a dream of an apolcalyptic sort. I lived on an island replete with hotels and paved concrete corridors that were open (almost like cloverleafs and highway flyovers) and there were also zig-zagged cobble-stone streets of an almost european shape and variety w. restaurants and tourist shops. There was the ocean, but it was violent and stormy and mostly people sat on the beach but did not swim. It seemed dangerous. There were palm trees like outlines or spears. In one of the buildings with the ramp winding upwards, spiral-shaped, there were rooms like dorm rooms. It was hive-like. I felt that many of the buildings on the island were like this. There were many people and the rooms seem randomly assigned. They were also in various states of pre-occupancy. No one seemed to mind. It was crowded and there were lines for things like the bathrooms and showers. It seemed that there were mostly girls who were away from home -- duffel bags and laundry and slouchy cosmetic bags stuffed with toiletries like clear mascara and razor blades. I shared the room with two or three other girls, but I only saw one of them. The room was where teenagers lived and it seemed that I was staying in a room I'd lived in before. Was I a teenager again? I told the one girl I saw in the room where we'd had the furniture. The room seemed to change sizes and dimensions. At one point it opened and seemed much larger. We were frequently coming and going from the room for group events and competitions. I thought about swimming often. Before the apocalypse, I came back when the room was empty to hide a box. The box contained all these personal tangible objects. letters and lockets. I hid my key to the room under a brick in the concrete corridor. The brick was loose from the wall. Then the apocalypse came. Everything was stormy and dust. People were corralled and evacuated. The authorities sealed everything shut. People no longer lived where they had lived before. The old places were vacant and surrounded by chainlink. Still, I came back. It was understood that this was something people would sometimes do -- to wander the old place. I came back to look for the box. The door to the room with the box had been sealed shut. The key that I'd hid under a brick was resealed into a wall and painted green. I knew my key was in the brick wall, but I didn't try to break the wall down. I thought it was hopeless. I went on without trying to get into the room with the box but I knew it was there. Then I couldn't stand it and went to break open the brick wall painted green. The hallway was like the space in those tiers that wrap around baseball stadiums where there are concessions and bathrooms, only it was abandoned. I tried to break the wall. Just then, the other girl with the key emerged from the door. I had known there was another girl with a key and that she would not give it to me. I had known this all along. I had accepted this. But when she was right there, in front of me at this moment of desperation, I tackled her. "I have stuff in there," I told her. She looked at me like she knew, like she had looked at my stuff, that she had spent time with it. Not in a malicious way, but for comfort, which was also what I wanted. I did not hate her. She looked guilty, and I saw that she would change her mind. Whatever the risks of sharing the key with me, it was worth it to share it -- the room-- with someone. Inside the room the world was not so much real as simply that of teenagers. A preserved room. It was full of dust and papers and objects no longer in the world. "How silly we were," I thought, reading the loopy teenaged handwriting, and "how deeply we felt then, when the world was real." The past self I'd forgotten was so happy and unknowing. I cried.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

low tide

On Thursday, after volunteering at the bird center where we put two grebes into an old loomix tub filled with softened lukewarm water, we went to campus point at low tide to gather rocks. My friend Kathryn is an artist, and she has been gathering rocks all month for one of her art projects. I've always liked to look for interesting things on the beach, but I've never been to a beach so abundant with rocks and shells. At their thickest, the swath-shaped layers of rocks are 2-3 inches deep. Among the rocks are tiny shells and bright flecks of beach glass. There was so much that I didn't know what to look for.

At first I was drawn to what seemed most luminous -- still wet peach-colored quartz and ruby-tinged granite flecked with black spangles. Next I was drawn to what seemed most unusual or different. This could be anything from a bit of coral anchored in rock or a shimmering sliver of abalone or a strange conglomerate of asphalt and shale and what I thought could be fossilized whale bones. Then it was to shells -- the bigger the better. In South Carolina, where the shells on the beach were mostly oyster or mussel or clam, the great beach find was the sand dollar, but conch shells or any shell that was curved or curled was rare. So I went for those. Last, as my bag became heavier and heavier, I was drawn simply to what I most wanted to touch. I was looking for touching -- for smooth and semi-porous surfaces, for edges. The looking lasted for over two hours -- until the tide started to come in and cover the rocks. And the rocks are only there during the winter. During the summer the point is mostly smooth sand.

At one point-- probably mid-way, when I was looking for the largest and shiniest shells -- I climbed onto the pile of large rocks that jetty into the sea. At the very tip -- yards of moss and jagged black rock and pools beyond where I stood -- pelicans had gathered to rest. Even the air was shiny, so shiny the body (my body) felt invisible. The pelicans shimmered between bird and outline. Later, near the end when my selections were motivated by what I thought would grant the most tactile pleasure, I occasionally heard the scatter of sandy dirt-rocks slipping from the cliffs. The rocks wash up, the cliffs fall down. It isn't erosion exactly, but a sea saw of hardening and softening.

Today I washed and sorted what I'd gathered into three piles -- shell, rock, and glass. Tomorrow I will sort them by size and type and color. I am not sure what will happen next. But it feels like making poems. like gathering letters and sounds and words. The syntax of tangibles untangled and rearranged, if only temporarily.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

some thoughts on why I am interested in animals

I dislike nature shows: the animal porn, the emphasis on "the hunt," the sly suggestion that animal "violence" naturalizes or justifies human brutality. I dislike the way one is expected to assume that there is a logical and natural distinction between "the cultivated" and "the wild," or the implication that cultivation is less violent than wilderness. I dislike the omission of the human -- whether it be the camera crew or the people who live near the photographed animals. I vaguely recall the John Berger essay, "Why Look at Animals?" The Victorian zoo and nineteenth-century capitalism. The way looking is about distance, objectification. This connects to many of my thoughts about gender and gender constructions and gender politics.

Still, I go to youtube and look for videos of animals. I go on walks and photograph the animals I see. There are reasons I look at animals, they just are not the reasons suggested by the nature porn. I look at animals to feel less lost, to feel alive. I have been thinking a lot about living, or rather living as a state of being. I want anything alive to keep living. But it does not bother me that an animal kills another animal because it is hungry. The polar bear does not kill the walrus it does not need to eat.

But one nature program shows chimps attacking a neighboring group. They live in fig trees and it is suggested that they have plenty to eat. Their group is 150, which Attenborough tells us is quite large. Despite the figs, the chimps attack the neighboring group out of desire for more territory (so we are told). The neighboring group scatters when the large group descends, screaming. Some of the dominant males of the larger group capture one of the younger rivals. They kill and eat the baby. The pass the red limbs to one another. It appears to be about ritual, not hunger.

I do not know why they ate the baby, but I'm not convinced that it is out of a desire for dominance -- the sort of motivated violence I associate with humans. Some researchers suggest that these attacks are the direct result of habitat loss and contact with humans. That the violence amongst themselves is a defense against the stress of an ever-shrinking jungle.

The same program opens with a segment on Birds of Paradise. The birds live in Papau New Guinea where, according to Wikipedia, sea shells were abolished as currency in 1933. In this segment, Attenborough tells us that "the abundance of food gives [the birds] plenty of time to do other things."

I'm not keen on the way gender constructions are projected onto the birds in this clip, but I'm intrigued by the suggestion that -- in the absence of scarcity -- the birds not only thrive physically, but also become more artistic. Usually when I think of scarcity, I think of it in the context of capitalism, of how greed turns more into less, of how William Morris suggests that if everyone had creative work, the problem of scarcity would be abolished. And then I remember the camera and that I am looking at animals. And I am reminded of Eileen Myles's observations about pets and animals and gender. How in the presence of animals, gender constructions weaken. I've not yet mapped the constellations of my interest in animals, but my feeling is that -- like all interests -- its political aspects are something I must explore and attempt to articulate even if ultimately I end up saying many things I might change my mind about after saying them.

Monday, January 14, 2008

public and private life (britney and dick)

perhaps we are so interested -- or so it would seem that many are interested -- in the private lives of eccentric celebrities because we are living in a time in which our leaders are _not_ public.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

At the airport I saw a military dog and I wanted to make eye contact, but the dog did not stop looking at the boy in fatigues who held his leash and spoke to the woman behind the counter.

The dog wore a tan rubber muzzle. The dog was a german shepherd. He had the sloping hindquarters and the back legs that look bent and the gentle tail. I wondered what kind of work the dog did. Did the dog sniff for bombs? bodies? Did the dog know how to rescue?

The soldiers at the airport are so young. In their desert fatigues. I don't blame them for wanting to go, for believing in something. But I don't think they should be there. They need something different than what they get there.
is this real?