In July, out of the blue, a friend’s cat attacked my leg, biting and scratching it until my friend pulled it off, without provocation. Later in the month, my bizarre allergy to Princeton’s mosquitos returned, causing a full-on systemic allergic reaction and requiring steroids. So for the start of August, here are some more pleasant thoughts: some of this week’s fascinations.
• John Cage. He’s been on the periphery of many of my fascinations for the last few years but in some research I’m doing right now, he’s a central figure. I heard a 1982 interview on Cage and his collaborator and partner, Merce Cunningham on Friday on Fresh Air and it knocked my socks off. One thing keeps coming back — his notion of paying attention to many things at a time. He celebrated it. It was at the center of some of much of his work. (What do you pay attention to in a performance of 4′ 33″?)
• Birds. One of the last sounds I heard before leaving Princeton yesterday morning was a woodpecker. I’m rarely up at six a.m. but there it was, reverberating through the neighborhood. Later that day on the airplane, I read this quote by Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space:
“However mysterious and invisible among the leaves the green-garbed woodpecker may be at times, he nevertheless becomes familiar to us. FOr a woodpecker is not a silent dweller. It is not when he sings, however, that we think of him, but when he works. Up and down the tree-trunk, his beak pecks the wood with resounding taps, and although he frequently disappears, we still hear him. He is a garden worker.
And so the woodpecker enters into my sound world and I make a salutary image of him for my own use. In my Paris apartment, when a neighbor drives nails into the wall at an undue hour, I ‘naturalize’ the noise by imagining that I am in my house in Dijon, where I have a garden. And finding everything I hear quite natural, I say to myself: ‘That’s my woodpecker at work in the acacia tree.’ This is my method for obtaining calm when things disturb me.” (Bachelard, 97)
What Bachelard says about nests was significant and beautiful. In fact, what Bachelard says about many things encompassed and encapsulated so much of the intimacy of home, of the interior.
• Carrots that I grew. My garden kind of sucked. I got the shadiest spot, which was a strike against it. Summer was one thunderstorm after another on the East Coast. Two of the tomato plants succumbed to blight. Bunnies ate the kale and the brussels sprouts. I succeeded at radishes and mint and thyme, but how many radishes can you eat? When I talked about the things I was most hopeful about to a friend recently, carrots were one of the things I mentioned. Well, look:
and see here: not just carrots but a lot of green beans and four baby roma tomatoes, when I walked in the door with them at 6:15 a.m.:
I’m beginning to wonder whether I might want a tattoo of a green-garbed woodpecker and a bunch of ruby red carrots. It’s something to ponder. My totem animal is always a dog, but maybe it’s a bird after all?