Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Personal Letter to Everyone

Reading 50-year-old letters I am discovering in old storage boxes that have surfaced because of the fire that forced me to move from one apartment building to another, I remember that people used to write letters, and that much was lost when emails replaced letter writing. As I understand it, people who "Facebook" and "twitter" must limit what they say to a small count of characters, and must even amputate words. Should I assume they are contact with his because it sufficient space for what little they have to say, although they already save so much time eating Fast Food
As a 90-year-old woman poet said on the News Hour recently, "I like to write longhand. It puts my body into the work." It is the same with letter writing. Where you are as you write the letter, the seconds go by like the flow of ink from the pen; writing by hand (as I did with this before typing it up) places you in the flow of real time, organic time, and so you write very much about what is happening in the living momentt. Just now the sun is falling on the green moons of a large begonia...

in this house full of plants as various as the garden around the house (the house where I am about to housesit and catsit).

As I read and prepare to contact the people who wrote those letters 50 years ago, I am tempted to quote some of the great thoughts and poetic turns of phrase and the beautiful rhetoric that flows out as they were carried along by the flow of ink from a pen. Outside the window here (where I should pay THEM to housesit), there are always a crowd of greenback goldfinches clinging to special long sock of seeds designed to feed finches in particular.

There is frequently no space left on the red plastic saucer that feeds six hummingbirds at a time. Hmmm, I just got it -- the sound when you are around them is of the constant humming of their wings -- You see? Writing long hand has made me slow enough to finally hear the hum of hummingbirds...

Some of the irridescent birds seem clearly to be the Black-Chinned Hummingbird I find in a bird book.

There is also the bird feeder for larger birds, but all the birds, large or small, scatter when the scrub jay hits the feeder like blue lightning, pecks up a few seeds, then rushes off again as if it were the creature most hounded by fears:

One of the owners of this house and of their cat Lucky is still at his job in the city, while the other is doing last minute work in the back of the house on his computer, so this room with windows onto the garden is quiet and sunny, a tapestry of autumn colors outside, but also the virant blue of the plumbago at the door...

The apple tree is a pleasing blend of green and gold leaves, the apples themselves as gold as myth against the blue sky.

From the bedroom where I sleep when I visit or housesit for these wonderful friends, I see radiant autumn colors and the bright yellow gift of the December cycle of lemons.

The last of the yellow roses burn in the dusk.

On a walk near sunset last night I came upon the local congress of crows that congregates, skitterish, in various dead oaks, ever debating over place, full of loud purpose.

This morning I heard I single crow above me when I stepped out under the tall pine tree; in a voice like a squeaky wooden screw turning in a wooden screw hole, it called out ag, ag, ag-ag. A crow some distance to the west echoed with precisely the same call: ag, ag, ag-ag. A crow about the same distance, but to the north, called ag ag, ag-ag. They were triangulating the territory. They repeated the same “cawl” in the same directional order for the brief time I listened – marking the borders of a territory, triangular in shape? Calling out the location of the dangerous human? Does anyone know the language of the crow? (I supposedly have a drop of Crow Indian in my DNA, but it doesn't seem to help.)

Lucky, sleeping nearby, moans in his sleep the same as a lonely hman may whimper in his sleep from lack of love, with a sad desire. A letter,ike the time it takes to let the ink flow from a pen, may tap into Now's slow time where small things are noticed, and are worth noticing. The flowers in a room, dropping petals, may seem as important as the cries of crowds caught up in cruel rapid fire somewhere and shown on the daily news, the ongoing tragedy.

Write someone a letter.

This kawing koncatenation in the midst of kalm (how the K sound saws at things) provokes a particular memory -- Why? -- and I will go on now computer, having finished typing the letter I had written by hand -- I guess the computer unleashes a different kind of talk. Dealing with the move after the fire in my old apartment building led to many days or weeks of being intensely present to deal with an endless number of challenges and complications; then, abruptly, I am opening up decades-old storage boxes, from which ghosts fly out, and I am then traveling, by these letters, back fifty years in time. Something about this sudden upheaval, or clash of times, or this dipping suddenly into the calm of the countryside, able to stop and take a breath, along with the daily witnessing of the shallow lives walking through the debris of outdated values where Americans are persuaded to live with this week's new electronic toy, or distract themselves with some other shallow pastime, has led me to a particular memory. I guess because it touched in 1960 on a social illness that has persisted from then until now.
When I was a soldier boy wandering the streets of various cities, in San Francisco a sweet African American man took me in for a day or a day and a night -- I don't remember exactly -- but I won't say "picked me up," although there was sweet lovemaking . No, in fact, he treated me like a fellow human being, with intelligent conversation, and kindness, and so did his mother who welcomed me as if I were not a stranger and made lunch for both of us, in no way resembling the current stereotype of the church-going African American who despises homosexuals. But that was the other San Francisco, the one that used to exist. No-one who living here then (I can almost feel confident that it is a generality with a great deal of truth) was judgemental toward anyone else (well, maybe out where Dan White was growing up). That was before world publicity very thoroughly trampled that San Francisco, left it behind as an earlier geological stratum, and was replaced by this later San Francisco (where the people of that former San Francisco can no longer afford to live! -- It's O.K., I prefer Oakland now).
In that sweet time, the lithe and loving African-American man insisted on sending me off with a valuable gift, It was not in my nature to distrust someone because of the color of the skin, and a good thing for that because I was thereby able to enjoy the company of a loving nature and received a special gift from the man, a gift that seemed rather ironic considering that people associated African-Americans with violence, yet he gave me the key to why violence exists, insisting that I accept it as a gift -- the slim volume of J. Bronowski's THE FACE OF VIOLENCE. J. Bronowski had some strange attitudes in one long television series he made, but this book on the causes of violence should not languish as it has.
In our current world of short messages punched out with one finger, individual thought and feeling has as much value as bird droppings even to those having those thoughts and feelings.
Allow me a brief aside before I return to Bronowski. I was a journalism major my first three semesters in college, which required me at one point to research the history of my hometown paper. Like most small town papers, the Nappanee Advance News was not, in spite of its name, prescient -- able to write the news in "advance" of it happening; in fact, it lacked news almost entirely. It had become little more than ads for sales, with a few brief personal news items. But I found in the library archives that at its beginning in the mid-1800s, the hometown newspaper was a forum for ideas and debate, and the participants in those discussions were intelligent and informed. Through their newspapers, small towns had what Bronowski calls small or local Centers of Recognition by which every individual citizen had a worthwhile and recognized identity, and with the strength of that identity found something to say and tried to make it worth saying because there was a place where someone would hear them say it.
All that was replaced, with a deflation of local identity by Centers of Recognition that became only national or global. Now, the only degree of recognition acknowledged to be of any real value is "celebrity," and hordes are chasing it like whippets at a racetrack chasing the mechanical rabbit.
Bronowski's notion that recognition of each individual, providing them a sense of identity, is a notion that should not be dismissed as too simple or too obvious, but celebratedd for being so simple and obvious -- and yet people appear to still be puzzled by the causes of violence. Nothing hurts an individual soul more than a sense of having no identity (regardless of how the comfortable and secure may have a philosopical regard for the value of a concept of "non-being," or spiritual thinkers treasure the "still center" of "emptiness"). Without awareness of the social need for local centers of recognition, the only recognition is "celebrity" (It is like everyone voting conservative with the delusion that they will one day be rich), so the only way the human of average talent or means can achieve this inflated notion of identity is by killing a celebrity or a well-known person, or, on a smaller scale, killing on a scale that will assure a place in the national news. No matter what else the motivation, the desire to really feel they exist is behind the violence. Along with the names of assassinated people that you had loved and respected, you know the names of their assassins, who have thereby achieved celebrity, or, rather, have stolen a well-known identity that they can wear then as if it were naturally their own.
And how does any gang member, anticipating no life of note beyond adolescence, achieve identity-- through violence. The daily news is easy to understand in the light of Bronowski's observation. To lose your job or be fired or be divorced may cause some individual to feel they have lost their identity, and, clamber insanely to get it back like a drowning man trying to reach the life-saving ring.
That was the key I was shown 50 years ago that I have seen no-one in power or influence to consider how to resolve the ongoing violence experienced by a population that feels invisible and powerless; few, like Conrad's sailors, can see the beauty in a "glorious and obscure fate."
Should I believe that television talent shows and reality TV shows are some effort at democracy -- or still the delusion of "celebrity"? How about the individual centers of recognition that are Internet forums, or blogs and websites? How about the Blue Elephant? Does he exist? Ha! He laughs, content to be a cloud. If you believe in the existence of the man naked inside the diaphanous cloud of his Blue Elephant costume -- avert your eyes! And do nothing but enjoy your own life...I close with this ironic "Merry Kitschmas" -- There is too much of this across the U.S.A. -- How many are willing to call this Beauty?:

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