Thursday, December 31, 2009
Weiser River Pillow Book #13
[Here’s the December installment of Eberle’s Weiser River Pillow Book, & good news for Pillow Book fans: there’s enough left over to make one more post in January. Hope you enjoy it!]
THINGS THAT DISTANCE CHANGES
The new black boots I bought in Boise look remarkably sophisticated by the time I arrive home with them. And the vinegar and spices that were tiresome to buy in a crowded store take on a hint of Arabian treasure when they are unpacked in the kitchen a hundred miles later.
Bittersweet picked in Massachusetts, now in a vase by my keyboard.
In Pernumbuco, a colorfully printed package of herbal tea that arrived from the States; it was the packaging that seemed unbelievable, such delicate designs; the tea itself was unremarkable in a place where you step outside the door and gather a handful of lemon-grass and orange leaves for tea.
THINGS THAT DISTANCE DOES NOT CHANGE
A miniature white carriage from Chinatown looked as exotic in San Francisco as it does on my bookshelf.
Doritos, Pepsi, Milky Ways—the food items that have infiltrated the highway system and look the same everywhere.
ARDUOUS THINGS REMEMBERED FONDLY
A man talked to me of spending a winter 30 miles from the nearest passable road; his eyes gleamed when he spoke of shoveling snow off the roof of his cabin.
I smile when I remember hauling water in Pernumbuco from the cistern in a wooden-handled bucket to take a shower using a tin cup.
When I go out before dawn with water for the poultry, I usually hate it until I'm halfway across the snowy path and then I feel a particular elation.
THINGS THAT CLUTTER THE MIND
Dreams that are filled with anxiety, but not quite nightmares.
Having to think about work-for-money, especially the people you must think about.
Social interactions where you are not sure you have acted appropriately.
THINGS THAT PARALYZE THE MIND
Old wounds, from family.
Worries about money.
THINGS THAT FREE THE MIND
THE LARGEST MOVING THINGS
Manufactured homes being trucked on the highway.
The Life-flight helicopter on its way to Boise.
Trucks carrying two layers of cars.
Fog rolling in.
THERE IS NO WAY TO REMEMBER EXACTLY
There is no way to remember exactly from year to year how beautiful the plants become when fog has frozen on them. There is a tall stem of chicory on the north side of the house I kept forgetting to pull out last summer. It is transformed now with delicate crystals differentiating its varied surfaces. Instead of being an annoying, presumptuous presence, it is a surprise, like a present—incongruous but delightful among the everyday things.
I DREAMED THERE WAS A COUGAR
I dreamed there was a cougar in with the guinea hens, also a tiger and its baby. The cougar ate the tiger's baby. The cougar was full, the tiger was mourning, and so the guinea hens were not in danger—but there was no sense of safety.
ONE THING I LIKE ABOUT WINTER
One thing I like about winter is the sense of doing battle. But this troubles me. I can so easily imagine early Germanic peoples telling stories of war in front of a fire in the winter months. It is the essence of abstraction—tales of war becoming cozy as the snowstorm rages outside and inside the stack of wood is high. The rest is European history.
BEWARE THAT SENSE OF VIRTUE
Beware that sense of virtue which comes from watching the sun rise—smugness creeps in on the superstition that you helped it.
THINGS CAUSED BY TOO MUCH WORK FOR MONEY
Buying too many things.
Many stress-related illnesses; a loss of personal identity, values, and sense of beauty.
After too much word processing, a dream where I see the formatting of my mind in a Reveal Codes screen.
ALL I HAVE IN MY HEAD TODAY
All I have in my head today is music. The writing I'm working on could not be farther from my mind. Everything in my head organizes itself into rhythmic units of 2's and 3's, building into 8's, into 12's. The leaves on the ground where they appear between patches of snow are doing it, the straw bales, the clumps of bushes against a white hill, everything is doing it—as if an audible pulse in my mind is going through my eyes and becoming visual.
STRANGE HOW THE WORLD SEEMS BRITTLE
Strange how the world seems brittle when a layer of fog closes in just behind the line of the closest hills. There is an illusion that things have gone two-dimensional and, if struck, would be shot through with tiny cracks.
THINGS THAT ARE GOOD TO HOARD
Days with no social or work-for-money commitments.
Bubble bath, in winter.
Buttons of all kinds, especially old ones, and pieces of cast iron from the dump for garden ornaments.
SIGNS OF THE WINTER MIND
You can spend the entire day making up drum rhythms.
You notice that the lace edge of a curtain is grimy with dust and your reaction is complete despair.
You forget to call your friends for days at a time.
Wanting large hunks of meat in the freezer.
Wanting to read Herodotus.
When the shape of the satellite dish is the only distinct marker in the freezing fog and you look up eagerly at the appearance of the flashing lights of the county plow as if a sister ship is passing your drifting house.
When you and your partner are talking about how to repair the water-damaged ceiling and feeling acutely aware of the lack of money, the lack of work, and a sense of bleak reality is mounting—and then there comes a loud sound of scratching from under the floorboards. You both fall silent and look intently at the floor. The sound is being made by something way bigger than a mouse and it is accompanied by gnawing. For some reason though, you both start laughing and the bleak reality disappears completely.
MY FRIEND TALKS ABOUT A GRAY STUCCO HOUSE
My friend talks about a gray stucco house she saw that had vines trained up the walls. Now in winter, she says, the brown lines of the stems and the blue berries looked perfect. Her sense of beauty is terrifying to me because it demands the subjection of everything to an ideal that is so exacting—the berries could not be red, the stucco could not be new, the stems could not be half-green half-brown. Who could live in a house that had attained such ruthless perfection? This kind of ideal is always seen from outside, by an authority that roams ghostlike, disassociated and judging. This is not a ghost I would choose. It would make life like a cliff-edge, it would make the stakes so high, and for what? Ultimately, art can't be based on snobbery, it just doesn't work out.
WHEN THE SUN COMES BACK AFTER DAYS OF FOG
The craters that appear in the crusted snow are lunar in their sudden focus and make you giddy.
The dead grass looks sharp—at first, everything looks dangerous with the glitter and knife-edge of frost. You don't quite want to go outside at first.
For a moment, there is the illusion that everything has become glass and could shatter, could fall in fragments and disappear.
The stop-sign up on the rise where the road meets the highway flashes out like a shield in a return from battle.