Thursday, January 10, 2013

suspecting that I owed each moment of life

So the chilly weather came and the dandelions burst into those seed moons that look like frost but feel like fur. Put one against your lips and you have kissed a mouse. (Home is a bushfire summer, the trees are burnt, the Tasman Peninsula roars, here the winter, the cold ground, the dull car noises.) The leaves turned yellow in the grass, the Cosmopolitan sign was the same as it had always been, but the sign over the hamburger restaurant down the road lost six of its letters when the lights went out in them (the shapes still present but the intelligence gone); the changes in the natural world seemed seasonal but the humanly-constructed things seemed to deserve a prejudicial word like "broken," though the hamburger sign goes dead so regularly that you could call it seasonal and say that its seasonal cycle lasts about three weeks, and that it has a faster life than flowers. Conan Doyle, speaking through Sherlock Holmes, said that once you have eliminated all the impossibilities then whatever remains no matter how loony, must be the case, and what is the case, Wittgenstein said, is the world, though Einstein tried to fix his own theories to make the universe static, yet it would not remain so, and the possibility that the sign is simply breaking down at random in a planless way and can't be fixed is a possibility that won't be eliminated, which is why no one can say seriously that the sign is in fact informed by nature to go dark on cue every three weeks; perhaps some worker stays in business this way and nature likes him in particular for reasons it cannot articulate to the rest of us except through this sign; note that the Lord spoke to Elijah out of personal preference. The idea that the sign is designed to cycle through its behaviour like a plant is whimsical and whimsy or magic should be ignored sometimes, I think, because it did not help me when I was searching for the lard in the kitchen a few minutes ago, and I was making an automatic buttering action with my hand as if I had a knife and the knife was lifting lard out of its lard-box. That magical summoning gesture did not work, magic was doing nothing for me except give my wrist a little exercise, reason was everything, or memory, and the power of my hands, and the muscles that run up the arm, the whole collection of pieces, long strings, damp flocculents like curtain cords, juice, gum, red strata, the buttering gesture not powerful on its own, but only after memory had reminded me that M. had moved the lard into a plastic yoghurt container, and then my fingers lifted the lid and there was the lard that shone like snow and was welcome to my eyes though it would not have been welcome to the eyes of others, who I have heard say, "Lard!" in horror voices just before they pour sugar sugar sugar into their coffee -- ha ha I think, watching them with this pour pour pour, you will die of sugar but no man is an island and thoughts of death remind me that as they die so will I, and not seasonally but forever although George MacDonald in Lilith thinks this is a good thing, and that we will find a more religious and therefore spiritual life in death; also childhood ponies will be returned. I never had a pony and will miss out on this part. MacDonald dwells on this resurrection, and it is the climax of his book, and the point of the whole thing, and the reason it was written, but the passage I remember comes earlier, I gloss over the resurrection blah blah blah and recall instead the monster worms that come out of the ground to eat the hero but moonlight paralyses them. He walked through the night "never suspecting that I owed each moment of life to the staring moon." We are kept safe sometimes by mysterious accidents. Safety stands on a cobblestone, the cobblestone tilts, safety comes awake and feels inspired, aha, orroight it says: then it puts itself in motion. Of course that cobblestone is a reference to the last book of In Search of Lost Time, and Marcel stopping in the courtyard, saying with pages of words, aha, orroight, like a man about to fix a sink. I need to do something with my life or be forever like Marcel in the first one billion pages of the book, and not the Proust who is the narrator (Roger Shattuck divides him like this into Proust-the-Narrator and Marcel-the-Aging-Boy, and I think it works well) and not, I don't know what, always staring at the three trees, which say to me nothing and only wave.

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