Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I go out for a walk. There is the statue of the Irish Patriot next to an old larch tree that has sprouted its lovely pale green egg-like cones, and the two from a certain angle looked at from Massachusetts Avenue have an agreeable lean, complimentary. I snap a photo with my phone.
I aerate my limbs slowly, as joggers go by, scraps of rush hour traffic, walking alone the embassies and over the bridge. I am walking down the grassy pasture to a path that cuts through the woods to the creek when a shiny SUV pulls up. I look down at it, pulled up and stopped by the curb, facing the wrong way for the lane it's in. But I do not hear any voice. Directions, must be. So I step down the little bank, to the sidewalk. I look in, just as I hear, 'where is the house?' It's vixen X, in the passenger seat, an older gentleman at the wheel. 'Ach, you don't want to go see it,' the house where something very very bad happened. I turn away, pained. Jesus Christ. Okay. Go down and take a right, then the next left. You'll pass two intersections. Is it on Woodlawn, the old guy asks in a gentle raspy voice. Yes, I say, turning to walk up the hill back to the little mowed field that seems good for one's troubled aura, without another word. "Thank you, sweetie," I hear her call after me. Ah, well, judge not...
I walk down to one of my favorite spots along the creek, where smooth barked trees lean over the bank, as dusk falls. I go stand on the little bridge cyclists and joggers intently pass over focussed on motion, and look down into the waters to ease my gloom. There's a turtle still perched on a log by the upstream pilings. Never far from my mind is the raw painting of Dostoevsky, standing on a bridge, leaning in a sort of gloomy stance overlooking the Neva, bare grays and brown, the black of the man's coat and cap, the grey of his bearded face. His hand holds on the railing, this man who was a renter, a breeze is lifting the bottom of his top coat, and way back beyond the limb of a dark tree, to contrast a dark maw of an arched entryway in the middle of the painting, far off, birds against a grey sky with clouds, maybe the slightest hint of a wintry blue. (Dostoyevsky in St. Petersburg by Glazunov, the back cover of Penguin's The House of the Dead, tells; like I say, a rough painting, but priceless.)
The things you write about are the things you do not want to talk about. You write them to get them out, onto some form of paper. I wonder if I'm simply a bad communicator, as if unable to talk down on some animal cellular level, such that despite my agreeability my habits seem to lead to twists of meaning and misunderstandings. Maybe I expect a deeper intuitive understanding out of people in the city, but that might be expecting too much. People got their own problems, and traffic, after all, places to get to.
I'm reminded of how I first came to DC, got a job as a busboy, living in some fairy tale. Even back then I would write, out of that place of deeper angst and of not belonging, always at a crossroads, seeing what I was doing wrong, but not being able to do anything about it.
And now, I write what happens at work, as it seems things can go somewhat south on you often enough, as much as they can wind down smoothly, until the night is finally done, as, I would imagine, you'd write about being in a prison camp. You'd make your observations, but you wouldn't want to go home and talk to your friends about it, but rather about different unrelated things. Your observations don't have much to do with the world that we would ambitiously try to mimic and replicate until we too came to fit in with the perfect picture. But somehow, you too, as a writer, are drilling down to a deeper bedrock of tradition.
Within that picture of the prison camp, remember, is the vision that brought the great allegory of The Brothers Karamazov, each of the three brothers with his own sort of consciousness, habits, understandings of and tastes for the world and its things, set against the rampant madness of their father. (Published in serial in a magazine as a great crime piece, the Russian people, readers, ate it up.) Each brother's mind shapes the world they see, and sometimes the most refreshing lines of the book are of simple scenes, a simple line, as when Alyosha, the youngest, the novice monk of the wise old Father Zossima, returns to the monastery. A Buddhist or a yogi would feel at home within the book, the projection of individual subconscious making the world appear as it does. Great literature can dance with deeper spiritual considerations. It's a vision traceable in his great works, The Idiot, Crime and Punishment, I would imagine.
It's a job, and it is good to work. Good to have a good place to go to, even as it too might leave you with that old feeling of going down to the crossroads. Such that only the deeper mind can make some sense out of things.
The human being is like the whale, sifting little tidbits from the sea, tiny creatures that in the mind as well as the belly add up to a meal.
Wine tickles the imagination. It presents an invitation to experience. A place to start a journey, the daily one, of life and people.
Fortunately, it is an interesting job, the conditions that allowed me to do my work.