Maire: The grass must be wet. My feet are soaking.
Yolland: Your feet must be wet. The grass is soaking.
This weekend marked the anniversary of my first visit to the UW. I hosted one of the prospective students. I went to see Seven Day Weekend do a funk cover of Abbey Road at Cafe Montmartre. I finally finished Freddy and Fredericka. I regaled a professor with tales of the carboat. I unearthed Translations after a conversation about plays and literature during which it came up. I didn’t get to Tenney Park to skate. I didn’t finish An American Obsession. I didn’t write a book review. I did go for a two-hour walk around the lesser-explored areas of the East Side, with a stop on Atwood Avenue for coffee and a restroom. I did do a good amount of reading. I did meet up with Kellen at Ground Zero. I did have pastries from Sophia’s. And, luckily, I noticed that my car’s right rear shock is going, which means a trip to the shop tomorrow.
Like someone asking about the weather and being told of nuclear winter.
At dinner last night, people were telling stories about their brothers and sisters. “Do you have any siblings?” came the inevitable question I’d been bracing myself for — or, rather, thinking about, considering. Do you tell or do you not? Do you go with the simple answer that is a lie, or do you tell the truth and deal with everyone’s discomfort? When the question came, I said no and then was quiet. People went back to talking and I drank my water.
Later, at the Weary, just before the accordion player (think: if Tom Waits played accordion and sang pirate songs and knew who Outkast was) had gotten the whole bar to get dizzy by spinning around while staring at a finger raised above their heads and we all sang a drinking song, I got out my notebook for the first time in a while to write something down that wasn’t academic in nature.
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begun.
Back at the ranch, Miller’s girl was reading him French poetry. (Later he would admit that a discourse on plasma physics could be equivalent, in the other direction.) I was tired, in the way you are tired when you spend much of your day out of doors. It had been a mixed day, the sort where you have to keep reminding yourself that the ways in which your brain is jumping around are merely erratic misfirings. I was thinking of Ulysses and A Valediction and Mr. Pascone’s AP English class my junior year of high school. Fortunately, the random impulse to start quoting lines from Tennyson and Donne is no weirder than having seen Wagner’s Ring Cycle in full on three separate occasions, so my behavior is rarely greeted with disblief by those who find themselves in my company with the greatest frequency. We have determined that peanuts are in fact legumes, and how dogs are similar to singlularities of a complex function. We have discovered the most amazing trees in Madison, not all of which are oaks, stood in front of the house on Schley Pass, and discerned the tongue-and-groove panels on the ceilings of our favorite porches. Details get noticed, even on long excursions. This, I feel, is a good thing.
He works his work, I mine.
In the coffeeshop on Atwood Avenue, just up the street from the lonely house bounded by a Chinese restaurant and a parking lot, there is an exhibit by a textile artist whose small quilts on the wall are topographical maps. They are arrestingly beautiful, just the sort of thing I would want to make — though, as Sherv’s latest letter reminds, the map is not the territory. The phrase is familiar, and yet new this time. I think Abby and Martha would like to see these map-quilts, so I take the artist’s business card. The light in the coffeeshop is perfect, the latte hot and just so.
You are in the process of being shown the book.
At home, Abby watches crime dramas while editing her paper for the Association of American Geographers, and Joe eats a dinner of Ramen, chicken sausages, and spinach with ranch dressing, with mango-peach juice on the side. In the morning, at megabreakfast, Paul, Abby, Martha, and I talk about Coasties and Sconnies, and Abby speaks Xhosa to us. Time is all mixed-up in this account, but that’s the way it feels sometimes. Perhaps tonight I will admit that no more work will get done for now, and simply go for a walk in the isthmus cold. We are between two lakes, an image weirdly like one I saw in a book I’m reading for class about something entirely, entirely unrelated. There is mending to do, quite literally: a hat, a sweater. I will have to send away for a windup alarm clock, because they are hard to find in stores, and I trust my fingers more than I do the system of electric light and power or a pair of double-A batteries. Plus, I hate digital displays (unless perhaps they involve Nixie tubes and are not telling me the time). My mom informs me that the New York State Capitol has finally dispensed with its elevator operators, the ones who knew me when I was a very young girl visiting my dad at work, in favor of buttons. Another link has been severed, but the fortunate thing is that I will remember them, the mechanisms and the people, with the same clarity with which I can picture the stained glass windows in the house I grew up in. If you reach back, it’s there, and, unlike my alarm clock, it remains unbroken.