This is the final post of The Quail Diaries, El Segundo. What the next series will be you will or will not find out. But as the poison oak is finally fading, and the quail are as quail are. For these reasons, and more, I am concluding tonight.
Trash litters the site and this week I received some of that trash, refuse, detritus, contents of a midden
garbage is spiritual, believable, enough
evidence, relics,debris, junk, leavings, litter, remains, rubbish, scraps, waste, fragments,
what else deflects us from the errors
mementos, memorials, remnants, tokens, testimonials, traces, vestiges.
of our illusionary ways
The relics sit in our basement in a brown cardboard box. I am scared to open it.
everything is marvelous
If nothing else, I do not want any more outbreaks of poison oak–really, I don’t.
but it is also, of course, that spiritual element to the debris. Or perhaps I should say metaphysical? Or occult? I cannot grasp the correct word. What has happened is that the objects now have developed into part of something strange and otherworldy in my mind; to do with humans, and nonhuman animals at the intersection–where feces is purity and plastic wrapping is dirty and soiling. And more than that.
It is ghostridden.
My limbs may issue
It is that which has been soiled by touch and use.
from your smoky mouths.
There is the link to what is human being a house, a container, with cleanable surfaces and indoor plumbing. This assumption that once you are a human without a house, your being changes. Once you cannot be contained, your detritus in pails, your dirt down the sink, your body wrapped in clean clothing, you are something else. There are borderlands that are crossed, when we camp, or when we live in a vehicle that was made to be lived in–but then there are the other states, where houseless is the state itself. What does this mean about my conception of what is a human? What does this mean about my understanding of these objects. Why do they scare me? And make me feel sad?
spittle is the soul in movement.
I think I am sad because of time. Time, of course, is one of the defining features of our human consciousness–the source of our existential crisis. Others assumed that the awareness of time and mortality do not factor into the consciousness of other species. I refuse to be so bold as to suggest we know this. Who knows the world inside the head of the wren, quail or crow? Really? You are arrogant to suggest you know–and I bet you would be proved wrong, if proving were possible.
the womb of all the creatures in the three worlds
But, time…my birthday is nearly upon me and I approaching the start of my last year of my thirties. Meaning, next year I’ll be looking at forty. Kali coming upon me as time seems inevitable.
without you, o supreme fierce Goddess, we would be dead ghosts
The objects are about time–perhaps this is obvious to you, because they were used by people who are gone–past, alive or dead but existing in something other than what they were in this space. And yet, none of these objects can be very very old. And yet, all is changed.
What is the time, my limber lad,
What is the time, I pray?
I am old and blind
And weak in my mind,
But what is the time of day?
About time. And about madness.
He took the youth by his golden hair
He dragged him up a crooked stair
Never more was Hughie seen,
Be warned, my child, while the grass is green.
They are about madness because I am mad to collect them. I am no ragpicker–this is not a way to feed my family.
What am I? (No don’t answer that, I’m not ready for what you have to say after placing this here for you)
In collecting, I felt possessed with a sort of insanity. I was driven as I gathered and documented the objects in that space, in situ, with a desire to see the objects in a different sort of space. In a sterile white room–the clothing on hangers, the cans on stands, lit overhead and glowing inside–contact the earth, contact the humanity, contact the plants and the critters…contact the night sky and the moon and stars–the coyote yip and the woodrat scrape.
The sun moved, and the earth, in other times.
This obsession of mine is a fool’s errand and like to produce naught. For where am I to hold this little show of detritus? (And this perhaps is my own personal intersection of trash, time and madness–for I have no time to find a place to show the trash I collected in my madness).
Now…mute…above the chimes.
The box is also about madness because of the man who started the fire and because of the madness of my friend, a fever of the brain that, though it smoldered a year, really burst into flame this autumn and that continues to destroy everything in its path.
A raging attempt by the insanity to break of all connection–
You–and all is ailment (1)
But the trash–here is a piece
A shoe with a plant–can you see the seedling?
And my data for the location and collection of this shoe:
cross to S. unburned.
location:N33º 04’ 00.1”, W117º 16’ 12.0”
I collected 30 pieces, and for each I collected these same data.
These are stones
N33º 04’ 3.8”
W117º 16’ 15.3”
The red one makes me think of prehistoric figurines–those ancient women.
What does my red stone share with that figure?
What do I and this old earth share?
Near the stone was a sagging tarp. I don’t think it was being used currently but to be honest, I was not comfortable messing around it on my own. I did not want to violate privacy, if someone was still using it, and I did not feel safe. This was the day after the friend and I had heard the man in the brush speaking to himself.
Do you know what I think now, however? I think he was harmless and I wonder at my fear. It disgusts me.
My friend is far more frightening. And I keep thinking I can help.
We are an impoverished people.
The quail are distant but I saw one of Dr. Marzluff’s banded crows outside the window of the conference room while listening to a practice talk about abalone and plant reproductive proteins. It hopped near as if to listen, and the speaker invited it to join, but it was behind glass and it flew away.
I wander, do I not? (If I were a Romantic it might seem appropriate, though those old poets had more control over a single word than I have over any piece of writing I have ever tried to shape). The last thing I wanted to talk about. It is coming. Yes, I started with trash, but now I want to talk about the exotic. The exotic bird–for, as must be obvious to you, the exotic depends on where you stand most of the time in space and where to you turn your eyes. I was amazed the first time I saw a bald eagle. And I am still amazed. One flew low over us as I pushed my daughter in the swing at the park next door to our house–a bald eagle flying low over us! huge and gorgeous and WHAT THE HECK WAS IT DOING THERE and OH MY and…
quotes are from A. R. Ammons, C. Marlowe, M. Griaule, Brhannila Tantra, Emily Dickinson
1 A Footnote to My Friend Who Has Gone Crazy And Is Beyond My Help: there is nothing to be done–You are allowed to wander in your madness, we have no recourse except to hope you will attack us and bring us to fear for our lives. You are allowed to destroy yourself as long as you do not use a blade, knife or pills. As long as you stay off bridges you can tear down whatever you had created of yourself, through whatever hard work and sweat. That damaged part of you, that you became and came through, that you thought you’d left behind you’d never really left. It was waiting around the corner, for your illness, your physical prostration, to take down all barriers you’d erected. If, my friend, the you of six months ago, saw the you today, I suspect that you-that-was would commit homicide to make the mad-you-you-are vanish. But you are going to die, I suspect, sooner rather than later, when your poor body gives it all up to the earth and to your viral inhabitats, acquired so many years ago, but now ready to kill you and I just wish you had taken the medicine and that you were living and here instead of dying and gone.