Monday, September 22, 2008


You woke from a night of troubled sleep and, like Gregor Samsa, began to check your appendages to see if you'd arrived with the same equipment as when you started, last night. No problems there. A relief because you are now visited by the appearance in your mind of an agenda, things, things to be done, things to be planned.

Up now, legs swung over the edge of the bed, tentatively touching the floor as you shift your weight to accommodate the standing position. What will you serve? Where will you begin?

Not in here, not in this bedroom, this clutter of newspapers, books, bottles enlisted as flower pots because of some quirk in their shape that intrigued you. Your desk is enough of a giveaway, a living advertisement of your active endorsement of the chaos theory. Old glasses of latte, scratched reading glasses, empty ink bottles, fountain pens lined up as autos in a gas crunch, awaiting refill, a long forgotten check register, a pocket watch given you by a student, a Ludlow slug bearing the name of a magazine you once edited. You shake your head at this greeting from your desk, nourishing now the scent and flavor of coffee to gather your working focus. You can't possibly begin in the bedroom which, by your own definition, is worse than your desk, nor could you contrive to begin at your desk, skating on the theory that it would impart the subtext of the maverick, the purposefully unconventional who devotes all focus to the idea, the vision at hand.

One of the cats has turned the living room into an abattoir, making that an unlikely venue, unless you so some serious scrubbing and cleaning. For a wonder, the kitchen is clean things are where they would be when they are out of use, and so that becomes a option. You could begin there. Come into my kitchen! The bathroom and laundry room are relatively new, Tom and his crew stripping away flooring to remove mildew and ages old plumbing lines, replacing rickety and troubled platforms as neatly as Dr. Gainor stripped and replaced your hip. You have three options then, the kitchen, the bathroom, or the laundry room. Come into the kitchen, Maude/ For the black bat night has flown. Oh, don't you love Tennyson at such times? Proper comfort, he is.

What will you serve? Are there enough asters to make a bouquet? Pity the Gerbera are gone. The weather, ah not too sunny or hot, time perhaps for a pot of chili with cornbread informed by buttermilk. A pitcher of iced tea, bottles of Blue Heron or Newcastle, and you think there is some pinot grigio if you can find it to put on chill.

Will they like that? You just found out about a book signing at the nearby Tecolote Book Store, half a mile from you as the crow or California Towhee flies. Served miniature lamb chops, stuffed mushroom, chicken impaled on skewers, bowls of that splendid mixture of yogurt and dill. And you? Chili? Cornbread? Are you mad?

Well that is the issue, isn't it? Are you mad? It is a well-known fact that you deviate from conventional wisdom, but does your deviation edge over the boundary--nice word, that--into insanity? Are you not, in fact, like one of the targets of the C.S. Lewis short story, The Shoddy Lands, in which your mind, your internal landscape is rendered as unrelentingly dull, lackluster? Perhaps you are not mad but rather shoddy. Charles Kingsley: Cheap Clothes and Nasty. You.

And yet.

All of the above to the contrary notwithstanding, you, coffee in hand, opt to go forth. You opt to engage, to follow through, let them think what they will. You sip coffee, a congratulation to that part of yourself; it cares, it is willing to take the risk.

Ah, the risk.

Someone is to read your material. You have unknown guests arriving, debating a stay in a venue you have created. Perhaps, you reason, just perhaps they will if nothing else find a few loose coins between the cushions of the sofa, or the tortoise-shell Sailor fountain pen you fear you may have lost. Perhaps they will find something, a something the cats or Sally have buried. Or something you have secreted, cached as a favored treasure you are nevertheless willing to share.


Kate Lord Brown said...

Life is (as Ms Conran said) too short to stuff a mushroom. We share our kitchen with a very naughty hound and frequently find all manner of things there. A favourite line from a poem about life: 'Chilli con carne without any chilli is only a bowlful of mince'. Give me chilli over stuffed mushrooms anyday!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I feel quite comfortable here. I'll gladly have a bowl of chili, and that pinot grigio might not be so bad, either. As for things buried in the couch, I'll wager that I have perhaps more various and odd objects hidden away - perhaps a few kernels of popcorn, a chess piece, a marble, a harmonica, and a matchbox car or two.

I'm honored to have shared your treasures.

Anonymous said...

One reader's trash is another reader's treasure, right?