In January, I was walking in the evening with friends, on my way to see I'm Not There, and happened to look to my left before crossing a driveway. And there, hanging weirdly in a building in the courtyard up the driveway, was the enormous skeleton of an animal I couldn't identify but assumed to be a dinosaur. I called my friends back to see it. Everyone--even the least impressible among us--proclaimed it the coolest thing we'd seen in a long time. Today, I finally made my way into the Museum of Zoology, outside of which that whale skeleton (a whale! of course!) hangs. We went in in order to see a photography exhibition that my Canadian friend had seen advertised in the paper. But we spent our hours there not because of the photographs but instead because of the myriad wonders housed in that strange, smallish place. Full skeletons, articulated and posed (sometimes alongside stuffed versions of their animals). Whole cases of, for instance, British birds. Impossibly light skeletons behind glass; impossibly huge whales' skeletons floating overhead; enormous crabs and preserved fishes in chemicals and glass and fossilized shells and antlers and teeth and so, so many bones, and so, so many different birds of paradise. It was a place of too much bounty; I needed to be there by myself and yet wasn't, and so it would seem that I have another place on my must-revisit list.
The hummingbird's airy bones were my sweet weightless valentine this year.
It would be difficult to explain how much reading I've done today, because I barely know, myself. Two nights ago I sorted through 1420 hits for a single word in a marvelous news database; yesterday morning, I printed some 223 pages (double-sided) of clippings. At some point tonight, reading through all of them started seeming less like a good idea and more like a way to numb my brain thoroughly, and so I started being more ruthless with my scanning for things that might matter, things that might give texture to the piece I'm working up. And now I am finished with both Pack I (174 pages) and Pack II (272 pages)--which means that I can turn back to the more dense but also in many ways more gratifying reading left to go before I'll feel ready to sculpt this block of material into what it wants to be. This stage has always, always felt like quarrying the marble: I'm in the pit, with the stone, feeling my way around, eyes open for the block that will work best. I'm touching faultlines, watching from the corner of my eye for signs of a contour that no one else sees yet. I'm getting my sense of what I want to create and am now waiting actively for the material that will help me realize the work--which will, of course, change dramatically in that very realization. And then, once the block is mine, will come the chiseling, the hammering and tapping, the breaking away of the bigger chunks, the revelation of the living thing in me, in the stone, in us.
In my dream last night, I wept at how swiftly my home campus had forgotten elements of its landscape that had gotten renovated and reworked right out of existence: a much-used, much-loved canal behind an old building, for instance. That is to say, the elements of this place's landscape that I won't be taking home with me.
Today it was not foggy, but today I didn't take any pictures, and so I'll give you yesterday all over again--not least because I wanted to give you this picture yesterday anyhow but then couldn't.