Thought Trafficking


The horizon isn’t crooked, it’s the curve of the earth.
May 19, 2009, 3:30 am
Filed under: between times | Tags: ,

I have made a virtual spring migration. I have never quite figured out how to post pictures on livejournal (I am aware that there is a way, I am aware that other people know how do it, but this does not mean that I have the patience to figure it out), and I wanted to be able to list more links than just others who were on livejournal (see previous bracket), so it seemed like a good moment to change things up.

The rain has been pattering the skylight for at least half of the day and this is a different perspective on rain, or under rain. I’ve lived in a succession of basement suites and rooms either on the first floor or in between other floors where the rain forms a grey mass parked on your doorstep. It makes one feel confined, listless. But these kitchen windows see the sea birds, the trees, the sky, the puddles forming. Here is above and also below and beside.

As I have been relatively silent for a month now, I feel as though I should say something to succinctly resume my recent thought patterns, and the only thing I can come up with is music. That’s actually what this whole semester has revolved around, more than anything. Jeffrey Foucault and Kris Delmhorst in concert, an avant-garde cello concert here in Victoria, hearing Jack play his own songs and many others in New York, Pierre Boulez conducting Mahler, the Wordless Music Orchestra performing Arvo Pärt – including the newest symphony, number four for Los Angeles – and possibly Sarah Slean later this month. This whole semester has hummed and clanged and harmonized and stamped its feet, and whenever I start to feel uncertain about my decision to stay here one more year, whenever I waver about my own ability to fulfill the criteria of academia, I think about this. About all of the music enabled by this layover. 

The Pärt concert was just eight days ago, but also a continent away. What struck me was that it was a room full of people who had bought tickets specifically to hear Pärt’s music; these people – at least most of them – were not attending haphazardly. I almost wanted to ask them why they were there. An older man (as Jack aptly put it, “Abe Lincoln’s ghost”) silently shared a table with us, wore what I think in the dark was a plaid shirt. I looked at him during the piece called Es sang vor langen Jahren, and his eyes were closed and his face was receptive; he was soaking in the sound. The music was reflected in his face, or maybe I read the music into his face.

Since you have gone from me,
The nightingale sings constantly;
Her sound makes me think
How we were together.

When it finished, we sat for a couple of minutes and discussed the symphony quietly. We sat until our legs would allow us to leave, and then tumbled back out into the humid streets and raised our voices and felt the night differently than we had before. I’m not implying that Arvo Pärt is the end-all-be-all, or that his music is some kind of redemption, but it is music that I need to listen to with my whole body. Once I’ve done that, everything feels different. Leaving the concert halls seems abrupt but necessary; no one wants to be stuck in a crush of people. Still, sometimes it would seem fitting to stay there, motionless, until every sound has died out, but that requires a rare cooperation between complete strangers.

There are other things to say about spanning continents in a day, about Niagra Falls from above, about silence and other sounds, about people you can be quiet with, about prairies, about New York, and about meeting old friends for the first time (and missing old friends who are absent). They can wait for now; we just made of time.

On the farm, May 2009

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