Friday, May 31, 2013

Luco, Mineral, Radical

I just finished BK Loren's lush book of essays: Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food and I have to say, it was one of the more moving books I have read in some time.

Mingus, of the vermilion heart, described it thusly: "It's like she does so much with little - like the individual words are sponges that fill with meaning and grow larger as you read. She doesn't take pages and pages to get to the point - she doesn't need pages and pages - the point is a slow creeping vine that blossoms as you read the collection."

Yes, he really did say that, and I include Mingus' review here because he found his way into the words I was seeking. He is correct - how like to a vine it grows; slowly, stealthy, until the reader is caught in both the moment and its inexorable accumulation.

That is to say, although the topics differ, these essays build upon each other, and ever the careful architect, Loren's creations are poured concrete, yet allow the desultory breeze. They are steady, gently bending pieces which, when placed one after the other, leave you stuck, struck - beyond language.

The prison guard's beautiful grandmother had Parkinson's disease. I say beautiful although I knew her not because the prison guard keeps a painting of her in the living room/front-of-the-house-cell. And she was beautiful - regal and statuesque, but actually statuesque, not Tubby-Kat-Door-Statuesque like I am.

The essay "Margie's Discount" is lovely, elegiac, and although I did not know the prison guard's grandmother, and in general I am ambivalent toward the prison guard at the very best, it brought what could be called tears to my aching eyes.

Might-be-called-tears, because who will believe a cat capable of crying? I am certain there are a number of you laughing right now at the audacity it takes for a cat to believe he weeps, but weep I did, and weep I do when I think of that slow fade.

From vibrant to locked out - MR's grandmother as much a prisoner as I am, more so, trapped in her own body, arms circling endlessly, mouth working like to conversation, but no words, only thin, clear saliva and her blue eyes clouded over. I know because MR told me.

I do not know why she would tell me this.

Perhaps it was a fleeting moment of grief over her deeds, my eternal entrapment in this place, sealed off from the rest of the world. Perhaps she wanted to appear vulnerable, as one who has also been sculpted by grief.

I do not know. I only know what she has said and the sad fact that once a creature knows something, it is not easily unknown, misplaced, unless we suffer the kind of debilitation as the grandmother, as Loren's own mother, as those of us fated to tremble out in the selfsame manner.

Other essays in the collection are equal in brilliance. Loren speaks with compassion on nature, animals, loss, grief, family... On what it means to be.

And I like what she has to say about writing-as-listening. It is what I have been trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and failing to do.

What? Is this as ludicrous to you as a cat-who-weeps? I pity your lack of imagination, dear reader, and your lack of understanding of our inherent sameness.

We who the same air breathe, who for the same water thirst, for the same love burn - we are siblings. If you have ever wanted and not received, if you have ever hungered, if you have ever pressed against your own prison walls, if you have experienced loss - make no mistake.

You are feline, I human: both appendixes to fracturing, fractaling life. Syntactical brethren.  

We speak different languages, but the meaning is the same.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sinko de Luco

Perhaps you remember my ill-advised post-Valentine's Day Blog wherein I declared my abiding love for Mingus. I am sorry to admit embarrassment has kept me from posting here since that day. I felt a sentimental fool, love-sick and stupid.

Although I have since attempted to squelch these feelings, I have learned I cannot, and have learned that once one becomes aware of an emotion such as this, there is no wishing or worrying it away. It simply is.

And so my love for Mingus is. I seek to soothe this cavernous desire with simple pleasures. A sink. Cascading water. My traitorous tongue.

Ah, and of course, the prison guard. Life has gifted me intellect, but not the opposable thumb of the primate. No means by which to wrest my own succor, only the dumb wait for my tormentor. Silent, I eye her. Beg her.

Turn on the sink. Let me lick. And in these moments all else has the kindness to fade into sensation - the water is cool and it is sweet. It is a million caressing droplets.

If only it could be unendingly so. I am stymied by inability - imagine those worldwide stymied by sheer lack of supply or of poison due to industry, farming, humanity's infinite chipping away natural resources.

Imagine those for whom water is a gleaming promise, a back-breaking hours-long affair. And imagine, if you will, the amount of waste produced by bottled water - something like nearly three million tons of plastic is involved - for me bottled water is even less possible than a sink. If I could somehow wrangle it apart, how then to tip, to lick, and to swallow?

Today is Cinco de Mayo. Pardon my pun, because I pledge to you in ordinary circumstances I am no fan, but for me it is Sinko de Luco de la Cabeza Grande.

De la Cabeza Grande, and me, really, of the rather small-headed. I have always hated my nickname, but I have grown accustomed to it. It is meant, I have come to believe, to be affectionate.

I will let it go. I will not be perturbed.

I do find myself, however, becoming perturbed in other ways, when I had meant to find solace, a respite from the neutron-core-of-a-supernova-star that is my detestable heart.

Ever 21 seconds or so, a child worldwide dies from water-related illness.

345 million people are without access to water. This does not include all the many millions of animals also affected by both the misery of the humans and their own inability to drink.

780 million people lack access to to clean water. I have seen the dog drinking from puddles, but you humans are, I believe, of a more vulnerable disposition.

More people have a cellphone than have a toilet. And one of the most common ways water is polluted is through fecal matter.

My facts are from this Web site:

I am a housecat. A prisoncat.

And yes, I have to wait, and do so silently, but once the prison guard becomes aware of my aim, she makes water available to me. How many millions do not have this kind of opportunity? Today is a holiday, I am sure you are not surprised to hear, more celebrated in the USA than in Mexico, and more so as an excuse to drink margaritas and eat guacamole than as a celebration of a battle won 151 years or so ago.

Which is not to diminish the holiday. Any excuse we have to eat and drink together is, I believe, a good thing - it will be through communication and this kind of communion that we will (if we ever do) become a more peaceful world. 

But it is worthwhile to remember that because we can celebrate, others must suffer, at least in this current delineation of our planet. Because they suffer, we are afforded convenience, sustenance.

Because we are we and they are they, this configuration persists. This thought is not unlike Alfie's reflections on the Boston Marathon bombings (I will be honest; I rather hate to admit that I agree with him, but in these musings we are perfectly aligned).

So, therefore, it is worthwhile to remember that fact that we, all of us, are connected - together we make the face of our planet. We must all thrive if we are to survive. We cannot exploit some to send some further in their acquisition of wealth or standing or power, because when we do so, binaries are reified and strengthened; binaries which, if they are not understood to be pure illusion, will pull us all to pieces.

The one who falls clings to the coattails of the ascending, and so both are frozen, balanced precariously in an unending struggle for power. Is is this struggling that will undo us.

Most of the water-related deaths listed above occur in the developing world, and perhaps it is this distance, this invisibility that allows those of us in developed countries to ignore the problem. If a child came to your house in the night, dehydrated and ill, you would give her water. You would turn on the sink for her. It reminds me again of how numbers dehumanize - depersonalize - reality (another Alfie-point, blast).

But all 780 million people without access to clean water - each have a face, a name, have fallen in love, rebelled against their parents, have betrayed someone they love; each has fallen and each has daily experienced joy - each is an immensity.

Each is us.