A Strange Day on Planet Earth

Spring Cleaning

I was only looking for a pair of sunglasses in the hall closet. But they could not be found.  Nothing to do but empty the closet.

Which implicated the bedroom closet, which also had to be completely hollowed. And the file cabinets. And somehow the desk drawers, and the bureau. At which point I seemingly lost consciousness and began sorting through each book and magazine. And box. And the rolling containers under the bed. And with no more claims to sanity, I marched about with  various vacuum extensions trailing behind me, hair becoming increasingly massive, wrangling everything in sight into increasingly complex algorithm of piles, bags, and boxes.

This is how cleaning goes. The Cleaning Demon possesses me, and with his awful spirit writhing in my veins, I froth and moan and move about at a speed seven times a normal mortal. Until some hours later, I look up dazedly, pulling dust from my hair, and realize I need a drink of water. Then the demon departs, leaving me with a clean apartment and sore back.

In this case the satisfaction is not quite complete, as the attack culminated in photographing stacks of books, art supplies, and other sundry items. Which I posted under “free stuff” on Craigslist at 1 a.m., with ridiculously verbose descriptions. Then I rested, but with the knowledge this affair will not end until the unreliable masses of Craigslist come to drag away the remains. Many could say their delirious Saturday night was more fun, but few can say it was more effective.


Spring Cleaning, Folded Napkins-2

April 15

eclipse april 14 2015 edited and cropped

For a brief moment, while the tenants slumbered, the eclipsing moon shone over the adjacent row houses.  I stood still on a small sidewalk on a spinning planet, gaping at its shadow.  A passing man looked at me curiously, and I stared at the moon, wondering why the entire city was not on the streets.

April 13


First night of the full moon.

Planting day.  Little brown pots, dirty fingernails, and an intoxicating dank smell everywhere.

The Cup and Saucer Vine seeds are tough shells that require nicking with a knife.  The Night-Scented Tobacco seeds are crimson dust, and the Amish Cockscomb luminous black orbs.

Planting by the biodynamic calendar has forced me to bide time, waiting for an auspicious day for flowering plants.  Then to sort the seeds: Indoors, outdoors, early spring, late spring.  Plot the locations by way of sun and shadows.  These are the only maps I never have difficulty following.

Per the knowledge this garden is brimming with lead, only flowers will go into the ground.  And everything else into pots and the sundry containers I have been dragging from various corners of Brooklyn.


Tomorrow I will plant the outdoor flowers.  Tuesday, herbs.  I cannot think today of dead-eyed politicians, austerity, drones, and species gasping for breath.  Only soil and seeds, the matter of life.  The moon rises slowly in the southeast and squats triumphant on the horizon.  Yes, there are things man cannot destroy.  Soil and seeds, a woman singing by moonlight.

This is all I know.  Whisper goodnight to three dozen brown pots and crawl into bed.

An Organism Among Many Organisms

It’s the same illness I’ve had for the past four years, just with shifting faces.

Today the doctor prescribed Avelox for 12 days. They are little white moons of dust wrapped in foil like candy.  Pop one per day. Repeat.

On the R train to his office I read that traditionally medicinal plants were picked around the solar and lunar cycles. In the Celtic tradition,

The wortcunner should not wash, pray, talk, or greet anyone when proceeding to the desired plant and should then tell it for what purpose and for whom he is digging it. … A magic circle was drawn around the plant. … Usually the gatherer had to be barefoot and wearing unstitched clothing without a belt, or go stark naked. The Gauls lifted the sacred herbs from the ground with their left hands and held them up, dedicating them to the heavens. The houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum), belonging to the thunder god, had to be picked between the flash of lighting and the clack of thunder.

Wolf D. Storl, The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners

Today I cannot believe that modern medicine holds the rational end of this spectrum. I have been prescribed twelve days of synthetic powder moons. Generated where: unknown. If the infection will be effected: unknown. If it is even bacterial: unknown. The only thing that is certain: some portion of the friendly bacteria that intimately evolved over thousands of years with my ancestors will be damaged, perhaps irreparably.

These are the primitive healers, the MDs in their pale skin and white coats. They often say: We do not know why the drug works. We do not know if the drug will work. We only know it worked for some other people, whose bodies may or may not resemble your own.

They say: We do not know why you have this illness. We can only assist in attempting to kill it, while possibly deadening other body regions—and hundreds of cooperative species—in the process. It is worse than snake oil, this nuclear war waged in the tender veins of human animals.

Today’s doctor is a kindly man. He does not charge me for the appointment, because he knows I can’t afford it. But he cannot do anything beyond his education. His tools are suppression and death.

I stack the pill packets on the kitchen table next to the jade plant. Did my ancestors gather at their kitchen tables upon returning from the doctor? What medicine bundles did they carry? How did they taste? Did they scavenge for herbs on moonless nights? I have no forest to beg medicine from, only a yard with soil that tested for lead at 606 ppm.

I fill the bathtub with dried lavender and steaming water, and lay and sweat until the coughing subsides. I imagine the germs rising with the steam to cling like a million particles on the flat terrain of the bathroom mirror.


Image: from Page 13 of “Past and Present of Aberdeenshire; or, reminiscences of seventy years” by Paul William, 1881, via The British Library on flickr

March 25


An unexpected drop in temperature, and the sudden hoarse laughter of wind.

I wrap pine boughs around the crocuses to keep them warm. Be still now. Rest.

Errands in Manhattan, where the cold seems oddly to muffle city sounds. I am wearing my thickest coat, vintage and solidly made. Just the same the wind makes a joke of it, crawling up my arms and shaking out its pockets. It searches for warmth, grasping for any bits of energy a body may have preserved through the winter.

Go away, I whisper irritably. Everything I had you took long ago.

And the wind laughs and soars around the corner, ballooning hems and leaving a cluster of tourists clutching for their hats.

But as the sky bleeds into twilight I cannot suppress a swell of enchantment. Blue expanding like blots of ink, sliced with the impossible gleam of stars.

I stop fighting the wind and feel my scarf expanding like a mast. I will not begrudge winter its last yowl down these dusty streets. As my fingers begin to tingle I bow into a sushi shop, a rare indulgence.  The yellow bloom of an open kitchen, sweet-faced chefs nodding in greeting.

Hot green tea washes down ginger and seaweed. Hands warm painfully on a porcelain mug. Be still now. Rest.


Image 2: from page 219 of Mistress Haselwode: a tale of the Reformation Oak, Frederick H. Moore, 1876, via British Library on flickr

March 17


It is the third night of the full moon. Last night, full moon proper, was cloudy and damp. I kept peering out the window over the kitchen door for some break in the clouds, but the moon remained carefully shrouded.

I lit dozens of candles and watched the apartment blossom into an undomesticated being: Whispers and shadows gathering in the corners, the appliances sighing sleepily. Only the soft thuds of my feet as I plod from room to room. I think I can feel the eyes of the original Italian tenants staring curiously from the ceilings, wondering at this strange woman and her strange oven clock.

Dark is a different dark every night: had I forgotten this? It is only in the surreality of clocks and electric switches we think one night is like the last. I lift my phone in candlelight to put it to sleep, and am sickened by the deathly pallor it casts on everything. How often do I stare into that artificial sun?

But it is more interesting to write about the moon, even when out of sight. The clouds sat pregnant and faintly aglow, those clouds that plotted to gather on a full moon, and then jealously keep her out of sight.

I burned dried sage and watched myself too become a different being, the animal that lives within the shell, waiting for a moment to leap forward. My face scrubbed of all makeup looks old and mischievous and frightening. That face tells me things I did not know.

I fall asleep reading by candlelight and wake with page creases on my right arm. The morning is still overcast but strangely bright. My dreams float like reflections in an undiluted pool, and for a moment I want to slip back into the other world and never awake. Must turn to the computer, send emails, and further propel the overt storyline of my life.

I draw water for tea and find a spider in the kitchen sink. Perfectly formed, eight arched legs. It would be good luck, but she seems to have drowned to death, rendering it an uncertain omen. I put on a heavy coat and carefully lay her to rest in the garden.

Early Spring

The L to the A to B52, my favorite refrain.  I am the only passenger to exit at: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The trees and birds spoke such sweet things I cannot defame them with commentary.


Mr Grant Allen edited.jpg

journal: 2.24.14

Job applications:

Are you a self starter in the murder of your own soul?  Do you want to aid vapid people in making more money?  Do you work efficiently in depressed environments?  Do you suppress your emotions, down to the last detail?  Will you come be a desperate, shallow person groveling at the bottom of our ladder so we can feel better about being desperate, shallow people who groveled to the top?  Do you have seven years’ experience in this favored activity?



Image: from page 197 of Mr. Grant Allen’s New Story, by Michael’s Crag, 1893, via British Library on flickr 

rain in kitchen prism edited sans border.jpg

journal 2.16.14

It is raining in the kitchen again, from three different places.

After hearing it indoors, I fear I may never again relax to the gentle pitter patter of rain.

snowy day edited prisma edited sans borders.jpg

journal: 1.21.14

Snow, snow, thick sound-muffling snow, and all of us united in the battle for sure footing and dry socks.

I called 311 about a malfunctioning traffic light causing chaos on Knickerbocker Avenue, and convinced a business owner to call an ambulance for the man laying outside his door in a heap.  As snow slowly covered him, people kept walking by like he was part of the sidewalk.

At home, boiled water and grated ginger for tea as my coat dried.  And considered what a fortunate creature I am, to come home to hot radiators.