The dog looks like a sheep, looks like a cow, looks like a pharaoh, we say. He flops over, flopped out on the floor. His toenails catch in the tangles of his ears. We sit and watch, too frozen to groom him, too frozen to take him outside. The stink of urine permeates the house but as long as we don’t go outside we can’t smell it. Features that are always present become undetectable. It’s easy to forget how easy it can be to get used to living in filthy, broken, spaces, paralyzed by ideas that are reactivated so frequently that they become invisible. Days and months can pass with nothing happening. It can take days to decide to do a simple task, say, mopping the kitchen floor, cutting the mats out of the dog’s hair, photographing an heirloom to sell on eBay, and in those days the simple task can take on incredible complexity, can become so difficult that it cannot even be attempted. When capable minds are left unchallenged, they invent challenges that do not exist. Jobs become intricate in ways that cannot be seen by others. The struggle seems pointless, and yet there is beauty even here, even in the messes we allow to accumulate around ourselves, the tangles, the piles of unanswered mail, the unfinished projects, the piss soaking into the carpet. How many hours have I sat with someone I loved who asked me what I was thinking and said nothing, nothing, while my heart said listen, listen. Listen to me not talking to you and you will know. Do not ask me to tell you. Then one day I woke up in a community where no one communicates, where we all ask on another “what do you want to do?” and answer “I don’t know; what do you want to do?” After so many rounds of this I really don’t know anymore, none of us do. It has become impossible to detect the feeling of wanting to do something, to untangle it from ideas about what the others might want us to do, from ideas about what they might really want to do themselves.
Thinking about deleting, about hiding, disconnecting, about starting over, the zeal to disappear. Tearing down all the pictures on the walls of my bedroom, after a teenaged argument, making it look as if no one lived there at all, as if by removing all traces of myself from the room in which I spent most of my time I could give myself the space I needed to overcome my limitations. The calm that comes after being ripped apart. Deleting writing, password-protecting, moving to secret spaces with smaller audiences because being seen was too terrifying even though being seen was the only thing I really wanted, if I could only erase the evidence I could start over, notebooks became ruined after a few pages, but I never really saw what it was I was throwing away, I saw a tiny fraction of it, the piece that offended or embarrassed one mind, and only much later would I regret the beauty I had tossed out with it, because the ugliness and the beauty are so intermingled that there is no way to separate them, there can be no filtering out. How many treasures I have thrown away because I could not accept that they were imperfect, and how many dangerous boulders I have let slide past me because I could see with another mind that jewels were imbedded in them. Luck is a product of being connected.
We have all these old photographs of an angel statue in a graveyard, taken by my father one night from every angle, at every distance, and so many years later I put them up on bulletin boards, I hide them in boxes of secret things that mean more to me than can be explained. They have meaning not because they are beautiful photographs, because they are not beautiful photographs, but because he was trying to capture an experience that was beautiful to him, a specific moment of finding this angel, hidden in a cemetery, and he was trying to share it with us, and you can see the dirt on the lens in the flash. And it seems so cliched, like such a joke, but that is what always happens when you try to save an image of a beautiful experience, and that is why I cannot stand to read my own writing, because I know what it is that it’s trying to capture, and it will never be that, and because it isn’t that, I can’t see what it is. So intensely do I long for the tender world that was lost that I fail to see the tender world that is.
Conversations have so much power, it seems like every word we say has the potential to cause so much change, and that alone is enough to terrify me into silence. Everything we do not say has an effect as well, and I find myself in situations where I expect others to understand an inner world I have never shared with them. But there are three bags of dog hair on the floor, there are sheets out drying in the rain. I bought another new notebook recently, and it’s summertime coming, the season of new ideas.