Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hawk and Cat

Yesterday, I was looking out my back window and heard a rush of wings. Next, a cat, nicely striped with a white bib of fur, jumped six feet straight up, grabbed the top of the wooden fence, and clambered onto it. Then, the hawk stooped on the cat but didn’t quite get his talons into her fur. She skittered along the top of the fence under some hanging fronds of wisteria, ducking her attacker. The hawk was not ready to give up, though. With another audible wing beat, the hawk swooped again, brushing aside wisteria, but missing the cat a second time. The cat had jumped down on the other side of the fence. On the way dodging the hawk, the cat paused to give me what sure looked like a conspiratorial grin. I am perfectly well aware that ethologists caution us against anthropomorphizing animals so I shouldn’t say she gave me a “conspiratorial grin.” Sorry, that’s what it looked like. Why else would she pause to look my way when a hawk was swooping over her? I can’t think of another excuse for it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wisdom from Jennifer Lynch and Mary Oliver

A new movie directed by Jennifer Lynch, “Surveillance,” is coming out this week. Her last film was, as they say, “a disappointment.” It was released when she was 24; now she’s 40. In an interview by Dennis Lim in the LAT on May 22, she said, “If there’s one gift I’ve been given from both my parents…it’s the idea that you make the work you want to make—the joy is in the making. Once it’s done, you let it go, and you move on.” I like the idea of the joy in the making process; it’s similar to writing where the vision and the attempt to capture it in words, either on the first try or through re-visioning it, is where the joy lies. The submission/rejection dance is the diffucult part. For the joyful experiences to continue, getting the writing published is important. I read Red Bird, a book of poetry by Mary Oliver, over the weekend. I’m not sure she struggles any longer to get her work published, now that she’s a well known poet. But if she does, I am profoundly thankful that she persists. Such a connection to natural beauty threatened, to the wisdom of nature, to people’s halting efforts to find joy in each other, is (as Master Card would say) priceless.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Following the Wandering Virginia Woolf

I just reread “A Room of One’s Own” and marveled anew at the way it feels. I have a friend whose brilliant mind skips and skitters about just like Woolf depicts here, captures for us to admire. I never know where our conversations will jump to next, and that’s what reading this essay is like. But of course, having read it before, I never had that impatience that I sometimes get with my friend, imagining there isn’t really a destination. For both Woolf and my friend, there is. The tour around Robin Hood’s barn is the best route there. You accumulate the same moss on the initial ideas that the author/friend has accumulated, and rejoice with her at your joint arrival at the final destination. You carry along the same rejection at the Bodleian Library, the same admiration of threepenny press writers who put food on their tables when women were just beginning to write for money. As a scientist, I have a problem with discursive approaches to meaning. All of my training insists that the simplest path is the most elegant, the most desirable. But now that I’m getting to the age of sage-ing, I can admit it. The wandering way can be even better.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Long, Slow Wave

A long, slow wave rolling in: does it matter if it’s in Newport or Capitola? Actually, yes, it matters a lot. My favorite spot in Newport is the back bay, where the tide rolls in with tiny wavelets, filling the muddy flats with shining blue sheets reflecting the sky, waking up the snails and the crabs, and exciting the prancing snowy egrets and the stalking avocets. In Capitola, it’s a big crest, out beyond the kelp beds, swelling above them and then beginning to break in a nicely shaped curl. Hundreds of seagull scream and circle into a thermal updraft. The wave entices the black-suited surfers to jump aboard and show their acrobatic switches and flips in and out of the breaking edge. Watching water is the only common thread.