Of my two grandmothers, one was a white Southern confederate racist. I feel all sorts of ways for her. I loved her. Family, I can’t not. But love is huge and fractious. It’s not just the warm fuzzy. There’s ruthless compassion in love, as well. And love that doesn’t stand up to truth is not love. My recognition of my grandmother’s deep racism changes the love the I feel. Her racism doesn’t erase all the kindness she showed me, but it does soil it. There is no heritage there that I must value, even if I have kept and use all her doll making patterns. And you know I will make dolls she would not approve of.
My other grandmother was born the same year, 1910, in the the same South. I once found Malcolm X’s biography in her purse. She told me that “he went through a lot and had a lot of good thing to say”. She voted for Jesse Jackson twice, once even going, on her own, to a rally of his in Oakland when she was visiting from Texas. My love for her is a lot less fractious and a lot more inspiring. I find myself wanting to do a lot more than just sew like she did.
There are all sorts of symptoms of autism – various language processing and production difficulties, coordination and executive function problems, social performance issues – that get medicalized as constant state experiences. Some symptoms can certainly be constant. Some autistic people have always and will always have trouble with vocal speech, for instance. But if you read the literature, you might come away with the idea that an autistic individual either has apraxia or doesn’t. That is, if they can speak here and now, they can simply speak.
But the experience of autism is also one that changes depending on many environmental and social cues. It changes depending on whether we are tired, or hungry, whether our clothes itch a bit or there’s too much noise. We may find our ability to talk suddenly taken away by someone’s comment. We may not even realize at first that our voices are gone as we try to formulate a response, noticing it’s taking a bit longer for the words to appear before trying to speak and finding our brains can’t find our mouths. The muscles of the tongue and the vocal chords don’t seem to be able to coordinate their efforts. And as we notice this, we may forget what the words we were even planning to day. The ideas that fill our brains, based suddenly on every sound and touch connected with multiple strands of memory and just remembered dreams, do that strange thing where they all arrange in impossibly beautiful patterns and our hearts break to think we even tried to route their infinity into neatly delineated boxes of words.
And in the next moment, the topic has changed, and we may find that we can speak again, with only a small slip of the social mask as any indication of what had occurred.
This morning as I woke up, Pidget jumped onto the bed the way she used to. She stood with her front paws on the near wall’s chair railing, and looked back over her shoulder at me with a combination of pet me and get up. Both right now, because she can’t decide if she wants my love in the form of scritches or food. Wants both. Wants my love.
I am so overjoyed to see her here. She hasn’t been in to get me up for months, but this morning, unexpected, she is feeling good enough to jump onto my raised high mattress. She is here in this world to assert herself. And I am fillled with the need to see this image again. I shove aside my urge for camera and give my eyes a moment to soak in all the light rays that show her next to me.
I run my fingers down her back and feel the vertebrae. I can sense the tumor in her lungs pressing against her ribs. And also, the infinite softness of her cheek fur as she presses against my fingertips purring purring.
She gives me a sharp meow. Breakfast is overdue. She leaps down, breathing quick, and I follow.
I’ve stumbled across the word “landscape” three times in the last 24 hours. Being a synchronicity expert, I immediately noticed the red flag this trifold occurrence had planted in my awareness.
1) In this review of The Secret Life of Words by Henry Hitchings, Ben Yagoda mentions in passing that the word “landscape” was one of a number of words borrowed in the 17th century from the Dutch by English admirers of artists such as Brueghel and Rembrandt. (One can also reasonably infer that “etch-a-sketch” is ultimately traceable to this very same period.)
2) I ran across an online copy of Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese and found that it had not been overplayed. It made me cry again. One of the lines that caught my eye this time was:
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes
The use of the plural made me think that a landscape is really the conjunction of a natural (or not) place and a viewer. Any place (and for some reason when I get to this point in Wild Geese I always imagine the badlands of South Dakota ) can hold within itself an infinity of landscapes. And because a landscape includes a particular vantage point, it necessarily separates us. We each see a slightly different landscape even though we are standing right next to each other. Landscapes exist because we are separate and sharing a world at the same time.
3) And finally, I found the word (landscape) in a John Ashbery poem, The Bungalows, in the provocative line:
the presumed landscape and the dream of home
Since I’ve only just read this Ashbery poem (and his poems require several readings for you to fully realize how much you don’t know what they mean) I’ll only point to the imagery of architecture in the landscape and the repeated juxtaposition of past and future, young and old, and the meaninglessness of staying still. The movement necessary for meaning also makes meaning impossible. To view a landscape, one must remain still, freeze the point of view in a frame. When you move (live) you become part of the landscape viewed by someone else (g*d?).
Direct the eye and see more with each moment, listen and hear a multitude of unnamed birds calling for an introduction.