Proximity

Some places are close enough to walk. Others are a bus ride. Others are by car, and still others are only really feasible by plane or boat.

A year ago, I’d never been to Tost.  Now I’ve lost track.  I’ve been there with friends I had yet to really know, balancing cupcakes and decked in sequins.  I’ve been there to celebrate a new home with a friend who has since moved out of the neighborhood.  I’ve been there to dance and to drink and to listen to music.  I can’t say it’s always been amazing, but it’s always been its own sort of fun.  This is a place I can walk.

I’ve been thinking about proximity a lot, and today forced the concept of closeness into sharper focus.  Phone calls and vague information about family, and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be worried or if I’m supposed to be moving about the day to day as if nothing is happening (because, well, maybe nothing is.)

It is easy for me to pay attention to those around me.  I pay too much attention to those around me, and the friends and family who are a more than a bus ride away drift into the periphery.

I love this city. I love the way downtown looks in the mornings- fogged over or glinting or jagged and outlined by mountains.  I have met amazing people and made good friends.  But sometimes I want to go home, by which I mean, crawl into a space I know will not shift.  I no longer think this place exists. I have too many histories, too many versions of myself to combine to one perfect image, easily held.

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The Doppler Effect

I spill out of my doorway to frost covered lawns and the city shrouded in fog.  My breath billows in front of me and it is impossible to forget December has arrived.  School buses trundle down the street and a young boys wait at the corner as I pass, stamping their feet and jostling their backpacks.  My own bus stop is crowded with leaves but otherwise uninhabited.  I lean against the pole and wait, staring down the street.  As the bus pulls close I think for a moment it will continue past my body and vanish into the city without me, but the lights flash and it pulls to rest as it does each morning.  I climb the steps and settle into a seat as we lurch into the day.

Fog makes light indeterminate.  The ends of things disappear—I hold my coffee and watch the window as the suspended city slips past me, as the doors open and close with a rush of cold air.  I am beginning to know people along this route.  The man in beige overalls works at a produce factory south of Seattle, and we nod at each other each day without knowing names.  I find myself watching for him as the bus pulls to his stop—his coat flares as he walks and he wears a hat that reminds me of a Humphrey Bogart movie.  He seems out of place with this time; a man too large to fit into the modern narrative of web designers and Bluetooth headsets.  I am on the bus when he gets on, I remain when his stop comes and goes.  I must seem a constant fixture and I wonder what narrative he has constructed for my life or if I am simply the Girl on The Bus and exist only in this capacity.

The bus drivers, too, are familiar.  We exchange pleasantries and sometimes continue conversations over a few days. A bit colder today. How were your holidays? Have a good night, thanks. I don’t know their names either, just their faces.  The girl with dark hair and narrow features who drives on Sunday nights.  The man with two kids and a knit hat from Saturday morning.  The older man with glasses, often weekdays and Sunday morning.  If we were to see each other in another place, our memories would tug but we would be past before realizing why.  We exist together only here, between places.  In transition.

This city is a place described best by circumnavigation.  I take the long way to my destination without intention; I head north to go south, I circle back towards my home to leave it.  This system doesn’t make sense.  My map of the city is full of gaps and holes.  I identify an entire neighborhood with one house and a stretch of beach.  I fill others with backyards and porches, wine glasses and coffee cups.  Seattle is strung together with where I have cooked dinners and where I have danced to music that rang in my ears for hours afterwards.

As the sun finally breaks through the massive glass windows at work, I realize I have been in Seattle long enough to accumulate memories of people who have merely paused here before continuing on.  There is the poet who now lives in New York, the potter who moved somewhere near Virginia.  The dear friend who drove his van to Portland and sold it instead of returning.  This is no longer their place, but it remains mine.  The sun lattices shadows on the carpet and I remember this kind of light last year, the kind that unfolds.  How different everything felt then, but here it is once more—early winter.

Anne Carson, in The Glass Essay, writes “Perhaps the hardest thing about losing a lover is/to watch the year repeat its days….. I can feel that other day running underneath this one/like an old videotape.”  I understand this concurrence, and I find myself wanting to quantify; to measure the blue shift of bodies as they move towards my own without accounting for the opposite movement, the way a body becomes redder until it has sped away entirely.  I want to record the present and ignore the undercurrent of the past but that isn’t the sort of person I am.  These days even California is tinged with the pleasant scent of orange groves and the soft blue night skies.  It is easy to forget the desperation I felt there, how I longed to be somewhere cold could set in and burrow beneath doorways instead of a place coated by dust and wind.

It is dusk for only moments before evening steals in beneath the clouds.  The overhead flood lights turn on and around me planes glint.  The few families are buttoning up their coats and getting ready to head home. I would like to end this with a conclusive statement, but I have nothing conclusive to say.  This is my home and it isn’t.  The moon, just past full, will emerge like a coin made of bone.  It will ride above me whether or not I point it to out anyone.  This city will map and remap itself, transparencies made of faces and names and kitchens, until it becomes too large to describe in simple terms.  Already I can feel the layers building, and that will have to be enough.

Communities

I am in love.

Let me clarify.  Sir Oliver Lodge and John Tyndall are men I continue to return to, continue to be fascinated with.  Thanks to a delay at work, I have had several hours to return to a book (haphazardly and luckily thrown in my bag this morning) about the life of Lodge. 

Reading biographies always makes me re-evaluate my own life.  I’d never heard of Lodge before I began this strange pursuit of ether science.   Now I find myself reading about his life and feeling like I stumble into old friends.  

Because I have the time, here is my history with Lodge:

I stumbled on Sir Walter Rayleigh’s scattering principle while looking for a way to structure my thesis.  He charted observations of the blue sky, and the resulting image looked like the graceful arc of iris petals.  I wanted to understand why, and so I began to look into refraction and reflection, which led me to John Tyndall.  Within his transcriptions from his light lectures Tyndall talked about the humours of the eye (poem inspired is available upon request) and the ether of the sky.  As anyone who has accidently asked me what I’ve been working on can attest, I haven’t been the same since.  I know more about ether than anyone ought to–and I’m beginning to move into dark matter.  But that’s another topic.

In reading (and reading and reading) about ether, I continue to run into the same names.  This isn’t strange, but what does strike me is how often I run into the same names in different contexts.  A few weeks ago my cousin gave us tickets to Bone Portraits, a play about Edison and X-Rays.  Roentgen was one of the characters, and in reading about Lodge today, there was Roentgen.  Lodge worked with telegraphy at the same time as Marconi, but I would hazard a guess that more people would recognize the Italian.  He corresponded with J. J. Thompson (later Lord Kelvin) and had dinners with H. G. Wells.  Men whose names I remember from science class years ago inhabit these pages, but I can’t remember hearing about Lodge before two years ago.  He seems to be relegated to the “and others” part of most descriptions. 

Who will be the names remembered from the communities (scientists, artists, musicians) now, and who will become “and others”? It is an exercise in futility to project into the future who will be remembered from the past.  Creating is always an attempt at immortality, and some will succeed.  I want to say that Lodge failed, but even that isn’t really true.  I know about him now, and so do you.  Ask me about his theories and his life, and I will tell you more.  This is what I do for love.