The Blue Raccoon

Monday, January 16, 2006


Cats Eat The Birds And Cyclones Eat The Cities

Today I uncovered a series of epigrams I'd burrowed out of various novels in my undergraduate years. I'd paperclipped them to the front pages of my successive journals to see if I still attached truth to the stentiments expressed by these wise, typed words. I'd taken the cards to work for some reason some time ago. If you run your hand down the face of the thick paper you can feel the impressions left by striking machine keys. This is a sensation in these online days that we don't feel much of.

The quote I'm interested in here is by the late great John Gardner, of whom little is said much of today, as he wrote a series of large, word drunk books that required thought. He also rewrote Beowulf from Grendel's perspective, among other efforts. This is from his epic, The Sunlight Dialogues, about a hippie prophet who causes a ruckus in Batavia, New York.



"Nothing prospers but the soul. The universe is a great machine gun and all things physical are riddled sooner or later with bleeding holes. You're bombarded with atoms, colors, smells, textures; torn apart by ancient ideas, appeals for compassion; you twist, writhe, try to make sense of things, you force your riddled world into order, but it collapses, riddled as fast as you build, and you build it all over again. You put up bird-houses and cities, for instance, but cats eat the birds and cyclones eat the cities, and nothing is left by the fruitless searching, which is otherwise called the soul."


And that's it, for me. This is life. We live in a universe where 90 percent of what is is dark matter, the remainder is what we've evolved enough to see. Here, we are urged to choose one religion over another, one politics over another, and indigent people on the street ask if we have any change. But what does it matter? Katrina devastates New Orleans, and other storms will slam into cities, and eventually, there'll be the Big One and it'll erupt and everything will slip beneath the waves.

Yet, we are here.

Here I am. In my Richmond house and my partner-in-art wife is working in Paris and she's left me with two squabbling cats, one, Miro┬┤ who is the eldest, a perpetually annoyed Siamese brought up from Mississippi some 10 years ago, and the bushy-tailed youngster, Flannery, who joined us about six months ago, also from Mississippi. Her knees are textured and colored like grey striped flannel, thus, she was named for Flannery O' Connor. And the elder destests the younger's presence. I must keep Flannery locked on the side porch Florida room with her food and water, but she leaps against the door, and if it is left unlocked, she pops the latch and leaps out, stunning the older Miro┬┤.

When Amie and I are here together, both cats sleep on our bed. By myself, they fight and won't be still. Amie e-mailed me instructions about bringing Flannery in and shoving her under the covers first and building a wall of pillows, which sounds complicated except she accomplished this at night before I came to bed, and made it all look easy, and furthermore, kept the cats at peace.

It's going to be a long winter.

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