Lately I’ve been reading:
–Q&A with Lynda Barry. Because it hits the high points of the talk she gave at the Cusp conference, where she was so fun that I forgot to take, I don’t know, notes.
–Fruitslinger. Because it’s apple season.
Recently I acknowledged my inner grouch. Like at an AA meeting or something. Hi. I’m Lindsay. And this is my grouch. And then I guess if there’d been some kind of meeting (metal folding chairs, weak Maxwell House in styrofoam cups?) I could’ve stood up and said in one breath (because who wants to admit these things) that: It’s hard to realize when you’ve been a grouch for like three weeks and didn’t realize it and thought you were just busy and thought the world should pretty much be ok with the grouch because HEY you’re getting stuff done.
She did not care for children’s books in which the children grew up, as what ‘growing up’ entailed (in life as in books) was a swift and inexplicable dwindling of character; out of a clear blue sky the heroes and heroines abandoned their adventures some dull sweetheart, got married and had families, and generally started acting like a bunch of cows.
— Donna Tartt, The Little Friend
Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the Cusp Conference, held at the MCA here in Chicago. Got a whole lot of good inspiration, the kind that wipes clean the mental whiteboard and redraws a whole new way of thinking.
I’ve been angry lately. Not at any one particular person. Just in general. I haven’t been really, truly, genuinely angry since I was a public school teacher. It’s that frustrated anger, the kind where you can’t really stop yourself from saying something too snipey but it comes out anyways. That anger where it’s like you’re just on the edge, and any one thing could knock it over, a flower pot balanced on a windowsill and there’s a game of baseball down below.
The quick tour of Caitlin’s new apartment suddenly went awry: When we walked into the living room, there it was, something flying, something — a giant moth? A bird? A crazy tiny bird? A humming bird, buzzing against the ceiling, and shooting along it from one side of the room to the other.
Neither of us had a plan beyond: get a broom. (That’s my default plan whenever there’s a critter — mouse, bat, etc.) Caitlin found me a broom; she wielded a string mop. Back in the living room, we swatted near it with our respective cleaning implements, like we could encourage it to fly the opposite direction. Turns out, it could be herded, but not controlled… it would fly away from the broom only to dart around it — screw you, humans! Whirrr, whirrr, whirrrrr… finally in a stroke of insane luck, it stopped flying and landed on the bristles of the broom, just for a moment, before taking off again. We knew what we had to do.
We spent the next hour trying to get the bird to land again on the broom long enough to slide it out the open window, the way you’d slide a pizza into an oven on those long paddles. When it landed, I held my breath and began lowering it slowly, the slowest I’ve ever moved, so slow that it was hard not to laugh at the sky-high tension. But it worked, and in went the bird, through the open window. Problematically, the living room opened not to the outside but to an enclosed sunroom, with its own set of windows. And so, hour two was spent in the sunroom, with a mop and a broom, with our silent pleas and louder running commentary: Come on, just trust us! Let’s go! Slow down, out the window, please little bird we don’t want to hurt you!
(Not that I could have really hurt its tiny whirring frame, no way. I can barely kill a roach let alone a hummingbird.)
We had many, many false starts. It landed on the broom only to take flight a moment later — screw you, humans! I could feel our energy flagging. How much longer? All day? We had stuff to do, places to be! Finally it landed on the bristles of the broom, so light that I couldn’t feel its weight at all. I slowly lowered the broom, smooth as I could, and found the beginning of a forgotten prayer float to the top of my brain. Our father who art…
The bird stayed long enough on the slow-moving broom that it reached the open part of the window, and phfoom! It was gone.
After I said goodbye to Caitlin, I drove home and started to think about how scared the bird must have been. How impossible an exit must have seemed. I could relate. We are all stuck in our strange enclosed rooms, flying at the wrong places, frantic and darting around. Relax. Land on the broom. The open window is right there.
Previously, in surreal bird news:
The days have flown by as the days do when summer is slowly but swiftly sliding away, an egg from a hot frying pan ready to hit the plate, and I’ve shaken the sand from the toes of each sneaker and have gone hunting for that jacket. where is that jacket; this is just the morning chill but soon it will be an all-day chill and tempers will burn like candles trying to take the edge off the cold. But for now I’m off to Michigan for the woods and the stars, and we’ll see what happens on the other side of this one.