Monday, April 13, 2009

The Cloud of Unknowing

I love David Garland. When I lived in Brooklyn, I used to listen to Evening Music every night on WNYC. Now he's on only on the weekends, and I rarely get to hear him.

I delight in the music he chooses, and I always learn something from what he has to say about musicians and compositions. I don't mean I learn facts, I mean I learn about the poetry of music.

I have zero musical training, so I have depended on other people to introduce me to music through their own eclectic tastes and spotty knowledge. If David Garland's playlists are any indication, his taste and sensibility match mine. Since I have so much to learn about music, that connection is a mysterious and precious gift.

Last night I got an e-mail from someone I've been concerned about. His surprising and touching note relieved me.

And lifted me.

I needed to walk around to think. I went downstairs, turned on the radio.

David Garland was interviewing James Blackshaw for his Sunday show, Spinning on Air. As they talked, I peeled cold, wet globs of clothes from the walls of the washing machine, shook them out, and dropped them into to the dryer. I've never heard of James Blackshaw. If I had known about him, though, I would have chosen his 12-string-guitar ragas (don't even know if that's what they are) to articulate how I was feeling.

Someday I'll learn how to upload music, but not today. For now, listen to the show or go to Blackshaw's MySpace page and click on the second song, called "The Cloud of Unknowing." They deserve the hits to their web pages.

"So beautiful," David Garland said on my behalf. "Just the sort of sound I was looking for."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Traumas Happen


I vividly remember when a dog on our street got hit by a car. A little brown dog. The car ripped a patch of fur off its back, and the dog was running around crazed and people were trying to catch it. Of course the dog ran away from the people, ran under parked cars, ironically enough, to get away from them.

I remember a red pulpy stripe of exposed flesh along its back, although I can't say for sure if I actually saw that or if I imagined it after overhearing people talk about the dog. I was maybe four or five, and I was quickly herded into the house, away from the scene of the trauma, which I really wanted to see. Whether I ever saw it or not, I see it now.


Last night the kids saw a bunny get hit by a car. They didn't see the actual moment of impact, they saw the bunny flopping around underneath a parked car across the street. They ran outside to get a closer look, of course. I had no idea what was happening until my advice was sought for what to do about a bunny that had gotten hit by a car. 

Was it dead? 

No. It was flopping around under a parked car. 

I thought: Little brown dog.

I saw the kids outside staring at the bunny under the car.

I thought: Get the kids into the house. Are you guys crazy? Do you really want them to see a bloody dead rabbit tonight?

No one but me had considered the kids should be herded into the house. The two other adults present were like kids themselves, waiting to see if the bunny was going to hop away. Or die. But they didn't think beyond that moment of possibility.


When I was in first grade, our black cocker spaniel, Pepper, got hit by a car. My sister was taking him for his last walk of the night, and he ran into the street after a jogger. He survived, with a collapsed lung. I can't remember who took the dog to the vet or who put me to bed that night.

At school the next day I wrote about the accident for my daily writing exercise, and I illustrated my story with a picture of Pepper in the backyard. He looked happy, sitting on a low horizon line of crayon-green grass, a bushy green tree next to him. My teacher called me to her desk after school. She wanted to talk to me about my dog, make sure I was okay. To me, it was a completely unexpected and extraordinary event. Being asked how I felt about something. I still have my drawing. Somewhere in storage.


Last night, R drove the limp unconscious bunny to an emergency vet, but by the time the vet picked it up out of the cardboard box, rigor mortis had set in. It's such a tiny animal. Never had a chance against a car. No blood, but I'd noticed fur all over the street after the parked car drove away. Like the fur cats release when they are at the vet, scared. I wondered if the bunny had released its fur in fear like a cat. There was too much of it and too spread around to be just from the impact, I thought.

The babysitter and I calmly fed the kids dinner while R was at the vet. Baked ziti and garlic bread. Something they would definitely eat. I thought about the futility of trying to save a bunny. The kids debated whether the bunny was alive or dead. One thought it was dead. One thought it was still alive.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Today the 3-year-old said to me, "Can you guys stop talking, please, I'm trying to do something here."

She was seated at the computer with her back to us, and she made the request without turning her head or taking her eyes off Clifford the Dog and friends.

We fell silent.

She clicked the mouse.

I think I've created a monster and she's not even mine. And yet, that's definitely my sentence structure.