Toward evening I retire to the yard and sit beside a fire. The fire brightens as the sky darkens. Crickets and cicadas trade rhythms. Beside them ride the sonic traces of cars along the nearby autobahn. From the sky above comes and goes the sound of a helicopter. Sarah and I burn dry branches of rosemary. As night falls, I pull my chair closer to the fire and admire its warmth. The heat relaxes me. Afterwards I sit beside Frankie as she plays at her music table in the living room, awake a bit past her bedtime.
Either I’m noting and observing happenings and surroundings, exercising awareness, asking questions, entertaining thoughts — or what? Gardening, cooking, napping, hugging my daughter, texting with friends, reading, traveling, collaborating and conversing with others. The work of each day is to write and do all of the above. According to Black Herman, though, or the Black Herman who appears in Ishmael Reed’s novel Mumbo Jumbo, “Doing The Work is not like taking inventory” (130). To PaPa LaBas, he says, “You ought to relax. […]. Improvise some. Open up, PaPa. Stretch on out with It” (130). Perhaps I should heed his advice.
I relax my thoughts and lean back. A large bumblebee draws circles in the sky: hints of other suns, other worlds. Leaves flutter in the wind.
The occupant returns from work, sets down bags, books, papers, markers, pens, receipts, loose change, settles back into experience of itself as a person, puts on its head, sighs, stretches its limbs, sings to itself, stimulates its accessory nerve, or what it imagines to be its accessory nerve, some nameless patch of being, some spatiotemporal pattern that when massaged releases tension from the trapezius. Conditions met, the person arrives into the dream state. A towhee sings to us — you and I — while perched on a branch of wisteria. We lower our eyes toward the street, whereupon we spy a plump little robin. Satisfied by our attention, the robin flutters its wings and bathes in a puddle of rain. “We’re never going to bed again!” shout the children as they assume collective control of their homes. What “school” might have to do with this, I can’t say.
I think my talents are being wasted on tasks to which I’m ill-suited. Trigger mechanisms release pent-up energy. I stress constantly about work and finances. “One misstep and game over,” I tell myself. But then I smoke and walk through my neighborhood and find joy amid simple things: birdsong, observation of budding trees, conversations with friends. “Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle,” Leary once said. “Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence.” People in my neighborhood are out relaxing on their porches, their time late in the afternoon and early in the evening theirs to use as they please, not just as it pleases capital. As bad as it’s gotten, I can still glimpse seeds all around me, particularly on weekends, of futures worth fighting for: utopias robust enough to house gatherings and partings, innumerable adjacent paths of solitude and community.