Saturday, June 8, 2019

House rats

The night before last I found my package of English muffins on the floor, wondered if I'd knocked them down while washing dishes. This morning muffins (one fewer than before) were on the floor, still in their plastic bag, mostly eaten. Every night, the ceiling provides a cacophony of scuttling and squeaks. A larger animal was on the roof last evening over the fire stove; first thought, "earthquake."

"I omit the unusual--the hurricanes and earthquakes--and describe the common." Thoreau.

Thoreau asks why we have ever slandered "the outward." He refers to "the miracle" of perceiving surfaces "to a sane sense." The surface has little plot, little narrative arc, fails at story-making. Buddhist stories are about narrative failure; she imagined an outcome and it proved to be #fakenews. Yet the vehicle of the non-story has a plot, and we don't fail to believe the narrator.

Sounds: the apapane chitter; distant drone of an engine (small to my perspective on the porch); dogs; the goose down the road. The woman whose goose it is misunderstood my introduction of myself to be a request for trimmings. She was folded in on herself, garlanded in loose skin. Car on Haunani Road, through the forest behind the cottage.

I saw the survivalist with the HUNGRY DIESEL truck at the Volcano Store two days ago. "Trespassers will be shot; survivors will be shot again," read the sign that is no longer on his gate post. But a bright orange mesh now connects trees in front of his drive. Cache of toys scattered in front of his renovated shack. Two geese lie on the drive, eye to eye. He has out-sourced his attitude. Threw me side-eye as I looked at him.

"Rats climb trees, eat eggs, and prey on nestlings and adult birds. They are considered a leading cause of the accelerated decline and extirpation of endemic Hawaiian forest birds and a major factor limiting present populations of endangered birds."

What grounds us proves most fragile: the birds, the `ohia, the crumbling stairs to the old bathhouse, the weather, the crumbling soil, moss on lava rock.

And there is the orange cat from down the road, staring at my roof and me! I should invite him in, but he's wandered into the forest now, off the stage between dilapidated stairs. Cats kill rats and cats kill birds and rats kill birds. Which death dealer shall I favor?

There is no inward without outward (unless you're young). But the gap between them is like the gap between word-sound and word-meaning. Mind the gap.

"Like language, painting at first lives in the milieu of the exterior holy." Merleau-Ponty

Caroline and I talk about what to make of limited time: she counts to ten now, and I to 28. But the counting is prospect, an imagined space. Rats die in the spaces between walls, and then they stink. Bryant wants to avoid that. No poison, just traps and cones of shame around the wires that lead to the house. He thinks about emotions this way: given depression and confusion, how can we cut a path. A dog barks more loudly.

The first goose down the road barks. One of the old women wrote a letter to the editor to say she wants no visitors, no tourists, no one aside from the residents of Volcano. Stop advertising us, she insisted. "But you'd never find her," my friend said as we drove past.

"Try random things until they work."


Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of the World; Thoreau, Journals

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