August 6, 2009 § 1 Comment
Grand Canyon, 1979
I’m imagining red arches of stone; the desert at night, cactus and stars; huge trees covered in vines and moss, the air thick with greeny-gold light. I’ve been looking at pictures of National Parks and wondering, for the 10,000th time, why I’ve haven’t been to one since Charles and I stopped with our cat Lucian at the Grand Canyon on our way to California.
There’s always a reason. In past years, the reasons were better: I had a country house to go to. A little, moth-breeding, mouse-occupied wood and stone house that wouldn’t let go in the summer, especially once I started gardening. If I still had that house, last night’s moon would have been close enough to climb to on a ladder, as in the wonderful story by Italo Calvino in Cosmicomics. I would sit in the kitchen doorway watching the parade of animals eating my lumpy yard, my own private Africa, and talking to the snake that lived under the doorstep and liked to pop its head up in the morning to say hello. I would make mint tea with my own mint and climb up the mountain to pick blueberries. (Okay, maybe drive up the mountain. You had to drive to get where the blueberries were. But I’d clamber over the big, uneven stones.)
This year there’s no house: the reason is money. I have to finish the novel, try to sell it, make a last, desperate attempt to stay in New York. If I fail and have to move to Florida, there will be many compensations, like being part of a couple again, swimming in a warm ocean, and maybe having time and money for car trips and camping. Plus Charles would get to be with Mouchette, for whom he feels a tragic, romantic love (at least that’s what he said in an email to Fitzroy). The cats would be happier in Florida. They could go outside, hang with the neighborhood cats (lots of them) and chase geckos. What’s not to like?
I love New York too much. So does Charles—he doesn’t want us to lose our grip on it, this rent-regulated apartment that once gone will be gone forever, like the country house. No living in Greenwich Village after that. I’d miss the museums, theater, restaurants, people, one in particular; and I’d miss walking around the city, especially my patch of it—from Soho to Chelsea, from the Hudson to the Tompkins Square Park.
But the city is not at its best in August. I feel cramped in my little apartment, and the cats are always watching me. When I think of the rest of my life, the pleasures that beckon are reading and nature. Passion—passion’s hard. It’s eaten holes in my brain. (It’s possible dementia did that, but passion and dementia are second cousins.) I’m even a little afraid of friendship. The idea of everyone I love getting inexorably older scares me. Getting older myself is no picnic either.
But arches of red stone. The desert at night, cactus and stars. They’re old already, vastly old, and still here and beautiful. And fireflies, moths, the moon, rabbits. Poetry.
A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts
The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur—
There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.
To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten in the moon;
And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light,
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;
Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter. The grass is full
And full of yourself. The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,
You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,
You are humped higher and higher, black as stone—
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.