thinking in cake-knife

The cats meowed me awake at 5:30 a.m. either to feed them, or to show me the Moon and Venus, riding high in the Eastern sky, ahead of the sun. Venus is impossibly bright.

I’m lucky they rustled me up to see the show, because just ten minutes later, here comes the sun.

moon and venus

Now at almost 6 am, the birds are starting to sing, I hear them open up like an aural carpet, sparkling the air. 

I imagine the vibrational texture of the air the moment before and the moments after the birds awoke, and everything went from stillish to sparkling. I imagine all of the bird-energy and sunrise sounds appearing as a graph, printing out of an old computer, or a lie detector.

Thanks to Facebook, just after I mentioned I was thinking about this, John Winter quoted me Wallace Stevens.

I do not know which to prefer, 
The beauty of inflections 
Or the beauty of innuendoes, 
The blackbird whistling 
Or just after.


I think of it all as sheet music, for an orchestra. Or as a colour scatter, on a canvas, or in a fabric of glass. Or a river, that’s sleepy for a while, and then gets rocky, and then smooths out again, but wider, and deeper.

First there would be a hum, a rustle, and then flutters as the birds do that bird thing and shake out their feathers to preen. As they get sorted, their heads make rapid, fluid, circular movements. Then they begin to chirp, and sing, and a great chorus rises, and then they all calm down to a steady state of twitchflutter, and then the city traffic starts to come in with a lot of bottom notes. Other humans wake, and do things.

I visualize the patterns, probably fractal. No bird is on program, but a fluctuating quorum of birds is always in sync with a greater harmony, things ebb and flow with night and day. I imagine this as a wave that moves across Terra with the light of the sun, ramping up and down.

As I open the screen door to go outside to the yard, I see a door-shaped wave, pushing air in front of it, moving into the tendrils of the vine, dissipating.

If I listen in cake-knife, it makes a smooth sweep in the cream, tapering with a scatter at the trellis. I lick the frosting from my mental finger.

If I listen in music, it is a soft slide and a scatter, in paint, a soft sweep. In ocean, it’s a wave, slapping softly against the pebbles at shore, and smoothing again on the sand. Our every movement ripples outward, changing everything.

I am distracted by everything I do notice, but more so by what I do not.

I feel I am only peering under the corners of things. I keep accidentally localizing, legalizing my viewpoint, my words betray me. To finish my project I have to keep a variety of perspectives in mind at all times; someone who knows nothing, and someone who sees a universe in every small choice, someone who can distill all of these ideas down into bites like Girl Scout cookies, those little lemon wedges. Sparkly on the mental tongue. I find it difficult, but chewy.

“The island of doubt-It’s like the taste of medicine.”  David Byrne, Crosseyed and Painless

I like thinking of the boundary layer, the point at which my opening of the door changes nothing. It feels like pulling upward and outward, to think that way. All disturbances are local, until they aren’t. We are able to make massive disturbances now as a species, it feels like only dumb luck that we haven’t stamped ourselves out yet.

On that theme, or partially, it will be fun to go and see Dave Grinspoon’s talk today- he’s in town to give a seminar at the Planetary Science Institute, my old stomping ground, and I think it’s going to be along the lines of his Sagan lecture on the Anthropocene, a talk I only heard, but did not see. You can hear it too, if you want, at this link. I like the introduction, maybe because Bill McKinnon wrote and delivered it.

Dave is one of my role models; we have similar approaches to life, love and consciousness, and we encourage each other. Last night, when I went over to say hi to him after he arrived in town, I said “I feel like a column of flesh, moving my project around with me, like I’m a host body” and he knew exactly what I meant, said, “Yeah, that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that.” And I felt absolved.

Although I am still lizard-poor, a very curious curve-billed thrasher is suddenly a feature in the yard. I adore those birds, and although they really do all look alike, this one stands out through personality.

Maybe this evening, there will be a starlit walk up Sabino Canyon.

7 thoughts on “thinking in cake-knife

  1. I love your writing, Kate, especially today. When I walk in my own garden, I see the energy of opening flowers and follow the tendrils of chaotic vines until my mind resolves that it is impossible for me to visualize all rogue tendrils twining at the same time. But, it might be possible another day.

    Your description of early morning avian yoga placed me in your B40 immediately. “…a fluctuating quorum of birds is always in sync with a greater harmony, things ebb and flow with night and day.” Stunning, just stunning.

  2. I will now call you the key woman as you are constantly helping me open those mind, feeling tasting, thinking etc. etc.etc. doors. I’m in need of another way to say thank you. Or is it implied? Ruth

  3. I read this post on my iPad at LAX while waiting for my red eye back to DC. As we were coming in to DC I looked out my window and low and behold – there was the crescent Moon and Venus.

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