We’ve got a white sky here, no snow on the ground, but the air so cold the leaves all look ashen green which somehow comes off looking like another shade of sky-white. A silver shade of jade.
This great earth is going to roll from this end of March to the other and the sky is going to wisp into blue and the sun is going to start batting us around her bright spots. I am a purveyor of fine doubt but this I can guarantee you.
Things are going going going here and that is good. If you’ve been following this blog a while you know that I wrote something here about suicide – an argument against it – which was picked up and published a bunch of other places, even in a print version in the Boston Globe. I’ve also mentioned, since then, that I was hoping to write a book about it. I think I’ve had the title for a few years now. It’s Stay. Now I have a subtitle too, so it goes: Stay: A History of Suicide and a Philosophy Against it.
Anyway the incredibly great news is that I found a wonderful publisher for the book, Yale University Press. And it is the trade division, which means the more popular less academic offices. Which is perfect. So I’ve been writing it. And that is great too, though hard of course, because everything is, especially big things, which a book, almost by definition is. (that’s what she said) The manuscript is due August 2012. Then almost a month later I was given the extremely wonderful news that Copper Canyon is going to come out with my new poetry book, Who Said.
These are two insanely good pieces of news which I’ve been meaning to tell you for about a month now. The truth is I’d been having quite a long dry season at the job of selling book proposals and the economy being what it has been these last few years I had just been feeling so low about it all that when the good news started coming I couldn’t react to it very fast. Part of me was elated, but a large monkey part of my heart and mind were left behind for quite some time. So I’m announcing my news here as if it just happened, because for the part of me that can write to you about it, it did.
Speaking of monkeys, they’ve closed the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo. I’m feeling kind of special because I was one of the last people in it, sort of. They just closed it Monday, and I and my little family just happened to visit it last Wednesday. Zoos used to arrange themselves by animal type – the big cat pavilion, for instance, or the bear house – but while that offered a kind of taxonomic lesson, it was better for the animals to be in environments that matched the ones they came from, and it was better for people to learn how animals actually live rather than just how to draw a chart of them. Now instead of the Monkey House you have areas like Madagascar and the Congo. Which are great.
Still if you’re around my age you’ll notice that by now the number of things that have gotten rewritten is hitting new highs. In one of the great magic tricks of all time, regard the brontosaurus, so small at either end, as Monty Python pointed out, so very large in the middle. But really consider its solitary gigantic beauty in all its graceful grey goodness, smell the hide of the boundless beast, marvel at her shoe size, a foot print like a goddess, or a tree stump, and once you can feel the breath of her as she snoops her huge skull into your airspace so that eyes the size of hubcaps can take you in, once you really have her in your sights, witness but she is gone. Science.
Think also what became of Pluto. Now Mary’s Velvet Eyes Keep John Up Nights, yes, but we don’t know what kind of punctuation to use. Is it is question? For all we know it is a question. It is not a question. Period.
Equally marvelous is that when I was a child it seemed half “the free world” was tempted by the idea of bombing Russia right off Europe’s flank. Seriously, millions of people considered that if we just rid ourselves of these demonic slavs peace would reign for all time. It’s hard to know how things are going to look.
I remember reading Welcome to the Monkey House probably earlier than I should have and without question it was my gateway to everything from Emily Dickinson to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. You know a book that greets you like a friend will age, but you don’t expect its titular subject to be retired. Welcome to the Madagascar Area doesn’t have the same awful ring.
Anyway, that’s what I came to say to you today. Cherish your monkey house. Cherish it while you have it. Cherish it when it is gone. It was beautiful to see the box of monkey house and its box rooms of monkey after monkey, clambering and having a look at us. Knowing we are fleeting visitors. It was dim in there, like the monkeys like it, including me.
It was my husband’s idea to go to the zoo. I try to agree to all adventures because my own inclination is to stay home and work, and it takes effort to not work, I’m efforting every day, like a war, as I mentioned in my previous post, to not put myself through the stress of so much work but rather to put myself through the stress of learning to be comfortable unstressed. So I went to the zoo instead of working that day. And now I have a memory of something I’ve seen a bunch of times in my life (I’m from around here) but this time with my two little kids and my husband and the four of us looking in at the wise guys on the other side. And it was dim, like I said, easy to lose a kid, sure, but also easy on the eyes.
It looks like we are all going to have to keep showing up for things because they close them down and you want to get a little for yourself on the way out. Or maybe that’s not my message at all. Maybe instead I want to ask all of us to have the strength to peek under the surface of things just like all the new zoo exhibits try to help us do. There is something worth looking twice at in every day. Someone should make a note of it! I kid. I just want to say I wish I could stay enthralled like I am right now, writing to you. I wish I could stay on top of all this wanting and waiting and feel the emergency of connection like I do, with you, right now, but I know I have to go back to my life now wherein I sometimes feel this white winter sky and nothing else.
But we’ll be okay if we go to the adventure or if we stay home. We just have to try to keep changing and at the same time, try to get used to ourselves. We keep up the existential zoo for each other and I’m writing to you because I need you to keep up the existential zoo for me too. Have faith in your future self to know something that you don’t know, something that makes this whole brontosaurus okay. Keep trying. Snake it til you bake it. Don’t kill yourself, and I shall return to encourage you again.