Saturday, June 25, 2005

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I'm at a conference this week ... getting yammered at 12 hours a day by young turks and titans from Harvard Medical School... I'd rather be amidst these round meadow things's at a hotel in Cambridge right nest to the Charles River, though, so I do get to get my riverrine fix for a few moments a day...

I even saw cinquefoil and indigobush growing out of the river's concrete embankment wall by the yacht club...

must fly !

Saturday, June 11, 2005


I was sitting in the periodontist's chair, being interrogated by her assistant. It was part of Tooth #12's Big Adventure, the chapter entitled Exploring The Pockets Of Doom. I didn't mind it. It was just a consultation, and I am quite fond of Dr. B. who, nearly a decade ago, hacked away at a bit of gum near tooth #13, and yanked that quadrant's wisdom tooth. She's down to earth, smart and wickedly funny. If anyone is going to slash away at the contents of my aging oral cavity, it might as well be her. But let me set the record straight. I haven't agreed to anything yet.

Anyway, her cheerful assistant was running through the usual questions about heart murmurs and allergies and dental hygeine when she asked:

What kind of electric toothbrush do you use ?

I was silent. Pondering, in fact, what I felt was the question's rather astonishing assumption: that the norm was to use an electric toothbrush.

She read my silence correctly.

Oh, she said, barely able to conceal her shock and pity, trying to spare me severe dental humiliation. You use a ... manual ... toothbrush ?

The pause around "manual" made me think of someone holding their nose with one hand and, with the other, at arm's length, the decomposing carcass of a small rodent.

My husband uses an electric toothbrush. Religiously. Evangelically. He walks around as he uses it, up and down the hallway outside my study, as if to convert me by sterling example. I remain unconvinced.

I have to admit, it does sound a little like Tuvan throat singing -- a complex buzztone that changes pitch and resonance as the oral cavity changes size. That might be fun. For about a minute.

But has the world of dental hygeine technology bypassed me completely ? Does it count that my (manual) toothbrush has a strange, aerodynamic handle, like a sports car ? Does everybody but me use an electric toothbrush ? Am I that much of a dinosaur ?

Does it count that I can now answer Of course not ! to the two following luddite accusations ?

You still use a ... manual ... typewriter ?

You still use a ?

I even have a cell phone. I plan to start referring to it as a "mobile phone" so I will sound more continental. My mobile. Yes. That's got cachet. As opposed to an electric toothbrush. There's no cachet there. None at all. It's kinda oogy, in fact. On a par with electric nose hair trimmers.

Mobile toothbrush ? Wireless toothbrush ? Cellular toothbrush ? Wifi toothbrush ?

I once tried to ask my primary care dentist about electric toothbrushes. About whether they're better than ...manual...toothbrushes. She immediately tried to sell me one. A "sonic" electric toothbrush. (What, no laser brightening attachment ? No microwave plaque-busting nozzle ?) She even disparaged my husband's German brand of electric toothbrush, implying darkly that it would mangle his gums into a bloody pulp.

I changed the subject. I would brush. I would floss. I would be better about biannual cleanings.

I'll put "get and use electric toothbrush" on my techno to-do list. Way down the list, long after "replace the broken handle on the front passenger seat car window," and "install OS X on the Macintosh."

Maybe by then I can scratch it out and replace it with something easier -- "place glass of water on the nightstand where dentures can soak overnight."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

das Dasein ist Rund

Being is round says Gaston Bachelard,in The Poetics Of Space and everything round invites a caress.

The hand seems built to conform to roundness. We don't usually splint a finger popsicle-stick straight -- we immobilize it in the position of function -- the gentle arc it takes when at rest.

Consider the pleasure of holding a canteloupe or an apple. Consider how an infant's fuzzy skull with its dangerous fontanelle seems to invite the hand. Consider the rounded erotic surfaces of the body. Breast. Belly. Buttock. Balls. How well they all fit the hand ! All, oddly enough, begin with the bilobed letter "B".

Our sky gods -- the moon, the sun, the stars -- are round, and our feet walk the round earth.

We emerge from the embrace of a round place. Womb: even the word seems round. And the first objects our round eyes scan are round -- a breast, a parent's face.

The meadow flowers with roundness -- both empty

and full.

Bachelard, quoting Jules Michelet, notes a bird is almost completely spherical.

God, it is said, is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

My son, when he was quite young, synthesized those two propositions and said:

Everybody thinks God is a bird.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Being Where

When I looked out at the flat, brown, dormant, leaf-strewn meadow at the end of winter I wondered how any green growing thing could upthrust through the dense layers of decaying vegetation. Of course, I needn't have. The meadow's waist high, now. Walking through it is more like wading. I can dive below the surface and cruise with the insects among the green undersides of things --

discovering, for example, the beautiful, flame-shaped, maroon-veined sheath from which clover emerges

or encountering a graceful daddy long legs

its eight limbs deftly seeking and finding purchase on leaves and stems.

Seeding and sprouting will have their way. This is not the only maple samara I've found caught waist-deep in a Japanese knotweed leaf, arrested as it dive-bombed earthward, hell-bent on planting itself.

The early grasses are flowering. Seedheads erupt from blade and sheath, then put out tiny, filamentous stamens and feathery pistils.

First come these tiny, delicate, waving parts; later comes the great, green, uprushing juggernaut.

It's all one big pregnancy,

from insemination to parturition.

Little wonder, then, that this blogger -- one tiny voice in the massive, roiling, babbling, bloggy chorus -- should feel a kindred restlessness, a kindred drive to make and remake her bloggy meadow, hoping all the while she'll be forgiven her shameless straining after botanical metaphor.

As Chance the Gardener would say, cutting back the field allows new growth. Or burning (sounds about right for Affiction), or even plowing under (there goes Anita, that old sod !)

There's plenty of room in one House of Toast for strained metaphors, weed photographs and certain observations (like this ladybug's uncanny resemblance to the Sacred Heart) --

-- that one might even call transcendental.