Deviant Destinations

Deviant Destinations

My tea is not hot.  That’s the start of a whiner’s haiku.  It brewed a noncommittal brew, the tempered jasmine flowers keeping their essence to themselves.  Fine. Outside, a steady rain falls, the kind that stops morning from mooring and makes you think, maybe, the world can be washed clean.  Feral pigs have left satisfying trails of poop around the property and the red pines redden as if being complimented by no one.  These are the things that precede the entry.

pendulum of possibility

Go forth and multiply, said the Lord (supposedly), bored of looking at the same limited amount of life.  O wait, I Take It Back!, the Lord objected to himself, as the planet swelled with creatures and episodes.  But alas, it sounded too much like a P.S.  Thus this writing, like the world, is crammed with forms that almost don’t fit.

This post is a blog-slog, deliberately ignorant of blog etiquette on timeliness, growing over the last few months as I was reintegrated from travels into the nest(s) of my family and friends.  In the content that follows, narrative time and chronological time are as unrelated as Applebees and Yellow Jackets: actual sequence is all confused.  Fine: linearity has always had boundary issues with Deviance.

Where in the world is the world?

Long Island, America: On the phone with my J, I walk in the haunted dunes, where the breeze exerts its pressure.  The humidity sits precariously atop the sand and sea, a barometric humpty-dumpty.  The white egret moves in the deep marsh grass as if it was auditioning for a part as an egret moving in deep marsh grass.  Either the grass is sublime or the egret is too careful about very basic things.  People would pay high sums to have teeth as white as that bird’s down.

J says: “What people say about the world being a tapestry, it’s not a metaphor!”

And I say: “I know—you can see it from space!”

From the airplane window: All these blobs draped over the spherical brow of the earth.

And it’s nothing like the map describes.

Sloppy Relativity Theory

Monserrat, Spain: the elevated monastery where Ignatius Loyola rested before undertaking some seriously spiritual exercise.  Initially, when you’re still feeling fresh and Christian, there are stairs that hug the mountainside on the way to open-air chapels that are not chapels at all.  The Information desk, a contradiction in terms like many of its ilk, offers us a visitor’s map that portrays a single varicose vein snaking from the aorta of the Monastery to nowhere in particular.  If the “real” journey is internal, then it doesn’t matter if you get there, right?


You still need enough snacks to carbohydrate yourself along the steep ascent.   Closer and closer to God’s undergarments, so form-fitting it is hard to recognize her lap until you’re in it.  Even then.  You might think you’re out of breath because of thinning air.  Loyola was into protocol and walked with a limp.  Asceticism (and mobility!) was his punitive, cellular aesthetic. He had not the advantage of REI sneakers or sweat-licking fabrics.  He had robes and determination.

If it was supposed to take Your Average Shmo 1.5 hours to ascend, it was going to take us 1.  After all, we were young and fit and had a train to catch on the downside of things.  Revelation would also have to occur on a timetable.    The mountainside was worn like a comfort object.  There is something weirdly heroic in climbing—even and especially pointless ascent.  We trust that by going upward, we are getting somewhere, surpassing ourselves.  Other heroes have decided hell is the place to look: Dante, Orpheus and the like.  They chose the hole over the hump.  They were undeterred by the fact that literature is flammable.

But those of us who like a triumph that involves quadriceps and oxygen debt and sagebrush and crumbly footfalls will be inclined to seek exposure on peaks.  There, the sky proves to be the same sky it was from the Malo valley, and the valleys show their boundaries like seams in a cloth.  Up here, you’ve come to wager it all on your smallness; and yet your relative size makes water towers look like M&Ms, and infrastructure like a doodle or a sloppy tattoo on the ground.

which way lies the way?

Taking It

In the old growth forests that stretch from Colombia to Costa Rica, the Tachigali Versicolor, or “suicide” tree, flourishes.  This species of tree flowers and fruits once in a life time, after which it dies.  It’s a monocarpist: its purpose is clear.

East Coast, USA: J & J have an old friend, A, who just shot himself in the head.  He had once come to our home as a college boy and eaten a flock of chickens, a joy to the feeding instincts of my Ashkenazi Mama, who observed him in amazement.  His metabolism was mythopoetic.  It was hard to tell where he ended and food began.  His smile endured throughout the day and the meal like a sideways question mark.  Do you take this chicken with this lawfully wielded knife?

I would like to be able to ask gregarious A what it feels like when a self is blown to bits.  In Dali’s Theater of Consciousness in Figueros.  J & J & J & I saw D’s portrait of his wife and muse, Gala, her bust breaking up into sphere-shaped shards: Galatea de las Esferas. The illusion is that her skull is exploding gently, her face represented in eccentric geometries-in-motion.   Soon you will have to look in the margins for her central nervous system.

When my sister and her fiancé come back from the memorial, where an empty urn was placed in lieu of the body, we drive together to Maine with cold Brooklyn pizza and garlicky kale that smells like feet and plastic bags filled with hand-washed stones from the beach in L.I.   Who shall cast the first one?  These are not yet slimed with Vaseline to keep their sea-glow awake.  How to know the depth of another’s suffering?  That is the question that fills up the car like loud music.

Heraclitus said you cannot step in the same river twice, but where loss is concerned, the river circles back on itself, and back and back and back.   But because one can only talk about grief for so long, we start trying to remember the name of favorite junk foods from decades past.  In Middle School, this issue of suffering came with a convenience: Candy.  Candy seemed the only solutions to a mammoth problem, as un-nameable as it was obvious: the bomb of sugar and synthetic tastiness told you right where your tummy was in a world that was otherwise unreliable.

sugar pyre

Now, Elektra didn’t have Mars Bars— she could only say OIMOI OIMOI OIMOI in the face of unchecked horrors.  Nobody in Sophocles got Twinkies for their troubles. When you take your own life, there can be no avenger.  You leave behind others to eat the foods you might have eaten, to subtract your life from the census of things that make sense.

We open the popcorn.  It falls all over the car as tears do.

Flat-line & Fruit-Bearing

Keliki, Bali: Our guide, Dewa, draws a flat-line with his index finger in the dirt:  Life for us in Bali is like this, he says.  Flat.  Not so up-and-down.  Some people say: boring!  But for us, flat is good.  We have it easy!  We have everything we need.

fertile fingers

Everything you need: a phrase that speaks to an ineffable yearning on my part.  The worst part of Dewa’s summary is that he seems to mean it.  He can’t even condemn the Dutch colonizers: rather than bad, they are not so good. After all, they brought spices.  And this is not just garden-variety self-contentment or a good pitch; it’s the Big Bad Wolf of the Capitalist’s fairy tale.  It’s the thing that underlies all other things and one’s ability to face them.

But really, what does it entail to have everything you need?  Maslow’s hierarchy: shelter and the like?  I still pack my bags to bring my needs with me, even for a mere over-night excursion, the “just in case” drive that begins somewhere in the Achilles tendons and ends in the widow’s peak.  Thus, I fortify myself against the vulnerability of Situations by burdening my muscular-skeletal system beyond what is practical.  As a result, I always look as if I’m running away from home on a treadmill.  I am coextensive with my stuff.  It’s a poor strategy.

But in Bali, I get another feeling, one that tells me that knowing our own core and its requirements involves a lot more than understanding ourselves. The Balinese exist in a highly-ordered universe, one that ritually pays homage to nature and the Gods: you always know where you are in relation to all realms.  It’s better than GoogleMaps.  And if you’re Balinese, you acknowledge these realms by making offerings that appeal to the senses—incense, food, and music.  As luck and physiology would have it, it is the senses that mediate between, and also therefore blur, the extant material world and one’s edge.

this too

Dewa throws down fat seeds from the cacao fruit he’s just broken open.  Here, things grow almost against their will.  Volcanic soil means Fertility is a given.  The green punk top-hat of a pineapple need only nestle loosely in the dirt, hardly looking in the mood for reproduction, and—bingo!—offspring spring off.   Given that guarantee, what do you really need to carry?   One feels that the soul walks knowing it will encounter what is needed, rather find itself lacking.

matrix mundi

A life in balance is a life that doesn’t crave to be something it is not.  Such a life recognizes the conflagration of forces, inner and outer and a mish-mash of the two, in which we have come into existence.  When your neighbors all have the exact same things as you, your homes are architecturally identically, and cross-eyed gods in checked towels are keeping watch, what is there to want?  An old man rides his bike down the dirt path into which the rain has driven deep crevices.  The bike seems to have no brakes on it, as his mouth has no teeth in it.  His smile erases all question marks. I think I can see through the gap all the way down to his geriatric gastric juices.

Dewa points at the ducks navigating their way through the pure green of the maturing rice fields, as he walks us towards his village, where kids fly kites tied to empty soda bottles.  It’s the kind of place where Netflix isn’t.  The crew of ducks diligently follows the white flags laid out for this purpose, eating the invasive algae and pooping the grain into vitality.  Like a vacuum cleaner in your country, Dewa says.  Show them once and they do it by themselves. Thus, only the appropriate amount of effort is given to any one task.   Why do things ducks would happily, if not inadvertently, do for you?

viveka vista

One Plus One

On Thai Airways, leaving Indonesia.  A very young girl in our row is amusing herself by pretending to barf into her barf bag.  Her father squirms in embarrassment, tries to crumple the bag in her hands, but she’s a resilient emetic:  BLEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHH.

She eyes her Dad, flirting.  My, how our tactics change as we grow.  Opens the bag, faux-barfing louder.  Her hair is a scraggly mess and her skin the olive color tanning salons sell.  The older boy in the row behind her takes notice and pokes her.  For the rest of the flight, he instructs her on how to suspend herself in the gaps between seats and flail her legs in the air.  BLEEEHHHHHHHHHHH.

For these two, romance is just beginning.  They are high above the world that they will have to navigate.  Whether they will be more confused by their own boundaries or their own centers is unknown.  They didn’t watch the animated safety demo because they don’t give a flying fuck: there is too much puking and martial arts to attempt.  And—and!– they are fucking flying.

eternal play

Coda for a Fuzzy Picture:

Sometimes the less things obviously fit together, the more they make cohesive sense.  I trust life is like this, but I defer to my poetic predecessors with the last word, which is never really the last word:

“It does not have to fit together.  Like the pieces of a totally unfinished jigsaw puzzle my grandmother left in the bedroom when she died in the livingroom.  The pieces of the poetry or this love.” – Jack Spicer, A Textbook of Poetry

purna paraphenalia


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3 Responses to “Deviant Destinations”

  1. rick benjamin Says:

    Those poor readers who delve into surface thinking like Eat, Pray, Love instead of the rich depths of Sara Nolan’s Massive Missive are missing out. As usual, a lovely transit! If there is any justice in the literary marketplace, find this writer an agent, an editor, a publishing house! She wants only circulation…

  2. JenMarie Says:


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