Monday, May 4, 2020

"Bird Songs Of The Pacific States" by Thomas G. Sander / Multitudes / Ocean Vuong / Mandala #48: Illuminations from Childhood















The two CDs that comprise "Bird Songs Of The Pacific States" are music to my ears during this time of uncertainty and sorrow.

Several mornings ago when I went outside in the darkness, I heard an American Robin singing its spring song from the peak of the roof of the community building for our condominium complex:



Later that morning, almost home from walking up the hill and back, I heard a single Canada Goose calling.  I looked around to see where the sound was coming from and saw a Canada Goose on the roof of the building where I live.  I wondered if it could be the same one that had been on the trail the day before.  I began to wonder if something had happened to its mate.















The day before, while looking out my window overlooking Scudder Pond,  I had observed a Canada Goose guarding a section of trail over a period of several hours:















I remembered a poem I wrote in 2000, inspired by another solitary Canada Goose and thought about this year's return of the tree swallows and the red-winged blackbirds singing with all the other birds I can hear even when my windows are closed.  The American goldfinch is Washington's state bird, but I rarely see them.  Yesterday I saw an osprey high in the sky, scouting for fish in Lake Whatcom.

I remembered a few days before that when a 2-year-old boy, the son of friends of mine, looked up at me as I was walking by on the street overlooking their house.  He smiled and put his arms around himself in a hug and said, "Love you!"  With the same body language, I said, "Love you!" in return.

There is something beyond uncertainty and sorrow.

*

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-- Walt Whitman

When I listened to a very young Sinéad O'Connor singing at Sabine's blog on the first of May, it occurred to me that Sinéad's life, like the lives of so many people I respect, has shown that she "contains multitudes."  This song of hers is dear to my heart:



At the beginning of the stay-at-home order in Washington State, I began revisiting my entire cassette and CD collection of music by Bob Dylan from 1962 to 2016.  The last vinyl Bob Dylan album I bought was in 1988.  I no longer have a turntable, but I still have the complete collection of his vinyl albums from 1962 to 1988.  My cassette and CD collection is not complete but is close, with nothing missing after 1979.

My perception is that when I say that I like Bob Dylan music, it is assumed I am referring to his music from the 1960s and early 1970s.  My favorite Bob Dylan album is "Love and Theft" which was released on September 11, 2001.  There are plenty of Bob Dylan songs that I can do without, but throughout his career are songs that together carry the full range of human experience and have been lifelines for me, assuring me that I am never alone.  I love listening to covers of Bob Dylan songs on YouTube by young people who are just discovering him.

That Bob Dylan "contains multitudes" is what I have seen so far in revisiting his first 30 years of songs.  In 1991, he released Volume 3 of the bootleg series.  After the songs on "Love and Theft," those 3 CDs are next on my list of songs that are well worth revisiting.  I'm listening to songs now that I first heard when I was in my early 40s.



Call me any name you like, I will never deny it
But farewell, Angelina, the sky is erupting, I must go where it's quiet
(lyrics by Bob Dylan from "Farewell Angelina")


*

From Ocean Vuong:

I grew up right in the shadow of 9/11. It created something very interesting, because we were essentially the last generation to play outside thoroughly. Things like tag and manhunt, those things were gone overnight. I saw it with my own eyes. Our nation became a nation that dictated fear through colors: today is red; tomorrow is orange; yellow alert.

...


I think so. But I think all religions have this — outside of all of the orthodoxy and the rigor of ceremonies, at the center of it is trying to remind us that we will die; and how do we live a life worthwhile of our breath? And I think, thinking about death and thinking about what we do towards it, around it, helps me center myself in such a chaotic space. And I do think it’s part of my own nurturing of my own mental health.

...


“The poem, like the fire escape, as feeble and thin as it is, has become my most concentrated architecture of resistance. A place where I can be as honest as I need to — because the fire has already begun in my home, swallowing my most valuable possessions — and even my loved ones. My uncle is gone. I will never know exactly why. But I still have my body and with it these words, hammered into a structure just wide enough to hold the weight of my living. I want to use it to talk about my obsessions and fears, my odd and idiosyncratic joys. I want to leave the party through the window and find my uncle standing on a piece of iron shaped into visible desperation, which must also be (how can it not?) the beginning of visible hope. I want to stay there until the building burns down. I want to love more than death can harm. And I want to tell you this often: That despite being so human and so terrified, here, standing on this unfinished staircase to nowhere and everywhere, surrounded by the cold and starless night — we can live. And we will.”

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3 comments:

37paddington said...

Ocean Vuong has a poet’s name, a poet’s voice.
*Arms around self* “Love you!” That sweet child.

Sabine said...

Today, we sat outside for lunch and listened to the birds on a clear sunny day. I tried to remember when my mother taught me that there are songbirds and - in her words - talkbirds, those who repeat a single call for seemingly ever, like an owl or a pigeon, while the lark and the blackbird sing elaborate endless tunes. I know I was very young but today as we listened to the singers and the talkers out there, I almost heard her voice explaining it to me.

I am so looking forward to this year's mandala collection from you.

beth coyote said...

I had the great good fortune to see Ocean Vuong at the Seattle Public Library after finding his poetry in the NYT. He is truly marvelous.