good morning ~
(click the ginkgo leaves to listen)
today's track is partially me remembering how to play acoustic guitar
What exactly are we doing here? What prompted you to animate these words with your reading?
When you open this email or follow the link somewhere what are you expecting to find?
It's a missive, it's a coin thrown in a well, it's a payphone ringing on an empty street corner.
At the end of the canal there's a little, 19th-century sized house. Inside are replicas of hinged boats and blown-up photos of mules and half-ruined artifacts from when the waterway was in use. Nubs of tobacco pipes, rounded-smooth glass, antique currency. There's a miniature model that shows you how the locks work and hats and t-shirts for sale. And in one corner, on a ledge by the window, there's a bottle with a rolled-up piece of paper inside. In 1981 a girl in school stuck a letter inside and set it adrift. Hello, she says, I am sending this message in a bottle. If you find it, please tell me where, here is my address. Two decades later it washed up in the canal, and after making a quick headline in the local paper, the bottle carrying words from the past became something in a small museum.
Because the truth is that it is a remarkable accomplishment to ever be heard from, to ever be beheld. Of all the eyeballs that ever roamed the earth, how many of them even spoke the same language as you? Were you to write to the future unknown, were your penmanship to wash up twenty years on, would you even be legible? And if the words were clear, then is your meaning? And if your meaning is clear, does it resonate?
I take some comfort in imagining these weekly dispatches as unspecific messages, little proofs-of-life that might flicker in someone else's iris at some point after Thursday morning. Each week they are set adrift, a thousand little bottles bobbing in an ocean of data, gently clanging buoys of outreach.
Which is a nice metaphor. But the thing about water is that it endlessly circulates - it flows, it evaporates and precipitates, it roots out and runs to the lowest point in a plane. Though the internet is vast and churning, it doesn't necessarily circulate and reconstitute data. So while these emails very well may live in your inbox in perpetuity, it might not necessarily bubble up again, discovered in a canal many years later. These little buoys I send adrift might very well become inert, buried and earthed.
A black hole might be more appropriate. Unfathomably dense, undeniably dark, an unstoppable gravity. Something that's dangerous to get to close to. A growing, sucking mass that we all constantly add a little bit of information to. Something you can get lost within, the last contortion of your body permanently affixed to the event horizon. These are heroic little attempts at getting out that ultimately help expand the void.
These are a series of movements of two bi-colored flags, meant to communicate between ships at long distances. You read them through binoculars, and I dance on the deck.
For me they often are a measurable, observable phenomenon - unequivocal proof that I lived a week, walked around in the world, and spit something back out. As the recordings and the writing accumulates it becomes more and more useful as a skewed database, a sideways ledger. I hope that for you they can be something of a mirror. You, too, have walked around. And you're reading this, right now, catching a glimpse of yourself. And that, perhaps, the five minutes or so that you may or may not spend with this token of my efforts is somewhat better than other five minute time spans in your life.
These are cobblestone towers, arranged in a line of sight down on through the countryside, with a flexible armatures affixed to the top - as the arms reach upward, a message is relayed, broadcast to the next tower, and then the next.
Part of me hopes - desperately at times - that these could somehow be my job, or at least a big part of my vocation. Sometimes I imagine the weekly project becoming notable, cool, often talked about. I indulge myself in imagining people rushing to their inboxes. What will today's installment be like, they wonder, will it be beautiful. How is the person making these, they say aloud. He is my friend, and I pay him, and I tell him he does a good job, they think with satisfaction, opening the email on their phone.
These are skyward puffs of white smoke, visible at a great distance, with a rudimentary system of meanings. One cloud to call attention, two clouds to signal safety, three clouds to warn of danger. Over the next hill I burn green wood and smother the blaze in a damp blanket in a dutiful rhythm.
What they really are is this: delicate little greetings, glassine invitations, one possible cognitive option among an unknowable number of inputs. Proof that, this week at least, I believed that I might want to be heard from. At their best a spark of connection. At their best a moment of repose. The opposite of most of what we do on the internet. A lighthouse, patience, an unfurling. "A cry for help" is a little dramatic but maybe "a suggestion that help might be welcome." A good joke. Something other. Sometimes it feels like a truly heroic boulder rolling, a lifting of the bus, a superhuman feat of strength to hit "send." A mirror in the shape of my face.
One cloud appears.
And then a second.
And then a third.
But what about you? Are you leaving a record? Are you broadcasting? Are you burning a fire on the ridge?