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1. They let the teachers retain their own classrooms there, rather than offices, which are considered common property, more or less two-person versions of the meeting room. Retain and furnish, even remodel them as they choose, taking seriously the role a shaped environment might play in the learning experience. Hers was quite something.

2. Can you call to mind how, looking out between some triangle of branches or pair of columnar trunks, a sort of window is formed? The house that a grove or meadow might constitute, and what more of the outdoors the next field or tree stand over might somehow retain by being peered out into from in, were the matters she was most interested in, to judge by her setup. Legendarily, she had refused to teach a single class until everything had been planted, painted and arranged just so, and had changed nothing since, except by treading about inside it, climbing around and through and up into its contents, gathering fallen sticks, blown leaves, strayed stones. The walls were stone, made to look like the intact outer walls of some otherwise wrecked country courtyard. Since everything else was plants, earth, insects there we'd long surmised the walls were only present because some sort would have to be to preserve full verisimilitude. The ceiling was painted not as leaves or clouds or starscape or pure blue, but left white as could be on a surface betraying as little reflected light or inflicted shadow as could be made possible. One of those white skies that can happen when a mist or a fog is withdrawing or dipping its toe, was I think the idea. Or perhaps it was just assumed that we were readier to find the sky suddenly white, got used to this faster, questioned it less, than with any other artifice. Maybe something in us assumed the sky should have been white. It did feel oddly comfortable, or soon began to. The air was kept at room temperature but just noticeably circulating at all times: another unreal effect that felt like how reality deserved to have been, as though something important was expected to arrive or change or be noticed at any time. Without our feeling precisely underwater, it was subtly like swimming just standing in there.

3. You never got to sit. This was either a rule or a collective hesitancy about that shaped space so thoroughly contagious that no one could now tell it apart from one. You stood and, room being scarce, mostly turned - sometimes took just over a step, like in basketball. No more than this and everything would change.

4. Getting you to identify with a particular tree, say, was a large part of it. You could just be passing through with the afternoon otherwise, since all the rooms were strange, since a class was a class. Stakes and roots - there, all puns were intended - made it more. Glue your foot to the floor and you'll see what I mean. Your room will at once become a matter of distances and relations, not uses and objects. You feel this at second hand once you've chosen a tree. And it really was a choice: in the pitch darkness in which every class by custom starts you'd hear her voice, or likelier her assistant's (they sounded the same), ask you to think of a tree, then ask further questions about the specific tree thought of - was it dusted by moss, and if so did it prick from the bark or withdraw to the seams, was it green as a green sun might be, or more like a green seen when falling asleep? Did the shine of it seem like a swirl? Like an arm reaching down from somewhere behind? Or similar questions on its bark, the sound it made when struck, what style of letters its twig might best make in wet sand. Similar, never the same, ensuring your tree would not be either. Which you'd approach and touch just once then stand nearby when the lights came on, because whatever you'd imagined would somehow be there. Nothing silly - no orange trunks or silver berries - but you'd hardly have been able to picture that. Your mind would take its task seriously. I think the air, so slightly moving, never not, on its schedule of unguessable but constant small disturbances, was part of that too. Leave a church in a storm and you'll see how far from joking we were then.


Date: 2017-01-05 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
#3 one of the things I've really become interested in lately is unwritten rules and how they come about and how they work.

Date: 2017-01-06 04:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They're pretty sinister when not Seinfeld/Curb hilarious, aren't they? Especially where they violate the overt set of rules. They suggest people are motivated by something other than what they say they are - and that all, or a fearsome majority, share that secret drive.

Date: 2017-01-11 11:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love this. This anapest: "Did the shine of it seem like a swirl?" The on of the second to last sentence, which is almost the unguessable layer of itself that the air moves on. All of it.

Date: 2017-01-12 03:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Interesting that those two sentences come so late in it, since one thing I was going for is just what it is that makes people better writers (and readers, and learners) once well immersed in what must have started as mere improvisation, or an idle train of thought, or one more topic forced into one's field of attention. That shift. We're back in "nature" because our living, bodily self has come over to see what our wandering dog of a mind is doing. Takes a while, hard to force.

I was mostly thinking of how that Thoreau remark I quote in the Pascal entry applies (via Calvino's allegory in Baron, via Thoreau's own in Walden), inclusively, to writing - thus is probably identical to Kafka's "sit still ... and it will writhe before you," (where all frequent readers of Kafka know he must mean, inclusively, writing). (Bishop's "travel" also being inclusively writing.)

Was thinking of Fitzgerald's nickel moment, too, as always. Can't remember if Pascal got me thinking about that or if that got me thinking about Pascal. (The money in the final dream in No Country is about habing whatever currency lets you stay ahead of that last coin of Chigurh's (where it's at stake vs. your life), I think, while also calling back to the coins on the bar in Meridian, which are both an exquisite example of a nickel moment and a sort of ante.)

The Fitzgerald thing also exists in tandem for me with Robb's contention that Hugo's spirit communings helped free his imagination for his millions of lines of verse, which has always troubled me for obvious reasons (Pleasance's skepticism, fascination and ultimate fury in Tycoon pretty much track my feelings - his face carries that film).

Thickets of strong personal associations being among the more reliable places where improvising might trip on a sleeping giant.


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