Musical Interlude

Up while it’s still quiet, my tinnitus this morning is like an orchestra of wasps tuning their instruments.

Cleaning a furnace

The world, it spins so fast, yet we are not dizzy.

First weekend in ages with sweet, empty hours to goof off. Woman goes to zoo with kid, tells man, oh BTW you have to paint walk-in closet as cleaning lady coming tomorrow. Gives him roll of plastic to cover stuff.

Post-tantrum, man looks for brushes, paint. Calls wife. White paint has solidified. Try other color, she says, to his disappointment.

No roller, either, just a little brush. But it is a small room and walls mostly covered by new wardrobes now too so okay.

Takes a couple hours. Maybe a few hours. Go downstairs to  make tea. Father-in-law comes, with something his wife cooked for man’s wife. Says something about cleaning, man fails to understand. Want some tea? Man asks. Okay, says father-in-law. A conversation between the hard-of-hearing and the slightly demented ensues.

Cleaning: man realizes, someone said something earlier, about cleaning the furnace.

Have time to clean the furnace? Yep, says father-in-law. That was the whole reason he came over, man realizes.

Inside his head, his mind is whipcracking around with these realizations. Outwardly, he appears normal.

They go down to clean the furnace. To do that, you remove the plate on the front, remove the bolts holding on the face, open

(whoa giant brown-recluse-looking spider on the floor by father-in-law’s foot)

the door, remove a drum-type thing, get a wire brush, brush out the soot from inside the furnace.

(the spider is very still. it is either dead or playing possum. man watches it closely, although he should be memorizing the furnace-cleaning steps. father-in-law’s birkenstocked foot moves closer and closer to still spider, man wonders if he should say anything, but he doesn’t know if the spider is dead or alive and why waste all the excitement sure to ensue on a dead spider?)

replace drum, bolt door shut, replace face, plug things back in.

(man will tell father-in-law about spider if it starts running up his leg, he decides. father-in-law finally bumps it, it still doesn’t move, so it must be dead, man feels better. it was only dead! who cares about a dead spider?)

father-in-law cleans up. man will shower later.

they chat a while. how many more chats will we have like this, man wonders.

father-in-law goes home. man cleans up room he just painted, reads a book, takes a shower.

it’s a fine, sunny day.

 

 

 

Careers in Science: Atmology

Walking around, the atmologist thought of a great beginning for a blog post, but forgot it again before he could sit down to type it in.

Was it the heat?

Was it the humidity?

No one ever knows.

That’s okay though. The atmologist has been looking into failure lately anyway. The first time the atmologist submitted a story to a magazine it was accepted.

He was paid in copies, but still.

Then, 20-year dry spell. Here’s the thing: the atmologist learned more about writing from the rejected stories than from the accepted one.

Like, if it works, why did it work?

No one ever knows.

But if it fails, you take it apart until you find the problem, then you are smarter than before.

Failure is a stroke of luck, in the long run. It’s what makes science work. If all our experiments worked the first time, we’d never learn anything.

Falsification, in other words.

Another word, whatever.

This way of thinking came in handy last weekend when the atmologist made his first wet plate photos all by himself. He learned a great deal, because everything went wrong.

Everything.

So next time, things will be better. He will know to make a test plate to get exposure right. He will know to not even bother if the weather is way too hot. He will know lots of things.

But you have to be careful with failure. Sometimes what looks like failure is not failure, it’s frustrated expectations. Maybe it wasn’t a failure, maybe your expectations were mistaken. Or maybe it was a failure, but it is masking a greater gift.  Maybe it is a great stroke of luck.

For example, someone stands you up, leaves you waiting on the corner somewhere, you have a choice: get mad, or calm down and look around. Maybe you are on that corner for another reason. How does the air smell? What else can you see? Is there anything to be discovered?

The atmologist walks through the rubble after an air raid. It’s really hard on his shoes, and dusty; or it rains and makes everything muddy and ruins your clothes, especially if you climb into the rubble to find something.

The rubble is already being cleared away. Trucks and loaders drive here and there, guys stand around with clipboards.

Cool new buildings are going up here.

This is what it’s like when you say to depression, fuck you depression.

At least the atmologist hopes so. He’s been wrong before.

The atmologist passes a pharmacy and suddenly remembers why he is walking down this particular street. He needs to pick up a prescription.

Thanks, subconscious, he says.

Don’t mention it.

He steps over a piece of rubble and goes into the pharmacy to get his prescription, something for tinnitus.

Whenever the atmologist’s kids say anything about tinnitus, he says, What? and chuckles, because he is a dad. And his kids roll their eyes.

It is the way of the world.

Why?

No one ever knows.