So the kiwi vine on the deck is fruiting for the first time since we got it, which means somewhere within bee-distance (about 3 km) there’s a kiwi vine of the opposite sex, and there are now very small kiwis ripening on our vine. I don’t know why this is having such a positive effect on my morning, but it is. I am sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of coffee listening to Jordan Klassen’s newest album, Javelin (check out “No Salesman”), feeling pleased about kiwis. This while
my the cat shows she is happy to see me by walking on my laptop and rubbing against my face. And I am inspired! I’ve found time to read again lately – a little bit of Comment magazine’s latest issue, Wallace Stevens ad nauseam, some Bachelard.
And though Bachelard is probably crazy, he never fails to inspire.
In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenological day dreaming takes him to various images of houses – a house alone in winter, with one window lit by a lamp, a house battered by storms, a child-hood home, a cottage, a manor, etc. – with charming insight. For instance: “In a house that has become for the imagination the very heart of a cyclone, we have to go beyond the mere impressions of consolation that we should feel in any shelter. We have to participate in the dramatic cosmic events sustained by the combatant house.” The combatant house. I love that phrase. As if the house were a character inside a bigger building, maybe a pub, and the house’s inhabitant was peeking timidly over the counter while a drunken melee raged, and the house was the bartender – a red-faced barrel-chested hooligan struggling to defend the high ground on top of the bar, cracking windy heads indiscriminately with a stool, swearing a blue streak at the rain.
So how if one were to take a leaf from Bachelard’s book? What of the phenomenology of cars? I’ve been thinking for a long time about various images of cars – a car speeding along alone on a highway winding through snow-covered rolling hills, a car lit up at night, a car pushing through a rainstorm, a child-hood car – you get the idea. In the car, on the way to somewhere or from somewhere, you are in a one room moving house, with its own furniture, lights and sounds. The common car is no less alive than Howl’s Moving Castle. It shares affordances with the common house, especially for dreaming. And through daydreaming, cars do take on a life of their own, don’t they? During the day, Escalades, Chargers, Passats are bruisers gliding through reefs of hardbitten rhododendrons, stop signs and parking spots. Big fish in a mall parking lot’s little ecosystem: like Ted Hughes’ pike, one hundred feet long in their world. At night, they come alive in a different way: yes, that Civic is Voyager One, doing 17 km/s out to absolute wilderness – that car is loneliness. That car is wonder. That car is among the private thoughts of every part-time astronaut.