Yesterday I was digging. It’s not very often that I dig, given that I live in a fourth floor apartment in New York City and the nearest exposed earth is blocks away in a spot where a set of stairs is cracking and you can see the soil underneath. Yesterday I was digging in a fairly contained fashion in one of my window pots. My houseplant had outgrown its vessel and I was transferring it to a new, bigger pot so its roots could stretch out for a busy summer of growing. To my surprise, my shovel (or, kitchen utensil, really), made a sharp clinking noise. I pulled first one glass animal, then the other, out from under a root and shook off the dirt. One is a robin, just in time for spring. The other is a purpleish stag. They are not to scale.
I did not plant these glass animals. The plant and its pot originally come from friends of mine who left the city and donated their botanical possessions to me. One of my friends is a physicist. The other is a philosopher. Knowing them, I can feel that at some point it seemed like a brilliant and logical idea to plant two glass animals. Perhaps they were buried up to their necks, and then watered until they sank out of sight. Maybe they were used to illustrate a complicated philosophical form of astrophysics during a late night discussion. Maybe they were already in the dirt when my friends planted their cuttings.
One thing is certain, though. They were deliberately buried. Their entanglement deep in the roots was not through simple water and root action.
— hand delivered in NYC
The story that comes with this says that the animals are not to scale.
In rehearsal, I somehow seem to end up talking about other plays I’ve done, explaining my history as a writer. The play I find myself talking about most often is called The Waking Edge. (The subtitled is, a nightmare play.) It’s a very bloody play. There’s a lot of screaming. Someone cries out over and over that all his friends are dead. A revolutionary generation literally changes the world, altering the landscape, eliminating species of plants and categories of objects (nasturtiums, electric irons) in favor of a simplified, romanticized world. The thing is, I guess, that electric irons really do matter as much as anything else. Or rather, that they make the world as much as anything else. Scale in the literal sense is mathematical. Scale in the metaphorical sense (“blowing it out of proportion”) is subjective.
I came to this conference and I say some glass animals, and someone said in print that they were not to scale. Because they were glass animals, I thought about The Glass Menagerie.
(SO everything in my irritatingly obsessive brain comes back around to theatre, I guess).
This is a story about my being caught by a descriptive, objective statement about an object, which reminded me of other things that I’ve cared about.
My eyes skittered over the text. That phrase stuck out. They are not to scale. And, they were buried. I like buried things. Things you have to work to get. Things either neglected or treasured. On incriminati.
What narrative I have is breaking down into association. Sorry.
Maybe the story I am telling is the story of that play I mentioned- someone loses everything, large and small; everything vanishes– or the story of my writing it- burying referecnes. Thinking of a man eating the moon. The man and the moon are not to scale.
But I’m telling you about that story, not telling it to you.
I thought I’d see what I’d do (what I’d write) if I could do anything I wanted. And then someone loved it, or said they did (but I believed them) so I write more about it, which was not quite anything I wanted. And it was done, and now I think about it all the time.