A Vulture & Its Shadow
Or are they the same thing? Between sun and ground, just wing, and the speed at which—something that swift so quickly swept off. There is no greater grace than that of a vulture facing wind. Here we have presence as action; though the body seems static, holding its own in the hovering air, it's actually in the process of moving from a solid to a shadow—a trick the hawk would love to learn—how it would help her—but for the vulture, it's an entirely different matter; she has no choice; she has to shift into a shadow because, as a scavenger, she feeds only on an animal's ghost.
Watching the otter pass through the daughter; she's almost five, and she's learning to read. There is an otter in the sea, which she has seen, and there is another in her book which is somehow more real, or, it's not that the animal that she saw in the water is less so, but that this one in the book—it's not so much the picture, but the letters that seem to give it a living beyond its body, which she expresses by not being quite able to put it into words.
Watching burning. I watch it burn. And ask what burning is. It's a small fire (one more Ed Ruscha), and it makes soft sounds. Because it's so contained. So shaped. A fire in a fireplace so often conforms to the triangular composition of classical painting. It's a little Poussin burning down. It's California, April 2021, endless days of perfect weather, but just cold enough in the evenings that you want to light a fire.
Ed Ruscha's Various Small Fires, first printed in 1964 in Los Angeles in an edition of 400 and then in a second edition of 3000 in 1970, whether caused by a cigarette lighter, an ignited matchbook, a blowtorch, or a candle, all show the signature triangular composition, suggesting that classical painting is at the root of the conflagrations that have been destroying California over the past several years. Clearly, Ruscha saw it coming.
as a formal principle, as a suggestion of structure that refuses all strictures, a plan based on muscle alone. Wind as muscle anchored in dispersal. Which raises the question of its tactile dimension—what is the syntax of wind on the skin? It seems an inscription and an erasure in the same gesture—I am winded, have been winded, have been bewinded. Been bitten. Etc. Air is so brief in its teeth that they clatter over the skin like leaves.
What's strange to find in a hartebeest is an animal whose every internal organ is a heart. And yet it works—all that thumping sets up a syncopation that transforms the animal into an ever more intricate cadence. Like those bridges that, when walked across too rhythmically, collapse, though in this case, it works in the opposite direction—it sets up a rhythm that keeps waking the animal up, and up, and up, along with everything around it—increasingly—there’s a heartbeat heard so largely that every living thing stops to listen, thinking I've heard that somewhere before, and I remember it fondly.