Thursday, April 13, 2006

sleepless in Brissy

I woke up at 3:11a.m. Actually I woke up at 1:09; you think I'm a numbers person? You have no idea.

Anyhow, there I lay with my right knee in spasms that a variety of bed positions failed to remedy. Up for an ibprophin to stem the tide of continued pain so I could go to sleep. By then I was more than wide-awake and lying in bed, my mind began its process.

Perhaps if I had a tape recorder I could talk my way through the thought process and return to slumber. You know as well as I do that wouldn't make any difference. The words spoken simply do not have the same effect as the words thought. They lose their magic in the maze of vocal chords. The journey is never satisfactorily completed. Like some fantasy journey, spoken reality simply doesn't do justice to imagination.

And so here I sit at my computer abiding by the admonition of our speaker in class tonight. "Write daily, write regularly. Make it a process like a business. Commit a specific amount of time each day to the process." Yes, commit is the right word. I think someone ought to commit me! I just haven't found a favorite institution.

With that introduction, about what was my mind churning this morning? I'm not sure I remember where I started, but I know where I ended just before coming out here to light my candle to keep the mosquitoes and little black midges narcotised.

It was Stephen Jay Gould who was on my mind. And happy I was that I remembered his name. One of the reasons it was so easy to give up my teaching gig after forty years in the classroom was that I had reached the point where in the middle of a lecture I was unable to withdraw from the depths of my memory banks, kind of like river banks full of the mud of the spring thaw, the names of authors about whom I wanted to share information in class.

And so in the midst of my morning musing, there was the New Yorker, the editor of Natural History Magazine, along with his evolutionary biology appetite, having morning tea in New York City's Natural History Museum, you know, the museum cafeteria with a blue whale swimming just under the ceiling. He exists today only in his writings and in our memories. His creative non-fiction entertained and transfixed me for so many years. I subscribed to Natural History Magazine just so I could read his editorials and then bought the same bound in their own volumes over the years. If you asked me whose writing I most enjoyed in all of my life, Gould along with Lewis Thomas would be in the top three. I think of them on early mornings when the fruit bats are colliding as they happily munch the tidy, tiny figs from our mammoth fig tree and the palm nuts from the front garden Cocos palms.

Oops, another stream enters the mind. It is my duty when the sun rises this morning to rescue my new winter garden seedlings from the rain of palm nuts the bats miss in their munchings.

But, what of Stephen Jay Gould? His words, his complex sentences that wind around ideas as varied as baseball, his favorite American past time, and typewriter keyboards s well as the colour of flamingos, dance in my brain sometimes confusing me, always challenging my understanding as well as delighting my sense of how words work to convey associations between evolutionary biology, a figment of Gould's imagination, and the rest of reality.

Today in class, that would be Issues in Contemporary Publishing, I made my presentation on twenty-first century women travel writers. It is a subject about which I know practically nothing and a great deal all at the same time. It is interesting here to note that I am not the only one who was going to write on this subject. There were three of us who wanted to present on this topic. Australia one more time proves its claim to be the home of international citizenship, not withstanding the position of the current government on the topic. Australians travel to other continents with a degree of comfort that doesn't seem to exist for many other folks.

Qantas may have convinced Aussies that Australia is home, but the number of Australian ex pats suggests that Australia is only one of their homes.

It just doesn't occur to Aussies to be insular. They have no trouble showing up to parties thrown by the rest of the world. Nor do these left-handed, lateral thinkers have trouble with the practical. They mostly just do the job. They create vaccines for cervical cancer. They re establish the flight control center in the tower at Baghdad airport after the Americans bombed it out of commission. They quietly rebuild homes after hurricanes destroy them in Queensland.
They keep geckos behind picture frames, one of which is chattering away near the ceiling. Guess he is suggesting I head back to bed. Catch you das morgan.