My Life In Brutalist Architecture #1

By John Gallaher

 My neighbor to the left had a stroke a couple years ago. It didn’t look
like he was going to make it, and then he made it. I’m watching him
now from my window as he makes his slow way across his yard
with some tree branches that fell in last night’s storm. Three steps.
Wait. Three steps. It’s a hard slog. Watching, I want to pitch in.
And we do, at such times, wanting to help. But on the other hand,
it’s good to be as physical as possible in recovery. Maybe this is part
of his rehab. Maybe this is doctor’s orders: DO YARDWORK.
And here comes his wife across the yard anyway, to give a hand
with a large branch. She’s able to quickly overtake him, and she folds
into the process smoothly, no words between them that I can make out.
It’s another part of what makes us human, weighing the theory of mind,
watching each other struggle or perform, anticipating each other’s
thoughts, as the abject hovers uncannily in the background, threatening
to break through the fragile borders of the self. “What’s it like to be
a bat?” we ask. The bats don’t respond. How usually, our lives
unfold at the periphery of catastrophes happening to others. I’m
reading, while my neighbor struggles, that the squirrel population
in New England is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. A recent
abundance of acorns is the reason for this surge in squirrel populations,
most particularly in New Hampshire. They’re everywhere, being
squirrely, squirreling acorns away. We call it “Squirrelnado” because
it’s all around us, circling, and dangerous, and kind of funny. Language
springs from the land, and through our imagination we become
human. They’re back in the house now. We name the things we see,
or they name themselves into our experience, whichever, and then
we use those names for things we don’t understand, what we can’t
express. Wind becomes spirit becomes ghost. Mountain becomes
god. The land springs up before us. It shakes us and pushes us over.

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