Communication Shock



It’s been a nice day.

See, that’s what kind of sentences I write when I am in a state that I have come to think of as communication shock.

I have had, in the course of my life, a great number of fairly intense exchanges with other human beings. We have discussed life and death, both in construct and as it applies to our own little lives on given days. We have spoken of the days that we wanted to die, the days that we almost did, the days that marked the passing of a friend, the pressing golden weight of everyone who has come before us.


A sunlit back yard and I am transplanting squash from a cell pack, which I know is a stupid thing to do, because they will not grow well, the roots of the young plants are too fragile. I have squash plants already, they grew from seed sown in pure manure. They are gigantic; Their young leaves are strong like leather.

Still, I am planting more squash. I have decided that I love, with deep and intense fascination, squash. Especially yellow crookneck squash. I could go into a lengthy description of the splendor of the young crookneck squash, but I am not going to. I read an article once about the use pornographic direction techniques in the filming of cooking programs and the way that seductive film styles make the food and the cook and the point of it something far removed from the function of the yellow squash in its inception.

What that function may be, what role the yellow squash played in its indigenous ecology, well, it is all a mystery now. Where is squash even from anyway?

I was, it was clear, conducting an experiment in squash cultivation, there in my backyard in sunny Portland, Oregon. It’s true, the sky was gold and blue that day. I had a baby on my back. I stood there and I was holding a seedling in my palm, roots and wings. I stared at it dumbly and thought about the memorial service for a friend who had died. A friend who had died.

Why is my history so populated with friends who have died? I looked at the street, turning slowly, and there was my friend who was still alive, sitting on his bicycle, riding downtown. “I’m going,” I called out, and walked toward the fence, still holding the small squash plant, trying to be gentle, cupping it in my hand so as not to disturb the roots. Ah, so impossible, this whole day. “I’ll be there later, after I get ————– to sleep.” I said this quiet in level tone, and then tried to think of something else to say. There was nothing, just squash and bike and manwomanchild frozen in the sun.

Time begins again and I walk back to the small triangular bed into which I am transplanting the squash and I think about whether that time in the warmth of my palm had helped or harmed the thin weak leaved life.

It certainly had done something, most things do.

So, yes, communication shock. Funny: it seems I falter in my negotiations with most others in this state, but convey quite clearly to myself. Of course, it all a matter of conveyance, of WHAT YOU FEEL LIKE communicating. I didn’t feel like communicating anything, but the light here, on this porch, is very much like the light on the western valley a very long time ago, nine and a half years, lifetimes for some.*


Yes, my brain is feeling a bit less furred and plasticene, though is still, I can tell, fatigued. My job is a challenge to my humanity; It demands excellence of the heart. It also requires me to unlearn so much I thought I knew about wellness and illness and the way that somehow it all works out in the end…sort of. You see “human” interventions, and our prized free will, tend to bungle our conceptions of what exactly it is that we wantneedalreadyhavelost.


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