Tuesday 1.5.10

My Commute

At the outset of this project, I'd hoped to find a way to row to work. Lucky me! NBBJ is in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle so I'm able to row from Fremont, where I live, across Lake Union to the Center for Wooden Boats. The awesome people in charge at CWB have agreed to let me dock there for the month. I'm heartily hoping this daily commute will seep, no, soak into my project. Exactly how, I cannot say and do not want to. I only know that it is good and it is what I want. I have long been a believer that how you get there affects what comes next and that monumental living is available to us all through a series of daily decisions. And, if we find there is no opportunity for monumental living in our daily decisions, or if we find we want even more such opportunities, we may step back and re-program our lives. For, at the very outset, we decided these things. Things such as where to live, how to get to work, what sort of job, what matters to us, &c.

For me, I find things happen on the water, so that's where I want to be. And perhaps I want to feed this fantasy I have that being a poet-in-residence in a global firm is only reachable through extraordinary means, as if feet couldn't reach it, as if wheels wouldn't find it, and only a secret passage across a misty body of water could get me there. NBBJ, the island. A story such as this imbues my commute with weighty stuff.

So at 7am, on Tuesday morning, my first day of work, I successfully launched my rowboat into the misty, mild, darkness. It took a while to get situated with oars and weight and layers and light, but once I had, I stopped my oars and took in my surroundings. It was then I saw the red and white streaming edges around the darkness in which I sat. No one but me, no birds, no lights on the water. In ways, I felt completely safe. I was invisible. From this place, the sirens whirring down I-5 looked inconsequential, a little comical even. I moved on, quick to find a rhythm. After 40 minutes, I arrived on the southern shore and tied to a floating dock. In a pavilion at the head of the dock, a man was jumping rope. Tick, tick, tick, tick, like a radiator warming up. Does he know where he is going?

St. Spiridon

From the CWB, I walked up around the interstate to Aloha to Eastlake to Yale Street past St. Spiridon. I was early for work and so crossed the street to see this bonbon of a church, with its 7 blue flowers growing up like wild chives from a brick garden, bright blue doorways peaking up from play hinges. The whole thing looks so lightweight, as if I could lift it off the ground on my own. I saw on the church board there would be a service in the evening. Perhaps I would get to see inside?

Indeed, as I passed St. Spiridon on my way home, a black iron gate was open and there, inside a covered doorway, were seven brass bells which caused a twinkling in my eye, so I went in to ask, "Do the bells ring?" "Yes," said the man, “And if you stay you will hear them.” I took a seat and waited. While I waited, I watched a man move from relic to relic, signing the cross and putting his forehead and lips to everything. The room was full of relics in glass cases. His movements were never ceasing. Here again, the streaming around the darkness, not unlike Aurora & I-5 buzzing around Lake Union. When it was time, they said, “Come.” I followed them out the doorway.

The Ringing of the Bells

7 brass bells hang atop one another, each tied with rope to a wooden frame. 4 small bells on top, 2 large in the middle and 1 large alone at the bottom. The bells are connected by a system of rope pulls. I was given a pair of headphones as each man took a rope system into his hands. The first pulled the right side of his rope, 3 times in succession, then he pulled once more. This time he let the bell ring for a long time. After an equally long pause, he rang it again and again, 10 times, allowing the fullness of each ring to go on and on over the Cascades. Then came a rhythm, with a right-left tug. Then a 3rd bell was added, with a right-left-up tug. Then came the small bells. The 2nd man was in charge of these. He made a busy overlay with a right-right, left-left, right-right, left-left, 2 rings for every ring of a large bell. I stood by swimming in the vibrations until, sadly, it all ended with a final pull of the large bell. But now I know what I know. The difference between a bell and the sound of a bell. It is not that a bell sounds, but that there is a bell to sound, an object, and a hand to pull it, to set it ringing. It's that the two of these things are tied to this same meaning, not just present, but fulfilled in it.

Working at NBBJ

I met Kay this morning, the main operator at NBBJ in Seattle. Kay sits in the glass entrance at a tidy table by a paper chandelier. Kay and I have the same initials, aka. She told me about her favorite NBBJ projects, the new U. S. Court House in Seattle and the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. NBBJ has a strong advocate in Kay.

Christian Carlson met me in the lobby and showed me to my desk. Soon, we were off on a tour of the building. So many smiling people, sharing information about projects, inviting me to meetings. We peeked into the model shop, the library and mailroom, then went for lunch. After that, I was on my own. I wandered around taking in the lines of the building. I’d come purposefully unprepared with materials and ideas, so as to allow the space and place and people to influence the direction of the project. As exciting as that sounds, it’s hard to fight the pressure to know and be producing. Idling is not my forte.

No, I needed to do something. I went to the library and checked out a book, Archetypal Architecture. I got some tracing paper and began copying architectural terms, switching back and forth between fonts, print and cursive. I filled 4 pages this way and painted color blocks on the middle of each. I find it easy now to read poems from these pages. By referencing all cursive or all print or by reading words from the color blocks, I can easily make poems. I used this new tool to set the outgoing greeting on my NBBJ telephone.

After some time on the Giant Steps, I went to the lunchroom and looked out the west-facing windows. There is a strong sense of the nautical. Opposite NBBJ is a building reminiscent of a seaport with a red brick face. Metal lamps hang on loose wires between buildings and a metal gangplank sits over an alleyway leading to a roof deck where narrow garden beds tack back and forth into the wind. Lifelines stand protectively around the edges. I wonder, do birds visit? No, I am told. Not yet. Perhaps the bamboo is too young, the dirt too fresh, the lines too defined, the neighbors too tall, the insects too skinny.

My desk is in REV (Studio 81) on Level 3. I sit near Jane and Jacob and Mother Bernard Gosselin. Mother Bernard whispers to me. "Dear neighbor," she says in a hush tone, lips barely moving. Some things she says with her eyes. "I approve. I approve of your softening agents. Take these tulips. Take this cilantro. Use it. Awaken their senses." Her face is fixed in white vinyl to a concrete column. Christian told me about Mother Bernard. Text in her hand writing is wrapped around St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA. "Dear neighbor, I pray that you may find light, joy, and consolation."

1 comment:

Seanfoc said...

This is the most inspiring collection of words and sentences I've read in a very long time. Thank you Mimi. Thank you NBBJ.