Staying up until 2 on a Saturday morning has its good points, I am sure, although I am not sure what constitutes those good points. Perhaps it is the scent of freedom, which, it turns out, smells nothing like teen spirit, but instead like sandalwood. I have not burned incense in years, which puzzles me, as I like the smell of incense.
Incense was one of those things people burned in college so that other people would not realize they were burning cannabis. I never burned cannabis, tobacco, corn starch or banana peels, as I am boring when it comes to matters of personal intake of substances. To this day I no doubt suffer from an entirely unexpanded mind, leaving me to guess at the meaning of "Tomorrow Never Knows" and to believe that discourtesy to others under the influence of intoxicants is loutish rather than intoxicatingly funny. I will never be popular, because I am not good at public displays of affectation.
My friends who did burn incense for camouflage purposes never succeeded in disguising the smell of cannabis, as their dorm rooms inevitably took on a purple pallor of cannabis-and-patchouli. Still, I love the smell of a thin curl of smoke rising from a wooden holder--especially when one has bought a good incense, and not one from a store with a name like Electric Houka Rose Hips.
The world, if one asks me, could use a bit more incense. Let's take my noon-time sandwich. I arrived at the chain-ish place that opened with such impressive fanfare and customer service a few months ago. At one p.m., the floor needed a good and thorough cleansing from what looked like days of neglect. The sandwich failed to arrive for minutes on end, as four counter people, who once sliced the meat and made the sandwich while one waited, appeared instead to rely on one fellow in the back to slowly make the sandwiches. It was rather like leaving behind the stunning new high speed bullet train and finding oneself on a curiously one-way furnicular railway slowly climbing a really rocky peak. My sandwich could have used a strong taste of incense--smoke rising from the little-train-that-could of a well-turned censer could have made my sandwich into a glowing ember of delight.
Incense comes in many forms. Let's take the estate sale I visited today. These troubling economic times mean that estate sales and rummage sales are no longer side-shows, but are now main events, as if eBay became a headquarters for Cirque de Soleil. This particular estate sale, for an older woman whose visage peered comfortingly from framed pictures, was pretty much whittled down to a Gideon's Book of Psalms, but for the incense. The incese was a really cool Givenchy nutcracker.
I know nothing about Christmas in July, or even August. But I know that nutcrackers are like vanilla musk incense for the soul. I paid one dollar and fifty cents for this fine specimen, and am delighted that he stands now on guard in my home. He is my kind of incense.
No sooner than one could say "dank u", I felt a bit uplifted by something as simple as an out-of-date holiday ornament. I focused on ways to try to create more incense in my life. I took some sheet music over at Soup Greens of the new Kristin Hersh song, "Elizabeth June"--a song about Betty Hutton--and tried to improve upon my failed efforts last night to create a new song from the melody.
I finally broke down and manually transcribed the melody into my synthesizer, after hours on end of playing with synthesizer plug-ins and the MIDI, and soon managed to soundtrack a video of playful Spanish blue titmouse birds with a dirge-like organ that would have been right at home in the Don Knotts movie "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken". I find juxtaposition to have an incense all its own--a burning ember of the sweetest blackberry smoke--and I shipped off the song, with its all-too-simple funeral anthemic soundtrack, to my fun collaborator in hopes she will not mind the jarring backing for her joyful jars of avian fun.
I read a book about music theory which taught me many things I do not know, although I would be misleading my readers if I pretended to learn all the book wanted to teach me. Books beckon to me that way all too often, and I find myself picking and choosing far too eagerly. I did learn that I want to try writing a song entirely in whole tone scale, using merely 6 notes. I was going to write a song today, using this lovely acoustic guitar sample I downloaded from CCMixter. However, I found, as I often do, that my intended excursion into lovely guitar remixing got subsumed into the heady incense of silliness, as I wrote a song in which a lot of stuff and nonsense signifying nothing wafts, like smoke, from the wooden board of my imagination, as I flew on a honey-powered satellite to absurdity.
Let's speak of cabbages, kings and honeybees. We have these amazing native sage plants in luxuriant bloom just on our front walk. The bees cluster, as if the flowers were the sweetest incense. I love the sight of bees at work in flowers. It makes me feel, in this bee-addled world, that the substance of reality is properly lit, and sending thin curls of smoke wafting in mid-air.
Incense may be a dish eaten cold, though, as with the high-fiber low-fat chocolate raspberry cake that an Applebee's capably served me tonight. Incense can be amusing, as with Laurel and Hardy short films on TV today. I never watched more than a snippet of any of these films, and yet considered them grand entertainment.
Incense is the sight at our pond of the local goose and her compatriots, a mottled collection of domestic ducks and wild wood ducks that inexplicably flock with the single domestic goose. They look like nothing so much as a little united nations of fowl. Incense can be a word: "rivier" or "tante" or "tufa", or a phrase: "The ground's on fire". Incense can be a book called "A Vanished World", about childhood in late 19th Century upstate New York told in 1964 by a capable retired high school English teacher. Incense can be the sounds of thousands of starlings in live oak trees.
If I gave you two scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes (if you are vegetarian, I will scramble something
pleasingly non-animal, such as lentils), then can you taste the scent of cherry in the air? Perhaps we'll walk together in the park, longing to see herons. Perhaps we'll talk of books we've read, and of the miracles that people do when they make great big lives out of very little raw material.
I heard a woman on the radio today talk of going to an artistic retreat, and finding that she had immense troubling emptying her mind of thoughts of the day. I thought to myself that I am grateful that I am a sufficiently dull knife that I can sometimes avoid having my mind cut in quite that insistent a fashion.
Then I had an insight into the way she lived, and I felt better for the experience. If I could order cinnamon toast--hold the margarine and butter, then I'd find a way to meditate, and taste the cinnamon, like smoke, curling in my nostrils, as I thought of nothing--but incense.