Pulse Impulse

We ate dahl last night with our thali. This morning I read that India produces and imports more pulses than any other country in the world. But Leguminosae, the second largest family of plants, is not what I am writing about. I’m also not thinking, in the technical sense, of impulse as physical quantity. Rather I am thinking metaphorically, from those excitable cells transmitting electrical nerve impulses to that weird human feeling, or impulse, to write. I found out yesterday that the impulse to write, however, can be incited by external stimulus-a pulse. In this case, I’m talking about a short burst of energy transferred into words and posted to a WordPress blog that then led to an impulse (or impulses) to write. One post leading to another post leading to another post. As Murray Kreiger once put it, words about words about words.

The world is places. Though “place blog” may be an awkward phrase, I do think it was L’s usage of this phrase that made it possible for me to understand (and appreciate) what she was up to–a playful and perfectly promiscuous kind of concentration. Others claim that blogging is some kind of postindustrial or subversive use of language. Though I’m less interested in all of that. More simply, sporadic engagement with L’s posts over these past few years has been part of my preoccupation with the poetics of place-how we build, construct or make a sense of place; how in reading and writing we give meaning and value to places; how words and images combine to organize perception and feeling and thought into what we then call an experience of a place;. and how we learn, and what it actually means, to live in a place or call a place home.

I would use words and photographs, then, to enact the lived experience of a place. For as L says, I am here and she is there; and she is there and I am here. We both seem to find pleasures and rewards in the meditative practices of walking and writing, of being in the world and knowing it. “The world is places” comes from the writing of Gary Snyder. It is his way of reminding us that we experience the world as places-whether sweating on the hot summer streets of an Indian city or sinking into the muddy brown leaves of a New England Forest.

Perhaps the impulse to keep a place blog is, after all, an impossible attempt, happily unfinished, to capture the natural and cultural history of the present.  And maybe this act of forever finding out where you are is what the founder of the Soto school of Zen in Japan, Dōgen, meant when he said, “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs.”

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One thought on “Pulse Impulse

  1. Perhaps the impulse to keep a place blog is, after all, an impossible attempt, happily unfinished, to capture the natural and cultural history of the present.

    The impulse toward anything, even pulses, is impossible. What’s that line of Thoreau’s about bean-growing? Something about trying to force the earth to say “bean” rather than “grass”?

    Writing is an attempt to get a blank page (or blank screen) to say Something rather than Nothing. If you’re going to write something, why not have it be placed somewhere? It’s so easy (too easy!) to allow the life of the mind to be an abstract life, one entirely divorced from bodies and places and things. It’s a kind of awakening, I think, to return to one’s senses, to the world of things, by whatever means that is close at hand…like, say, the taste of dahl on the tongue.

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