Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Principles of Uncertainty

JUGGLING
I am the girl who loves juggling the beautiful colored balls. See them now, way up in the air. The big red ball. The little yellow ball. The sparkling silver ball. My favorite, the blue ball with white stripes. See me juggling. They are all in the air, spinning, around and around. We are moving. We are alive. It's magic. Beautiful.

I am also the girl who loves the moment when all the beautiful colored balls fall to the old wooden floor, with the last bits of sunlight shining desperately under the blue curtains, the balls still spinning, rolling to a stop under the table, behind the bookcase, next to the five-panel door. A tiny beautiful moment. But then, quickly, before the anxiety sets in, I want the balls back in the air.

I like the juggling more than the stopping. But just for this week, I'm going to let all my juggling balls sit there on the floor and I'm going look at this beautiful moment and resist the urge to put them all back into the air. It's tricky.

THE PRINCIPLES OF UNCERTAINTY
I read a book this week. In truth, I reread a book. For me, that's quite remarkable.

I reread The Principles of Uncertainty. It's a picture book, really. A picture book for grownups. Maira Kalman writes and paints. She feels anguish and pain and thinks about Dostoevsky's epilepsy and alcoholism and gambling addiction and chronic debt. She shares with us, her readers, paintings she makes of people she sees in New York and beautiful food and surprising hats. I like her best when she wearies of thinking and suggests a trip to Paris instead.

Maira Kalman is really good at looking at all the beautiful juggling balls that have fallen on the old wooden floor, with the last bits of sunlight shining desperately under the blue curtains. She looks at each juggling ball carefully, and points out the little crack in the big red ball and wonders if it got the crack when the cat was batting the red ball around the dining room. Kalman notes that the little yellow ball stopped next to the five-panel door and shares with us the story that the five-panel door was scavenged from a construction site where workmen were using a wrecking ball on an old Victorian home in downtown Houston. We like knowing that. She tells us that the silver ball is slightly lopsided, but that, too, seems to be okay. She also likes best the blue ball with the white stripes and that is satisfying.

Maira Kalman, unlike me, seems to be able to look for hours and hours at these beautiful balls on the floor, reflecting on the way the final bits of sunlight fall on the shiny silver ball, questioning what might happen if a husband might step on the yellow ball in the night on his way to the bathroom, remarking on the beauty of the scar in the old wooden floor where someone once dropped an iron. And, if things get too anxious and tense, there is always Paris.

It is nice, sometimes, to sit and look at the juggling balls, still on the wooden floor.


16 comments:

  1. This comes across as quite beautiful, although I'm unsure if the writer's not under some chemical influence, or merely has to much time. It doesn't matter whatever the reasoning, the writing sounds wonderful.

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  2. Wow, that is poetic! And I love reading an author's reflections that spin off into intriguing stories about how things came about and the wonder of what might happen...if.

    This kind of exercise does seem to give more meaning to everything. Thanks for sharing! And thanks for visiting my blog today.

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  3. I agree about the balls. Let them rest sometimes, on the floor.

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  4. Thank you, Harvee. It's so difficult for me to do that. I wish I could sit and look at the balls on the floor.

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  5. I find it hard to not do things constantly too. Interesting post :)

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  6. What a great excerpt. I'm glad that you decided to let all of your balls lie on the floor for a little while so you can rest.

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  7. love the balls analogy and image. I prefer to replace the balls with chores...sometimes, it is just nice to let the house be as it is. ;)

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  8. The juggling analogy is all mine; Maira Kalman does most of her talking with her pictures.

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  9. From the way you describe it it seems like a very unusual book.

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  10. I like that you are giving yourself permission to let the balls sit at rest. So often, we don't give ourselves that gift. And now I'm intrigued about this book.

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  11. Beautiful post. Yes, let the balls sit. Maybe they need a rest, too.

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  12. I have a difficult time stopping to appreciate the balls on the floor, it is something I really must work on... appreciating the here and now

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  13. Great post, Debbie, and a prompt for me to go back and re-read our copy. I also love "And the Pursuit of Happiness."

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  14. I could never stare at the balls, just sitting there on the floor. I am very type A and they must always be up in the air, bouncing around. Yes, one can fall every now and then but it must be tossed back in immediately.

    I applaud anyone who can do that though.

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  15. If I let the balls fall to the floor the dog snatches them up and they will never be seen again!

    You and Maira Kalman are much more poetic than I am about juggling...and letting them rest.

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