Out of Whack

screenshot from Out of Whack
This entry is part 11 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


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It’s not every year we get snow in dogwood season. This particular year, the wild weather simply adds to the impression that the world is completely out of whack.

catching snowflakes
their little spikes

Marooned in our homes, tempers fray. We wonder how long this will go on, worry about finances and food shortages. I watch a pair of scarlet tanagers—treetop birds—reduced to feeding near the ground and foraging for invertebrates in the creek.

than our open mouths

But spring is always a puzzle: the innumerable ways that spikiness blossoms and leaves us.


Process notes

I’ve been trying hard to take my time with the videos in this series, and not rush them out as is my wont. Quite often this has led to some unexpected last-minute changes, as with the concluding line of prose here. I simply felt that the idea of spikiness hadn’t yet been adequately explored. And I have felt especially strongly this year just what a strange, perilous and miraculous thing a northern-hemisphere spring really is, even in normal circumstances.

The video has gone through three major drafts—about the same as the text, though largely unrelated to the changes there. I’m always a bit uncomfortable with too tight a fit between text and imagery in a videopoem, but I thought I might ameliorate the effect of mere illustration here with a split-screen suggesting outer vs. inner landscapes, using some old footage from (I think) the Tate Modern, altered enough to where I don’t think I’m simply ripping off the artist, whom I can’t credit because I failed to make a note of her name.

Obviously this entire videopoem is, in part, an exercise in obliqueness. It’s interesting to note that independently produced videos referencing COVID-19 or coronavirus explicitly on YouTube will be suppressed in search results in order to limit the spread of unofficial information. That’s not why I left out any reference to the virus here, though; at this point, it’s simply unnecessary to call it out. It permeates our thoughts… and soon enough, perhaps, our bodies as well.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that although the haibun in this series are nonfiction, the “we” in this case is pretty general; tempers aren’t actually fraying much where I’m staying, I’m happy to say. Which is not to say some of us aren’t still a bit spiky before we get our morning coffee…