The liquor store down the street caught fire. It has a diorama on top of it of a little house and chimney with a half-circle of smoke clouds, trees and a white picket fence. It’s called the House of Spirits and Max always says he needs to take a Rolleiflex of its charms. There is a sign in front of it now that reads “Close For Now”. The exterior looks oddly like it’s old self, but the interior is ruins, charred and empty.
Jackie introduced me to this haiku after the fire at their farmhouse…
Barn's burnt down -- now I can see the moon.
It was written by a 17th century Japanese poet and samurai, Mizuta Masahide, who studied medicine and words. There is something about writers who study medicine, I am thinking of Chekhov, that make words suit life and life reverberate in words. It’s an alchemy they achieve, a diagnosis of how things are, an anatomical romance with the world.
The missing “D” in the sign outside the House of Spirits feels like a riddle. A twisted fortune cookie. A haiku of sorts. I’ve been listening to Eckhart Tolle teach from his book, A NEW EARTH, thanks to the indomitable Oprah Winfrey and her love for learning. Each week Eckhart and Oprah – sounds like the protagonists of an overly-considered children’s book series – Oprah and Eckhart Go to LACMA, Oprah and Eckhart Take the Bus, Oprah and Eckhart Fly to the Moon– study a chapter of the book and share their talks in a podcast. They take calls from listeners all around the world and they accompany me on my trafficked errands and make me wonder about my being, my form, my house of spirits.
Language fails even Oprah at times when trying to express the immaterial crux of consciousness, but also match-like it illuminates the invisible. The meaning of the tragedy changes with that missing “D”, just like it changes in the third line of the haiku. Loss becomes a view, what isn’t destroyed suddenly close. Its sweet and cruel; the fate of the House of Spirits. And who makes a children’s book illustration into a diorama to adorn a liquor store anyway? It looks like they sell toys not whiskey. And “spirits” is hard for me when so many burn their insides down with the stuff. Anyways, everything in our lives is here to wake us up not to shut our doors.
Sometimes Max will describe the weather as being close. It’s an English thing. It can mean the day is humid or foggy; close because it’s sticking to you like an unwanted hug. He will also say, “things are on top today”, as if the weight of some worry or wish is tangible and bearing down. In this way, I am, like the House of Spirits, not closed but “Close for Now”. I feel it all; the scorched inventory, the spacious new view and the sweaty, sticky sacredness of this moment. Fire and form, Oprah and Eckhart, the Barn, the old moon and me.