I have begun with thyme again. I did not start it from seed this time; it seemed unpropitious. I got some cuttings from my greengrocer and started them in some sort of growing medium, I’m not sure what, mica chips or something. Anyway, here they are. Come spring I shall plant them in the old garden, well-tended by my Aunt Breath until she died, in the hope that not only will this be the beginnings of thyme but the reimagining of the garden as well. Next year I shall add some roses and maybe mint. I like a good mint tea.
Now it is reasonable to ask, what do I think I’m doing here, planting anything in my dear aunt’s garden? I don’t own the land. It was sold soon after her death at age 87, two years ago, to a nice family with two nice kids.
So, I won’t be able to tend it. I won’t be able to watch it grow. Or sit in the evening and smell its fragrance. Or anything. I repeat: what do I think I’m doing here?
Here’s my answer: I shall enter the garden invisibly. Like the philosopher John Wisdom in his essay Gods does; who simply posits the existence of a gardener and lets the curious try to find him. I will let the new owner try to find me. There will be no one that curious. The thyme will simply appear one morning, as if someone planted it, someone invisible. As I return each night I shall become harder to see.
We get up early in the hospital. The bright lights come on at 5:00 am. The lights are never off, only dimmed. Breakfast comes hours later, after the doctors have made their rounds. This morning I am waiting for the surgeon. The brain surgeon. He’s a tough man to pin down. He’s tough to figure out. Sometimes he’s the first one to arrive; sometimes he doesn’t come at all.
While I wait, I tend to my thyme clippings, examining all the roots as if they were flowers. They are white filament-like structures that specialize in getting nutrients from the moisture of the soil. Just the opposite of flowers. A hydrotrope, not heliotrope.
In my room I have a copy of the Philosophical Investigations, by Ludwig Wittgenstein—a second hand copy, handed down from Aunt Breath. I find I have an annotation right next to the opening paragraph, the one from Augustine’s Confessions, that reads ‘Don’t think, look!’ which is all right insofar as it goes, but it goes not far enough. The argument as I understand it runs like this.
Though Augustine has thought out his little picture what language is, he has not studied language. He has not looked at it. He was lead therefore to a dangerous picture of language, that nouns were the whole story, that language connected to t Read the rest of this entry »