ADRIA BERNARDI: Sidewalk & other neural networks of well-being

Sidewalk

& other neural networks

of well-being

(I realized again) approaching one-stop away (Glencoe stop) on the Metra train that my sense of well-being is inextricably associated with a particular kind of outside space, connected with, and by, sidewalks — and that each of the houses I have lived in since stepping into adulthood, share this characteristic — each has been located on a street with sidewalks. Or putting it another way, I realized, again, that the sidewalk is associated with, or, is integrally tied to, my associations of great well-being — the hand reaching to the child — the low hedge (manicured), as when learning to walk (Bloom Street), unequivocally a place of well-being for that period of years called early childhood — of safety & of generativity. I realized this from a train – (at Highland Park) where the flags, coincidentally, were flying at half-mast for Nelson Mandela that day.

For the most part, the mailboxes on Linden Avenue in Nashville are located near the sidewalk, whereas, two blocks away, on Blair, only three of the mailboxes are located close to the street near the sidewalk, and the rest are each attached to the house.  I have been working on a theory: hypothesis; equation; proof. Counting houses. Correlating them with mailboxes. Considering placement of mailboxes in relationship to the front door. Measuring distance between front door and mailbox:  A mere step outside and reach? A stroll to the end of pavement to the street? What does navigating that space mean to whoever is crossing it?

The network of arteries in the brain is called the Circle of Willis. It is named for Thomas Willis, the English anatomist and physician (1621–1675). This network is more likely to be incomplete in those who experience migraines than those who do not.

The words “temporal collage” and “co-existence of asynchronisities” were written on a yellow Post-it note affixed to the door frame (left side) of the office on the third floor of the house (sky blue) in Worcester, Massachusetts; the Post-it note had been moved from the facing wall in an office on Lincoln Avenue (a slant street in Chicago); the Post-it note is now on the desk (right hand) on the second story of a bungalow (sea green) in Nashville, Tennessee. 

In her contribution to the conference held to honor Professor Rebecca West upon retirement from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago, former student, Professor Sally Hill of Victoria University in Wellington, directed attention to these passages in Professor West’s study, Gianni Celati: The Craft of Everyday Storytelling:

   “The external world, like us, is embodied in materiality, and we living humans share in what Celati might call the absolute condition of presence.”

&:

  “I felt at that moment all the weight, and all the strangeness, of coincidences, of connections made across time and space, and of what I can only now call the ‘literariness’ of life and the ‘life’ of great literature that can put its signature, so to speak, on certain lived moments, . .”

& also: 

  “This is not indifference, this is not irresponsibility; this, I think is attuning ourselves to literal conviviality.

The Circulus Arteriosus Cerebri. The anterior and posterior communicating arteries indirectly connect the internal carotid arteries of the two sides and the basilar system, so that an arterial circle is formed at the base of the brain. These interconnections serve to equalize the blood supply to the various parts of the brain under conditions of fluctuating pressure through the major vessels.” 

sidewalk

sidewalk, december 13, 2013, nashville, tennessee,

blair boulevard, looking west, toward natchez trace

Patience Mashele, 41, said she had seen Mandela three times in her life.  She had put on a black, gold & green shirt and left her house in Pretoria before dawn. She rode a bus to the Union Buildings in Pretoria for a public viewing of the body.  The first time she saw him was in 1990, after his release from prison; when she was growing up, possessing his picture was illegal.  The second time she saw him was in 1994, when he was sworn in at the Union Buildings. The third time she saw him was in 2005 in Qunu, Mr. Mandela’s hometown in the Eastern Cape, having travelled there to attend the funeral of his son, Makgatho, who had died of AIDS. Hamba kahle means go well, in Zulu.


Mandela

People standing in line to catch a bus to see the body of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria.

 

Type of Cognitive Processing Brief Description

HolisticProcessing information from whole to part; sees the big picture first, not the details

RandomProcessing with out priority, jumps form (sic) one task to another

ConcreteProcesses things that can be seen, or touched – real objects.

IntuititiveProcesses information based on whether or not it feels rightknow (sic) answer but not sure how it was derived

NonverbalProcesses thought as illustrations

Fantasy-OrientedProcesses information with creativity; less focus on rules and regulations

The section of the pavement of sidewalk in front of the house measures 5’ x 5’. It was measured with a wooden yardstick. The yardstick has this message on the inches side:  “Always Proud To Be a Part of Your Home.” – Wolf Furniture Company. An index card was used to mark the place where the yardstick ended, in order to continue measuring. On the centimeter side, it read, Wolf Furniture Company – Brand Names – Quality Guaranteed.

A segment of sidewalk is made by taking 2 x 4s and laying each on its side on the sides of a square a few inches dug into the ground. (Four inches is standard.) Concrete is poured into the form, then smoothed over. A trowel is used for this. A segment of a sidewalk is called a section. The line separating two sections is called an expansion joint. A new sidewalk was recently made on what is referred to by neighbors as the secret sidewalk, a narrow sidewalk that connects two streets (two sidewalks) and continues, to connect another street (sidewalk), and then to another street (sidewalk), and then to another. This connecting sidewalk is no secret; there are no gates or signs that say private.

A third of the length of one stretch of the secret sidewalk was damaged (cracked) by machinery used during construction of a new house (new construction) at the site where an old house was demolished; (white frame; porch); (the scale of the two houses is vastly different). The length of the old damaged sidewalk was jack-hammered and torn up. New sidewalk was laid. Each segment is 5’ x 5’. (The perception that the old secret sidewalk was narrow (see above) was a misperception, formed, perhaps, because of the surrounding, over-grown, tall bushes, alongside it, forming a canopy from the side. Now there is a wooden fence. This portion of the secret sidewalk is a wall enclosed; and the first walk along this stretch gave the sensation of a wall, or a canyon, or tunnel, along the right side of the brain.

The new sidewalk is smooth; whereas the old one was uneven, in particular where it had heaved because of the roots of a tree that grows more horizontally than vertically, a tree which is itself propped up with a section of a sawn tree limb approximately eight inches in diameter and one yard tall sawn evenly at both ends, a prop wedged under a U-shaped curve of the tree that grows horizontally at a slant across the secret sidewalk, front yards separated, from the white frame house that was torn down.  The torn-down white frame house was referred to as the “Haunted House” by a neighbor; among the numerous cars parked at the house, which was heavily decorated at Halloween, was a hearse.

After the new length of sidewalk was re-laid, jack-hammered, then torn up, and re-laid, over those weeks, this was the train-of-thought on the subject of the sidewalk being torn up, re-laid, torn up, and re-laid: a matter of code enforcement? who laid it?  contractor associated with tear-down and in-fill?  how re-laid?  not correctly.  under what conditions?  not right.  with what permits or permissions?  none.  then the city re-laid the segment. This was the thinking on the subject.  Now the two streets are connected by sidewalk with the again, newly-laid sidewalk.

 

In Worcester, Massachusetts, the master mason told my husband (I did not hear this story first-hand): “Oh you can still pour concrete or lay bricks when it gets to a certain temperature close to freezing” (let’s say, 40 degrees F.) And the Clerk of the Works would come around with the thermometer to make sure the work was being done under proper conditions. You can imagine how many days we’d lose to the weather if we had to stop every time. We’d, now, I’d see him drive up, walking up to the site and I’d call one of the men over who was smoking and call him over. . .” (Or was it?) “The Clerk of the Works would be looking at the thermometer and I would have one of the men lean in close with his cigarette near the thermometer and that would bring it up a couple of degrees.” And I hear this – he was from Ireland – within the sound of Worcester (there are many variations of speech, north, south, west, of Worcester, Anglo, Irish, and many variations of, the many, you-could-pass, accents.) His voice was just one in that pond of voices.  I was once told, you could pass, meaning, I could pass, in reverse, back into that pond, of voices, you could pass, she said to me, meaning, from where she came from, which was in very Eastern Europe, where I fit.

The network of arteries in the brain called the Circle of Willis is named for Thomas Willis, English anatomist and physician, 1621–1675. Willis paracusia (par-ah-kuse-ah) or paracusia of Willis paracusis, being the intense and incessant acuity of hearingor the ability to hear best in a loud din.

In Chicago, nearing the el overhead and Lawrence & Damen, farther on, where the child – now a man – was an infant, and his father & I were new parents, the baby, an infant, was still flat on his back, staring up at the sky, bundled.  It was winter. He started making sounds of dissatisfaction, anger, annoyance. What could he want? We checked. We reassured. No hunger. No other necessity. And yet the insistent sound of a frustration, displeasure – as if, hey! or now! or here! And when I looked, what I saw – or perhaps we both saw, was that he was straining his neck, raising his head, lifting his back, to sit up – to see something different – besides the sky – (blue) and when, after we tilted the seat up at the slightest angle (first time), and he could look ahead to his left and right, turning his head, he was very content.

saturday evening

the christmas lights on the fence

along the right side of the sidewalk

walking by them, in early evening

at dusk, white lights, italian lights,

lit pathway like little stepping

stones, neurons, synaptic way

on the right side of the brain

 

sunday morning

multicolored little lights

along a stone wall covered

in ivy – light up the brain

on the right side, not a path

but a kind of network – a

kind of pleasing,  jewel-color

spontaneously sprung-

up landscape of a network

across that perpendicular

of the plane across the street

 

the segment of sidewalk

requires two steps,

with every so often a stutter

needed to avoid enacting

the warning of the saying

 

there’s a segment of sidewalk

on Fairfax laid sideways

that looks human

head, torso, no arms,

like a block, like a child’s

plastic peg to fit into its counter-

parted hole. it resembles the body

of a knight on a tomb in a cathedral,

but minimalist, a knob-head, an

elongated arch of a body.  I also

avoid stepping on this.

 

Across the street, walks a woman, who has lost a great deal of weight over the past year in her dedicated walking; she is carrying a white CD player, white wires vining up into her ears; her clothes are all black: black sweat pants, black sweatshirt and a black hooded cowl: with that hood she looks like an image out of the middle ages, except for the white CD, which she carries – flat like a plate in front of her as she walks briskly towards the colored lights.

On this gray Sunday, there are the tiniest hints of snowflakes. The dogs, one old, one young, tug along.

sidewalk  n. A footwalk by the side of a street or road; specifically, a paved or otherwise prepared way for pedestrians in a town, usually separated from the roadway by a curb and gutter. Also (in Great Britain nearly always called pavement): He loved few things better than to look out of the arched window, and see a little girl driving her hoop along the sidewalk, or school-boys of at a game of ball.  Hawthorne. Seven Gables, xi

 

Along the highway in Nairobi, in the morning, heading towards the city center, a line of people walked along in single file, occasionally two people together. On the other side of the road, there was no one walking on the footpath. The path was located some distance from the highway. In the evening, on the footpath along the highway, people were walking away from the center of the city a line, and there was no one on the footpath on the other side of the highway.

Driving west on Nolensville Road at dusk, a figure of a man, and then a woman, each dressed in dark clothing, walk east along the shoulder; they are not on the road at twilight, but very close to it, spaced at some distance from each other, perhaps twenty feet, walking away from the city. They are very close to the car moving at great speed at twilight, inches, a foot?  two feet? less, walking home from work, from a bus stop or a drop-off place.

There are pointless deaths, it seems. Preventable. Traffic fatalities, for example on the shoulder of the road. My sons, my husband, all, chide me for a relentless negativity. For a grinding tone that comes out of, seemingly, nowhere.  For example, this next remark about the lack of drivers’ education in public high schools and the high incidence of traffic fatalities in the state. Or the dearth of physical education in the public school system and the high rate of diabetes. But these are subjects different from the subject of the sidewalk and well-being.  I could go on, but I am intent on focusing upon, discovering, and charting a different kind of neural pathway.

at the corner of blair and natchez trace

on the low hedge of holly,

a few scattered berries

someone has placed a red, woolen hand

There were no sidewalks in town, said one interviewee after another. There were wooden sidewalks above the mud, said one after the other in describing how rough the mining town was, how far away. How early was his or her arrival to the immigrant community, thus establishing her position or rank in relation to its settlement and development. There weren’t even any sidewalks. As if to say, There was not yet civilization, there was not yet community, or, perhaps, there was not yet anything that would become familiar.

“The pavement was dry and hard; the road was hammered silver. Walking home through the desolation one could tell oneself the story of the dwarf, of the blind man, of the party in the Mayfair mansion, of the quarrel in the stationer’s shop. Into each of these lives one could penetrate a little way, far enough to give oneself the illusion that one is not tethered to a single mind but can put on briefly for a few moments the bodies and minds of others.”

It is true what she says: it does not take the eye very long to find some object that bemuses. Just how long will that pumpkin remain on the curb? orange moving through several holiday seasons.  The heart in a tree next to the sidewalk, its outline painted, so that from across the street it looks like a mosaic.  In in the second half of the walk, figure 8 of a loop (left side of the walk & in the brain) just about to embark on a little negative descent that begins: If only. . . at that moment, the eye perceives: winterberry – outside an eastern-facing window, well-placed & thriving, ha! – laughter encapsulated in a red glossy dot, hundreds of tiny beads, each on a fragile gray branch.

The step itself is an iamb – one–two, one–two. Even.  It’s enough, as they used to say, to get your head on straight.

The knees preclude running; thus the view is slowmo. A solitary walk is preferred to walking with a companion. This is brain time. This is hearing-yourself-think time. Get outside to get inside time; also time inside to get outside. The preferred scenery is not spectacular; it’s worldly; it’s familiar. No oohs and ahs. This is the point.

Yesterday evening, someone was coming up quickly from behind: a long shadow, the sun being far to the south & east so close to the solstice in mid-winter, so that the shadows fell at strange angles on the sidewalk.

 “A complex network of connections necessary for language comprehension has been mapped in new detail according to recent research. These newly charted pathways will help scientists understand how language is processed in the brain, and how injuries disrupt the system.. . .

   “‘The results have revealed a far more extensive network for language functions than current models would have predicted,’ . . .

    “The network included a core region within the left mid-temporal lobe of the brain and extended to the frontal and parietal cortex in both halves of the brain – all connected by long distance communication pathways. The next step for scientists is to explore whether other language abilities, such as talking, reading, and writing, also have such dynamic networks.”

The copy of Twice-Told Tales was formerly in the possession of Vincent Stanulonus; Rachel Lemovitz, H. 8, Oct. 20, 1927; also Luther Brosislaus. Inside the book is an imprint in purple ink, written in all upper case letters: HIGH SCHOOL OF COMMERCE WORCESTER, MASS.  The collection is published by the Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, edited by J. Hubert Scott. A.M., Academy of Northwestern University, Illinois, introduction by George Parsons Lathrop. There is an image of a young man/god playing the pipes above an illuminated lantern under a tree: Tout bien ou rien. The Riverside Press 1907. The cover is pine green cloth, with two columns along each edge, Twice Told Tales in the center.  Inside the back cover, it says: Mary Smith 3/10/26 Hall 7. 

“Yes; and I can see that the pretty child is weary of this wide and pleasant street, with the green trees flinging their shade across the quiet sunshine, and the pavements and the side-walks all as clean as if the housemaid had just swept them with her broom.  She feels that impulse to go strolling away – that longing after mystery in the great world – which many children feel, and which I felt in my childhood.”

“A Bird came down the Walk –

He did not know I saw –

He bit an Angleworm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw, . .  .”

 

We would draw rooms of houses

with chalk on the sidewalk,

furniture, doors and windows,

and when we wanted to expand,

we drew them on the street

where we had to move over

whenever a car approached

from up or down the street;

the chalk that worked best

for this purpose was not the

chalk for chalkboards (side-

walk chalk was not invented

and if it was we didn’t

know about it) but the chalk

that was to be had in pieces

broken off from the walls

of the houses being newly

constructed, the remnant

pieces literally there for

the taking scattered on the lots

or just outside the foundation

in the heaps of the discarded

building materials.  The dis-

advantage of this chalk was

that it came in one color:

white; the advantage – it

lasted, and it could write

over both cement and

asphalt without snapping

apart, crumbling in the

hand, leaving the knuck-

les, suddenly and unex-

pectedly scraping against

the pavement.  In this way,

two little girls for several

years imagined houses,

rooms; what was never re-

solved, as far as I was con-

cerned, was, that while

the doors and windows

could be imagined and

walked through, and even

the stationary aspect of

the furniture (once drawn,

a chair had to stay in

its corner, a vase with

flowers, a table, the path

to the door, the chimney)

could be accommodated

in the imagining, there

was never a truly

satisfactory way of walking

from one level to another.

“Now, researchers. . . have used advanced brain imaging techniques to show that remembering the past and envisioning the future may go hand-in-hand, with each process sparking strikingly similar patterns of an activity within precisely the same broad network of brain regions.

“. . . First, the study clearly demonstrates that the neural network underlying future thoughts is not isolated in the brain’s frontal cortex, as some have speculated. . . 

  “Second, within this neural network, patterns of activity suggest that the visual and spatial context for our imagined future often is pieced together using our past experiences, including memories of specific body movements and visual perspective changes – data stored as we navigated through similar settings in the past. 

  “These findings. . . offer strong support for a relatively recent theory of memory, which posits that remembering the past and envisioning the future draw upon many of the same neural mechanisms. . . Previous speculation has been based largely on the anecdotal observation of very young children cases of severe depression and brain damaged persons with amnesia.”

Concrete Trip Fall Hazard Repair: Many sidewalks over time will heave or settle producing a rise or depression between joints in concrete sidewalks, lead walks, patios etc. Left untreated these breaks produce trip fall hazards. A trip / fall hazard produces unwanted liabilities for property managers and owners.

Cracked Concrete Repair: Cracked concrete could be the result of freeze / thaw damage, poor quality concrete or the result of damage due to stress. The fact is, concrete cracks are the main reason construction and expansion joints are placed in concrete, to control cracking once it starts. The underlying cause of the crack or cracking, and the thickness of the cracks, will determine whether or not the area should be repaired. An area of sidewalk that has obvious underlining problems such as tree root problems, freeze/thaw, soft soil and the issues have caused cracks ½ inch or wider should be addressed.

Q.: I have been contracted to build 2,000 linear feet of 5-foot-wide, 4-inch-thick sidewalk on a 4-inch gravel base. The specifications call for expansion joints every 20 feet. I contend that expansion joints are needed at a minimum of every 50 feet and where the walk will abut existing structures. Control joints will be cut every 5 feet. Am I right in suggesting expansion joints every 50 feet?   A.: According to several industry sources, expansion joints, even at 50-foot intervals, are not necessary for the sidewalk project. Long stretches of concrete do not require intermediate expansion joints. Proper use of contraction joints at short spacings of 5 feet will allow for proper movement of the individual sidewalk slabs. Due to normal shrinkage of the concrete after placement, the slab probably will never expand and become larger than it is at the time of placement. The fact is, concrete cracks are the main reason construction and expansion joints are placed in concrete, to control cracking once it starts.

Isolation joints, however, will be needed where the walk will abut existing structures. According to ACI 332, "Guide to Residential Cast-in-place Concrete Construction," isolation joints, sometimes called expansion joints, are only necessary to separate the sidewalk from a fixed or different concrete structure. Examples include separating the sidewalk from lampposts, hydrants, footings, buildings, driveways, and curbs.

·       How many feet before an expansion joint is installed in concrete sidewalk?

10 feet

·       Why does the expansion joint in a sidewalk get narrower in the summer and wider in the winter?

In heat the sidewalks contract as when the winter comes the coolness causes the sidewalks to contract.

·       What should be the thickness of a concrete sidewalk?

It depends on the size of the sections, but generally, no less than 4 inches.

·       How many square feet of concrete in a yard?

9 sq. feet

20. Concrete sidewalks are always laid in sections

with gaps between each section. For example,

the drawing shows three identical 2.4 m sections,

the outer two of which are against immovable walls.

The two identical gaps between the sections are

provided so that thermal expansion will not create

thermal stress that could lead to cracks. What is

the minimum gap width necessary to account for

an increase in temperature of 32C?

 

Boulevard

Boulevard du Temple, 1995, Georg Aerni, Panoramas parisiens, Paris, 1994-96.

“He took these shots from the opposite sidewalk during the years 1995 and 1996 in the early morning hours when the streets were still devoid of cars, provided side streets or construction sites didn’t interfere with his work. Moreover, he divided the buildings and blocks, which varied in length, into an even rhythm. In the context of the exhibition he lines the images up, matching the precisely adjusted sky-gray barite prints so that the façades at the same depth in each image insure horizontal continuity. . . In Aerni’s Panoramas parisiens the frontal view prevents any kind of hierarchy. Attic and ground floor levels are given equal status.”

 “The deep projection of the second story gave the house such a meditative look that you could not pass it without the idea that it had secrets to keep, and an eventful history to moralize upon. In front, just on the edge of the unpaved sidewalk, grew the Pyncheon Elm, which in reference to such trees as one usually meets with, might well be termed gigantic.”

 “Well advanced as Hepzibah was, she could not remember when Uncle Venner, as the neighbor-hood called him, had not gone up and down the street, stooping a little and drawing his feet heavily over the gravel or pavement. But still there was something tough and vigorous about him, that not only kept him in daily breath, but enabled him to fill a place which would have else have been vacant in the apparently crowded world.”

December 26, Thursday.  I noticed sound first – not what was visual – but quiet – absence of noise, traffic, motion, (commotion) – around my ears.  It was as if there were a kind of smooth, soothing cushion on either side – a surprise – this quiet around on either side of the body, on either side of the sidewalk, walking along up the slight rise of the hill.

“All you need now is to stand at the window and let your rhythmical sense open and shut, boldly and freely, until one thing melts into another, until the taxis are dancing with the daffodils, until a whole has been made from all these separate fragments.  I am talking nonsense, I know.  What I mean is, summon all your courage, exert all your vigilance, invoke all the gifts that Nature has been induced to bestow. Then let your rhythmical sense wind itself in and out among men and women, omnibuses, sparrows– whatever comes along the street– . . .”

Sidewalk Squares

“. . .As if there were magic in the sound, the sidewalks of the street, both up and down along, are immediately thronged with two long lines of people, all converging hitherward, and steaming into the church. Perhaps the far-off roar of a coach draws nearer — a deeper thunder by its contrast with the surrounding stillness — until it sets down the wealthy worshipers at the portal, among their humblest brethren. Beyond the entrance, in theory at the least, there are no distinctions of earthly rank, nor, indeed, by the godly apparel which is fluttering the sun, would there seem to be such, on the hither side.”

Within the arterial network of the city, in addition to the streets and sidewalks, there is also the alley, a narrow artery that connects two cross-streets; behind the house, time manifests itself: (new construction) day-to-day, across the alley, the lot is filled: a house is doubling in size, its wooden ribs are still exposed. The new garage brings size into the eye’s view-finder, adjusts focus into loom mode. a man is walking in air above a fence; he spits into the alley. In any case, the eye adjusts. The eye will adjust to spatial change: change is not so difficult; one can adapt and move through the shifts — re-think it — a small lawn has now been covered over; new neighbors will walk inside a structure; (I was the new neighbor) (in a house expanded) (its insides gutted) (original inner workings – removed); the bungalow, once scorned, (blighting the open space) now sacred, even sacrosanct.  We wake to the sound of a hammer against wood, echoes.  In any case, three people work in December.

“Andava un giorno per una strada della sua città, seguito da due bravi, e accompagnato da un tal Cristoforo, altre volte giovine di bottega e, dopo chiusa questa, diventato maestro di casa. Era un uomo di circa cinquant’anni, affezionato, dalla gioventù, a Lodovico, che aveva veduto nascere, e che, tra salario e regali, gli dava non solo da vivere, ma di che mantenere e tirar su una numerosa famiglia. Vide Lodovico spuntar da lontano un signor tale, arrogante e soverchiatore di professione, col quale non aveva mai parlato in vita sua, ma che gli era cordiale nemico, . . Tutt’e due camminavan resente al muro;. . .” (In other words, two men approached each other on a narrow sidewalk, each claiming the space closest to the wall, and farthest from the dirty, muddy, foul, street; neither would cede, the one whose life was devoted to arrogance and being overbearing and the other, a hothead with rightful pride and rights denied.  And so one story unfolds. A character’s.  A storyline.  Un romanzo.  A concept.  A language.)

Primo

Lodovico primo del duello, illus. Francesco Gonin (1808-1889),

 IV, I Promessi sposi  (The Betrothed) Alessandro Manzoni

Tra Duello

“Il duello tra Lodovico e "un signor tale, arrogante e

soverchiatore di professione". Illus. Francesco Gonin (1808-1889)

 IV, I Promessi sposi (The Betrothed) Alessandro Manzoni

 

At the center of the crux of this matter that is a pathway is a contusion that must be in some way eased through — a new model of urban living, says the sign; this new model of urban living being, essentially, suburban; and here it is again: conflict; and for all the wish to tread lightly, step lightly, without discontinuity, here is another knot; the placement of mailboxes is a sub-division of tussle: where memories are made: the long driveway? the perfect lawn? or city sidewalks–busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style, people about, bustling, commotion, their heads, floating ahead, hats, as balloons? remember! remember that plaque, this urban living was originally suburban, an early suburban settlement, here, at the outskirts of all that city, where someone (bard barb) winced, one way or another, at prairie and farmland disappearing, at middlebrow suburb springing up; here’s the burr of another knot, what we want, what we don’t, what’s distant, what’s near, unravelling it, in a ramble within the eye, with the ear. 

“It was the first of the January thaw. . . – to see the stream of ladies gliding along these slippery sidewalks. . .”

“In my own case, poor human nature may be allowed a few misgivings. . . Yonder dingily white remnant of a huge snow-bank, — which will yet cumber the sidewalk till the latter days of March, — over or through that wintry waste must I stride onward. . .”

“As the stores close, a winter light

opens air to iris blue,

glint of frost through the smoke,

grains of mica, salt of the sidewalk. . .”

 

 

A hopscotch in February is drawn repeatedly on a sidewalk, half-size, miniature, in hot pink and tangerine (it’s springtime, almost) across five segments of sidewalk, and into a sixth, and not entirely straight, it gives the appearance of unevenly stacked boxes, like something from Dr. Seuss, slightly curved, a stairway, an entryway into another world into which you hip-hop in your mind.

 

“25. During these days in Bamako, at the end of each afternoon, I wait for the moment to take an evening stroll around the streets of the Medina.  On the great two-lane boulevard, the Route de Koulikoro, at the hour the neon rods light up everywhere above the doors, people sit on steps, in air that is filled with dust. Nobody is selling anything anymore, the stalls are closed up with rope.  It’s a party because the day is over, and wherever you look everyone is there chatting.  Not one single person who passes by is in a hurry.  It’s the same on the street as it is on the sidewalk because cars no longer have the right of way over pedestrians. A few shop doors are open, and you see merchants who are playing dominoes. One understands the hour by people’s movements, always more relaxed toward evening. The impression is one of being in the country in the evening, in summer, but in a countryside full of houses. Someone carries on a conversation in the shade, a girl goes to get water from the pump again, someone a little ways off plays the conjurer from the bush, some fat ladies fan themselves in front of a house, some thin men pick their teeth.”

 

 

 

Notes

According to a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the network of arteries in the brain called the circle of Willis more is more likely to be incomplete in migraineurs than in non-migraineurs. Diana-Lee, “Migraine Associated with Incomplete Brain Artery-Structure,” migraine.com  July 30, 2013.

The post-it note with ‘temporal collage’ and ‘co-existence of asynchronisitieswritten on it was made sometime between 1990 and 1993 after reading an article that included a quote from urban planner Kevin Lynch; it resurfaced as I began to write this essay. 

Victoria Hill. “Convivial Encounters: Word and Image in the Work of Rebecca West,” presentation, “Literature and Cinema in Italian Cultural Studies: A Conference in Honor of Rebecca West, William J. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, December 5-6, 2013.  

 “The external world, like us, is embodied in materiality, and we living humans share in what (Gianni) Celati might call the absolute condition of presence. The best, perhaps, that we can ever do with things, places, and people is to recognize what Melville named the ‘unconditional democracy of all things’ and what Celati explores in his writings and video work as the ‘state of potential’ of silent things. . .” 137;

“I felt at that moment all the weight, and all the strangeness, of coincidences, of connections made across time and space, and of what I can only now call the ‘literariness’ of life and the ‘life’ of great literature that can put its signature, so to speak, on certain lived moments, thereby highlighting and crystallizing a feeling, an emotion, an otherwise inexpressible sentiment.” Rebecca J West, Gianni Celati: The Craft of Everyday Storytelling. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000),  6-7.

“The Circulus Arteriosus Cerebri. The anterior and posterior communicating arteries indirectly connect the internal carotid arteries of the two sides and the basilar system, so that an arterial circle is formed at the base of the brain. .  .” The Essentials of Human Anatomy, Russell T. Woodburne, Oxford University Press London Toronto 1973.  280  

 

Sidewalk looking west (toward natchez trace, nashville, tennessee, blair boulevard,” Photo by author taken with cellphone.  December 13, 2013. 

 

“Patience Mashele said she had seen Mandela three times in her life.  She had put on a green, gold & green skirt and left her house in Pretoria before dawn.. . .” This is a summary of the account in the newspaper article, “It’s the People’s Turn to Pay Tribute,” by Lydia Polgreen, Nicholas Kulish and Alan Cowell, New York Times, p. 1 and p. 14, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2012.

Photo (taken at kitchen table with cellphone) of photograph by Jacoline Prinsloo, in The New York Times article by Nicholas Kulish, published Friday, December 13, 2013, p. 14, showing people standing in line to catch a bus to see the body of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa. [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/world/africa/body-of-nelson-mandela-lies-in-state.html?_r=0] A Long Goodbye for Mandela Photo Jacoline Prinsloo/DIRCO via Associated Press

“Type of Cognitive Processing Brief Description. HolisticProcessing information from whole to part; sees the big picture first, not the details. . .” www.web-us.com/brain/braindominance.htm

“The section of the pavement of sidewalk in front of the house measures 5’ x 5’. It was measured with a wooden yardstick. . .” “1902. Charles Wolf and partner John Fox start City Furniture Company in downtown Altoona PA. 1915 Charles Wolf buys out Fox’s interest and begins construction on a five-story building at 1501 11th Avenue called Wolf Furniture Company.  It is the largest furniture store between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. 1918. Flu epidemic hits U.S. people die including Charles Wolf, age 54. His widow Annie C., mother of five, faces major responsibility, including a substantial mortgage on the recently constructed building. . .” from www.wolffurniture.com/about/history

“sidewalk  n. A footwalk by the side of a street or road; specifically, a paved or otherwise prepared way for pedestrians in a town, usually separated from the roadway by a curb and gutter. . .” The Century Dictionary:An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language (New York:  The Century Co., 1914).

Adria Bernardi, Houses with Names: the Italians of Highwood, Illinois (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990).

“The pavement was dry and hard; the road was hammered silver. . .  And what greater delight and wonder can there be than to leave the straight lines of personality and deviate into the footpaths that lead beneath the brambles and thick tree trunks into the heart of the forest where live those wild beasts, our fellow men?” Virginia Woolf, “Street Haunting,” The Death of the Moth.  (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1942), 35.

“For the eye has this strange property: it rests only on beauty; like a butterfly it seeks colour and basks in warmth. . . The thing it cannot do (one is speaking of the average unprofessional eye) is compose these trophies in such a way as to bring out the more obscure angles and relationships.” Virginia Woolf, “Street Haunting,” The Death of the Moth. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1942), 23.

 “According to the Nashville government website, $23 million has been dedicated to sidewalks, ramps and bikeways since 2004. . . “ Joyce V. Harrison, “Sidewalks coming  (sooner or later) to Nashville,” Yahoo Contributor Network. Oct. 20, 2011 voices.yahoo.com/sidewalks-coming-sooner-later-nashville.

“A complex network of connections necessary for language comprehension has been mapped in new detail according to recent research. . .”  “Newly Identified Brain Pathways Vital to Understanding Language” ScienceDaily, Nov. 22, 2010.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Little Annie’s Ramble,” Twice Told Tales. (Cambridge, Mass.:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 1907), 142.

“A Bird came down the Walk – ” (328) Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by Thomas H. Johnson, (Boston and Toronto: Little Brown and Company, 1960), 156.

“Now, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have used advanced brain imaging techniques to show that remembering the past and envisioning the future may go hand-in-hand, with each process sparking strikingly similar patterns of activity within precisely the same broad network of brain regions. . .”     “First, the study clearly demonstrates that the neural network underlying future thought is not isolated in the brain’s frontal cortex, as some have speculated.  Although the frontal lobes play a well-documented role in carrying out future-oriented executive functions, such as anticipation, planning and monitoring, the spark for these activities may well be the very process of envisioning oneself in a specific, future event, an activity based with-in and reliant upon the same neutrally distributed network used to retrieve autobiographical memories.

“Second, within this neural patterns of activity suggest that the visual and spatial context for our imagined future often is pieced together using our past experiences, including memories of specific body movements and visual perspective changes – data stored as we navigated through similar settings in the past. 

  “These findings (Kathleen) McDermott (associate professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and of radiology in the School of Medicine at Washington University) suggests, offer strong support for a relatively recent theory of memory, which posits that remembering the past and envisioning the future draw upon many of the same neural mechanisms.  Previous speculation has been based largely on the anecdotal observation of very young children, cases of severe depression and brain damaged persons with amnesia.” “Imaging Pinpoints Brain Regions That ‘See The Future’, Science Daily. January 7, 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070102092224.htm>.

Concrete Trip Fall Hazard Repair: Many sidewalks over time will heave or settle producing a rise or depression between joints in concrete sidewalks, lead walks, patios etc. Left untreated these breaks produce trip fall hazards…” http://www.surfaceking.com/concrete-repair.htm

Q.: I have been contracted to build 2,000 linear feet of 5-foot-wide, 4-inch-thick sidewalk on a 4-inch gravel base.

(http://www.concreteconstruction.net/concrete-construction/expansion-joints-not-needed-in-sidewalk.aspx)

“Isolation joints, however, will be needed where the walk will abut existing structures. According to ACI 332, “Guide to Residential Cast-in-place Concrete Construction http://www.concreteconstruction.net/concrete construction/expansion-joints-not-needed-in-sidewalk.aspx

“How many feet before an expansion joint is installed in concrete sidewalk?” http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_feet_before_an_expansion_joint_is_installed_in_concrete_sidewalk

“20. Concrete sidewalks are always laid in sections.with gaps between each section. . .” http://course1.winona.edu/fotto/physics202/pdfs/

“He took these shots from the opposite sidewalk during the years 1995 and 1996 in the early morning hours when the streets were still devoid of cars, . . .”” Joerg Bader – THE URBAN WANDERER GEORG AERNI (E) from: Georg Aerni – Slopes & Houses, Wien, 2002. Boulevard du Temple, 1995, Baryt-Prints, 10 Teile/parts, je/each 43.3x28.3 cm, 43.3x287.5cm, 5/12 Georg Aerni, Panoramas parisiens, Paris, 1994-96. Conception graphique: Pascal Guédin, Coffret de dépliants panoramiques, 11.5x17.5cm
Edition Paris-Musées, Paris, 1996 . Catalogue d’exposition Musée Carnavalet, http://www.georgaerni.ch/arbeiten-works/panoramas-parisiens;

 “The deep projection of the second story gave the house such a meditative look that you could not pass it without the idea that . . . “ Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Chapter 1. The Old Pyncheon Family,” The House of Seven Gables. (New York: Bantam Dell, A Division of Random House, Inc., 2007), 20.

“Well advanced as Hepzibah was, she could not remember when Uncle Venner, as the neighbor-hood called him, had not gone up and down the street, stooping a little and drawing his feet heavily over the gravel or pavement. . . “ Nathaniel Hawthorne, “ Chapter 4. A Day Behind the Counter,” The House of Seven Gables, (New York: Bantam Dell, A Division of Random House, Inc., 2007), 50.

“All you need now is to stand at the window and let your rhythmical sense open and shut, boldly and freely, until one thing melts into another, . . . “ Virginia Woolf, “A Letter to a Young Poet,” The Death of the Moth. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1942),  221

“. . .As if there were magic in the sound, the sidewalks of the street, both up and down along, . . .” Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Sunday at Home,” Twice Told Tales. (Cambridge, Mass.,: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1907), 35-36.

On the bungalow: “Buildings fall; even the earth perishes. What was yesterday a cornfield is today a bungalow. But words, if properly used, seem able to live for ever. What, then, we may ask next, is the proper use of words? Not, so we have said, to make a useful statement; for a useful statement is a statement that can mean only one thing.  And it is the nature of words to mean many things.” Virginia Woolf, “Craftsmanship,” The Death of the Moth and other Essays. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1942), 201.

 

“Is not genius itself restricted, or at least influenced in its very essence by the consciousness that its gifts are to the few, its concern with the few, and its revelation apparent only to scattered enthusiasts who may be the advance guard of the future or only a little band strayed from the high road and doomed to extinction while civilization marches irresistibly elsewhere? All this Henry James poised, pondered, and held in debate. No doubt the influence upon the direction of his work was profound. But for all that he went serenely forward; bought a house, bought a typewriter, shut himself up, surrounded himself with furniture of the right period, and was able at the critical moment by the timely, though rash, expenditure of a little capital to ensure that certain hideous new cottages did not deface his point of view.”  Virgina Woolf, “Henry James,” The Death of the Moth and other Essays, (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company 1942), 150-151.

“Andava un giorno per una strada della sua città, Alessandro Manzoni,  Chapter 4, I promessi sposi: storia Milanese del secolo XVII. Lodovico prima del duello, Illustration by Francesco Gonin, from I promessi sposi: storia Milanese del secolo XVII, Chapter 4, Alessandro Manzoni. Gugliemini e Radaelli, 1840, Milan. Wikisource.

“Il duello tra Lodovico e "un signor tale, arrogante e soverchiatore di professione. Illustration by Francesco Gonin, from I promessi sposi: storia Milanese del secolo XVII, Chapter 4, Alessandro Manzoni. Gugliemini e Radaelli, 1840, Milan. Wikisource.

 

“It was the first of the January thaw. . . It gladdened him, —a gladness with a sigh breathing through it,—to see the stream of ladies, gliding along theslippery side-walks, . . .” Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Peter Goldthwaite’s Treasure,” Twice Told Tales. (Cambridge, Mass.,: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1907), 309.

 

“In my own case, poor human nature may be allowed a few misgivings. . . Yonder dingily white remnant of a huge snow-bank, — which will yet cumber the sidewalk till the latter days of March,. . . .” Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Night Sketches, Beneath an Umbrella,” Twice Told Tales, (Cambridge, Mass.,: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1907), 478-79.

“As the stores close, a winter light / opens air to iris blue, / ” Denise Levertov, “February Evening in New York,” The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov, (New York: New Directions, 2013), 105.

“Notebook 5. . .  25. During these days in Bamako, at the end of each afternoon, I wait for the moment to take an evening stroll around the streets of the Medina. . . .” Gianni Celati, Adventures in Africa. Translated by Adria Bernardi. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 99-100.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adria Bernardi’s translation of the poetry of Ubaldo de Robertis, The Rings of the Universe, was recently published by Chelsea Editions.  Her collection of personal essays, Dead Meander, was published by Kore Press. 

 

“We would draw rooms of houses” was published on Kore Press, Poem of the Week, May 27, 2015 http://www.korepress.org/AdriaBernardiPOW.htm