I’m staring at poo.
It’s a shapely stool – well formed and regularly shaped, but the colour is just wrong; a dreadful pale hue. Truly awful.
It’s one of a number of turds I’ve had a good long look at recently. I’m not sure why I stare though.
Perhaps I enjoy savoring the rage.
No doubt there will be more to look at tomorrow. One of the motifs, the little details of daily life, currently: pieces of poo.
Winter is reductive – the head goes down and the eyes are drawn away from the far-flung horizon. They focus on the minutae at our feet. The world is scanned, bit by little bit – unconnected dots; attention hopping from one to the next without time for drawing the lines as one scurries from one warm spot to another.
Life is grainy; a composite of discrete things.
It’s 9.35 in the evening as I step off the bus at the first of Tarifa’s two stops, on my return from work. I’m just inside the town which spreads out downhill in front of me, and I take a right into a neighborhood of uniform, almost Soviet-style apartment blocks, away from the casco where we used to live.
Another detail; on her way to work earlier, K was driving through Algeciras – on the stretch between the Los Pastores intersection and the Puerta de Europa shopping mall – when she drove past a dead horse, right there on the highway.
For those of us that get around on foot every day, our routes are very deeply etched. Single stimuli lose their integrity as we move – become smears and sliding stripes: so, not the health centre but the passing by of it on my way home from the stop, beneath the eaves at its rear. Not the lights of Tangier but the arc they make across the field of my vision as I descend to Calle de Braille and take another right towards the house, and not the house but how it trudges toward me, the wink of our bathroom window flashing through the orange light of the streetlamp on the corner.
I close the garden gate behind me and survey my work. I am in the poo zone. When we took the place it was a jungle of weeds and smelled of a thousand cats. I’ve been busy though – I uprooted it and turned the soil over, laying down some chicken wire under a thin layer of new soil and sprinkling the place with lemon peel, coffee grounds and repellent spray. Now it smells of the spray, and lemon, and coffee.
And cat. Bastarding, bastard cat.
My hands hurt, from this garden. No one could accuse me of not making an effort, of not concerning myself with this sod of earth beneath my feet for the last couple of weeks. Digging, pulling, cutting, laying, pouring, planting, spreading. Hoping.
But no, the cat still comes and it still shits. One minor improvement, courtesy of the chicken wire, is that it can’t bury its treasure, so it is easy for me to find and remove it each morning. This will – I can see now – be a war of attrition. The transformation of the garden has merely been my opening salvo. Now for the long battle.
Another detail; as I walked towards the bus station this afternoon I noticed an egret in the undergrowth by the roadside at the entrance to the petrol station. It was hopping awkwardly in the longish grass but evidently didn’t want to take flight just yet; not till it had a more secure grip on the gecko in its beak.
Another piece of poo. I scoop it up and put it in a bag. I’ll be doing a lot of this, I suppose.
It hasn’t exactly been conducive to taking in the big picture – all this head down, kneeling banality. Hopeful, lyrical thought, sweeping visions of destiny, dreamy imaginings of the future; these things are a bit difficult when handling cat faeces. I’m not saying impossible. Maybe I should have been trying harder. But difficult, I’m saying.
The closer we place our faces to the grain, the smaller the area we scrutinize, the more distinct and unconnected all the little particles seem; random and Brownian. It’s disconcerting, and tempting to think that sense can be made only from further back, higher up; this big picture we talk about. Of course, omniscience isn’t a particularly human quality – we can’t always get further back.
There is another way though; if it isn’t our lot to join the dots with elegant, engraved lines, illuminated with the permanent glow of truth, we can join them with speed stripes. Motion blur – for the joined up view we must simply move.
And moving is what we have on our minds – through our lives, our work, the world. As the year opens up so do we.
Another detail. There’s a spot in between the bus stop at Los Pastores and the school where I work. There isn’t anything immediately remarkable about it – on one side of the road the terrain slopes downward into a housing development. The mountains lie beyond the last houses. In the other direction the hillside slopes upward and normally a couple of ponies are grazing. The grasses are long and field flowers abound; prime territory for little creatures. Voles, mice, lizards. Dinner for the kestrel that hovers overhead, still as a statue in the headwind.
I watch – mesmerized – often, waiting for the dive. I haven’t seen a kill yet. This time though there’s something else. A little to the side and at a slightly greater height is another, smaller bird – a less streamlined version with ruffled feathers and flapping wings.
It watches its mother from above and tries to ape her body shapes. It looks from her to the ground, where she looks, taking everything in. All the things she does. All the separate little things. It probably doesn’t know why it’s watching.
But soon it will understand.
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