Exhausting Four Places
After Georges Perec's 'Exhausting a Place in Paris' (1975).
Three hours, four times, in four places.
Exhausting a Place, Abigail Holcombe
Today is March seventh, it is one-forty in the afternoon and I am sitting outside situated in a large rattan cushioned chair that I bought last summer at a thrift store (it is very comfortable). It has big curly wooden arms that curl and circle around in an ornate gesture. The sides of the chair have a chevron pattern that organizes and reinforce the rattan material. The coating on the wood is chipping off from being exposed to the weather - we had a cover but the dog ripped it up. The fragments of the cover still lay on the ground, cast to the right side of the yard.
A large crow flies overhead.
Other remnants of things broken or being repaired lay scattered about the yard:
- the metal fire pit that was miraculously crushed and bent by the dog
- remnants of old frisbees
- severed sticks
- a grill that's rusting
- another patio chair that has fallen victim to the dogs boredom
- a rake
- a plastic bucket from Ace Hardware
- wooden boards (awaiting new positions to repair holes in the fence)
- piles of leaves
- a severed limb from our tree that was brought down with the storm last Fall
There are moments that reveal, through remnants, who lived here before we did. (It’s a rental.) Long wooden planks are fastened horizontally, lining the bottom edges of the otherwise vertical wooden fence - my guess is for reinforcement. On the day we moved here our dog wouldn’t go to certain areas or patches of the backyard (although now she doesn’t do this). This leads me to imagine that those who lived here before had a dog. It’s funny the ways in which dogs leave traces for one another - like little messages - friendly or not so friendly. Anyway, remnants. There’s a nice little moment where a large brick, a slightly smaller stone and a small organically shaped slab of concrete rest against the bottom of the fence - leaned against the wood so as to cover a small hole in the fence - an attempt (I assume) to keep the dog in. We have done the same in our own ways. Two weeks ago I filled the Ace Hardware bucket with water and set it out in the snow in front of a rather large hole in the fence (caused by the fallen limb from our tree). It froze overnight and did the trick for a little while. Now it’s melted.
A dog barks in the distance.
Cars ‘whooshing’ by on the busy road just several houses down from us.
The wind comes in waves today, it’s blowing a little more now.
It is fairly sunny today too, no definitive clouds in the sky, just areas where the sky looks hazier.
A tall brick pillar attached to the school building can be seen just beyond our fence. Lots of trees surrounding as well - all bare.
The caw of a bird from one yard over.
The noise of the cars stop momentarily.
The wind stops.
It’s nice when things stop for a moment.
Now I can hear cars going by again.
An (motorcycle?) engine revving in the distance.
It is a good motorcycle day.
I hear the rustling of leaves and sounds made by our trash can just beyond the fence - Travis must be taking out the trash or recycling. But the garbage pick up isn’t until Tuesday morning.
I hear the fence gate creak open and the leaves rustling underneath as they get caught up in the swing of the gate, the sound of wheels turning. He must be going for a bike ride. Gate closes again.
The chair I am sitting in rests on top of a gridded pattern of cement square stones - three vertically in each column, seven columns, 21 squares total. Between the stones - wood chips, small twigs, bits of leaves and dog hair. We laid it all down last summer to keep the patio area from flooding when it rains. We moved in on a rainy day. Amongst the twigs and mulch various pieces of straw lie about. The surface of the yard is about ⅓ of the way covered in straw, this is to keep the mud at bay. There is a vertical stripe of ground (without grass or sod) that spans diagonally across the yard. Our neighbor told us there used to be a “sewer line” or “some sort of line or pipe” that ran through where our yard is now. Now when it rains it just becomes a mess, but the straw is helping.
The sun isn’t setting, but is no longer positioned as high in the sky, it’s mid afternoon.
A bird chirping from some way off.
A dog barking a long way off.
The wind picks up again, this time the branches on our tree rustle a little. The tree is positioned near the middle of the yard, its roots span nearly the whole yard.
The wind feels colder now.
The wind stops, and back again.
I have a small clementine orange sitting in front of me on another piece of patio furniture. I wonder if eating it will change my read on the tree or the wind. I check the time - still about two more hours. I sigh, staring off into space. My eyes glaze over for a moment. I realize I don’t listen to birds or cars very often. Another dog barks.
Time seems to slow when I notice it, and race on when I’m not looking it in the face. And when I look for more of it, it always seems to slip past me. When I want it to speed up it seems to slow and drone on.
The dog barks again. Now it’s gotten the attention of another dog. They’re saying something, but I don’t know what. The caw of a bird in the yard over. I see the silhouette of a biker pass by on the other side of the fence. I know it isn’t Travis - he’s much shorter and besides, he set off in the other direction.
“this way mom”, a small (I assume because the voice has that ‘small’ sound) child calls, riding along on a bike silhouetted against our wooden fence. More talking but I can’t make out any words. A car horn sounds.
A leash is tied around our tree like a belt, it rests against the ground.
The sound of some rock music.
The sound of a car door slamming shut.
More indistinct conversation from far off.
Another car door shuts.
Two beeps (to lock it I presume).
The napkin under my clementine orange blows in the wind.
I feel my attention fading.
I reposition myself in the chair (just my legs).
A bird sings a few yards over.
The shadows are getting longer now.
An inventory of objects within my view:
- A woven door mat
- A plastic box - slightly chewed up
- A plastic pot with a dead plant inside
- A bottle of “Roundup”
- A green and orange plastic bottle, I can’t make out the label
- A metal shovel with a wooden handle
- A square stone (different from the matching ones in the grid pattern that make up the patio area)
- Tangles of cords
- A pile of sticks - the shovel is amongst the pile of sticks making it hard to distinguish the two from one another
- I count eighteen large sticks but then give up, there are lots of smaller sticks and twigs making up the pile as well. I don’t dare try to count them all from this distance
- A hose
- A bag of dirt (can’t make out the label) in a green and yellow bag with a picture of unnaturally fluorescent green grass
I notice as I inventory these things I’m not able to continue to note the various bird calls and dog barkings going on, but they are still happening.
- A plastic piece that's supposed to be at the base of the gutter is detached and resting on the ground which is connected to a makeshift plastic piece tied to the end of the gutter (another attempt/remnant). And no, our property management company will not be receiving a five-star rating
- More sticks
- The Ace Hardware bucket, made out of white plastic with red lettering for the large print “ACE” and the rest of the words are in small black print. The bucket rests against the fallen tree limb, in front of the hole in the fence it was attempting to block.
- One frisbee remnant
- And another (I promise we walk the dog a lot)
- A rake on top of a pile of leaves
- Three tall wooden planks rest against the side of the fence to my right
I reposition myself again in the chair.
- The broken fire pit
- The rusty grill - black with a kettle-like red top
- Two tennis balls
- The remnants of the used-to-be-functional chair cover
- The patio chair (the one I am not sitting in). Its corners have evidence of chewing.
The (backfire?) of a car or a motorcycle. It speeds off with a loud acceleration.
- The patio stone squares
- The large rattan chair that I am sitting in
- A square foot rest/small table that matches the other patio chair I am not sitting in
On the foot rest/small table:
- One small clementine orange
- One glass of water with a lemon wedge floating inside
- (both are sitting on top of a napkin, waiting to be used
- An orange pencil
- A highlighter
- A blue pen
- A grey pencil
- A printed copy of the pdf with the description for this assignment, resting under my phone which is keeping the time
Now I add ten pieces of ripped up orange peel to the foot rest, I divide the orange into ten sections, eating two at a time until I get to ten. My fingers are now orange and have that weird white residue that always appears after peeling an orange - what is that stuff? I use the napkin.
The napkin has ornate detailing on it, along with what I think are supposed to be grapes and a vine with leaves attached - oh it's supposed to be a grape vine I guess. They’re kind of granny napkins, they were cheap.
A crow caws, I can see it from where I’m sitting.
A dog starts barking again.
A car starts up and I hear the engine rev.
The crow leaves its branch and flies from the neighbors backyard and towards the school, over the school and now out of sight.
I missed the sound of the car driving off I guess.
Our dog is let out into the backyard, she looks at me. Another dog barks in the distance, she looks towards the fence in the direction of the barking. I watch her ears perk up. I become more aware of how much more observant she is than me in this situation. The rustling of leaves beyond the fence. She barks. Another crow flies closer to our tree, she noticed it before I did. Indistinct chatter in the distance. She’s investigating, she stands taller when she does that. The crow flies even nearer. Her head moves with it as it flies and perches itself on a branch of another tree that reaches over our fence. It caws. She sits down, fixated on it. More indistinct chatter in the distance. This time she hears the chatter and starts barking. She keeps barking. She is brought back inside.
I hear sounds in our neighbors yard just beyond the fence, he appears to be doing some kind of yard work, judging by the sounds. The dog jumps up on the window from inside, she wants to see what’s going on. I hear a siren in the distance. More indistinct chatter coming from a different direction than the last chattering sounds. Another and louder siren. It gets closer, it's coming down the busy street near our house. It starts to fade...now it’s out of ear shot.
Sounds of our gate opening and then closing, leaves rustling, wheels turning. Travis is back from his bike ride.
The shadows crawl longer, stretching further across the page as I’m writing. The sun is lower than the last time I noted its position. I check the time impatiently. Another car door shutting. Another engine starting up. More caws. More distant dog barking. The sound of the cars driving by on the busy street droning on in a distant “whooshing”. The dog is let out again.
She walks behind my chair, laps up some rain water from a bowl I hadn’t noticed was sitting on the ground behind me. Another car door slams. I watch her sniff around and approach a pile of sticks then walk away from it. She squats and pees. She walks towards me. The wind picks up. She lifts her nose to catch the wind as it rolls through the backyard, she always does that. She finally chooses a stick and runs in a few circles with it. She stops, she loses interest in the stick. She returns to sniffing the ground. The caw of a crow again. She pants as she walks around the yard. She returns to a hold she’s been digging, she sticks her whole head down into the hole, she looks remarkably like a cartoon for this moment. Then begins digging. She stops. She walks to the Ace Hardware bucket full of used-to-be-ice water. She laps up a small amount. She crosses the yard to a pile of leaves to sniff, then to another and another. She sniffs, seeming to look for something. She finds what she was looking for and squats. When she’s done she canters off to find the next thing to do. She returns to the hole and digs some more. She stops. She walks around the tree and sits. I see her breath catch the wind, it must be getting colder. The sun is lower now. The shadows are longer. I check my phone for the time. The dog circles back and around me, laps up some more water from the bowl again. More nose raising and sniffing as the wind blows.
I hear the car in our driveway start up and the gravel crunch underneath the heavy tires. She runs to the back gate. The car drives away. She walks back to the tree. Indistinct voices in the distance (tools clanking?). She runs to the fence and barks. I pick up a remnant of a frisbee and throw it, she chases it and picks it up and then sits down with it to chew on. She loses interest quickly. Back to the hole she’s been working on.
The sun is lower and further below the haze, it's shining more brightly in my direction now. I’m squinting. It seems to be getting slowly darker. I see the dog return to the Ace Hardware bucket for a few more laps of water. She walks across the yard, picks up a stick and then lays down, holding the stick between her two front paws and begins chewing. She loses interest after a few chews. The caw of a crow. She walks to the back gate then back towards me. She stops and scratches. Sounds of children playing off in the distance. The dog is let inside.
Birds chirping (BC) and crows cawing (CC).
The sound of little feet rustling in some leaves, maybe a squirrel?
The scream of a child playing, it sounded like a playful scream.
BC and CC simultaneously for a few seconds.
I hear a parent’s voice in the distance “come here!” and an indistinct response from a higher pitched smaller voice. More playing and yelling sounds.
Kids screaming again.
The whooshing sound of a car driving fast down our street.
I realize I missed all the car sounds while I was watching the dog.
The sound of a new bird call.
Dog barks in the distance.
Indistinct low voice in the distance.
Dog barks from the opposite direction of the voice.
More car whooshing.
A big wave of wind. My napkin nearly gets caught up in it.
I check the time.
Longer shadows, the sun is even brighter and warmer now, shining in my face through the tree limbs. The shadows of the gridded woven patio furniture across other surfaces is nice. I’ve been really into gridded patterns lately. This particular gridded shadow is currently cast over the mangled chair cover. This makes the fragments more bearable.
The sound of dog paws hitting the window, she wants to come out again.
Something about grids and fragments. Fragments composing a grid. These lists - an assemblage of fragments, but positioned in a way don’t make up a larger whole. The thing about lists is they don’t form grids, they only form lines. Lines that never intersect.
The wind picks up again, it feels much colder now. I realise this whole time I left out the strung lights that are attached to the…
I hear a cell phone tone ring that takes me momentarily back to a very specific time and place in my life. The ringing stops.
...the two poles on either side of the patio area, making a large “L” shape to encapsulate the patio. I now notice one of the bulbs has been chewed on (they’re plastic).
If I turn my head slightly to the left I can shield my face from the setting sun, letting the shadow of one of the tree limbs fall across my face. Another wave of wind. I hear the crunching of gravel under heavy tires, I hear the car door opens and closes in the driveway.
Rustling from inside the house.
Distant dog bark.
Cars whooshing by.
Simultaneous bird songs.
The sun continues to set, it’s now low enough that I have to hold up my left hand to shield my eyes from the sun. The sun has moved but the grid patterned shadow has not.
I check the time.
I hear “leave it Rey” from inside the house.
More car whooshing.
I slump back in the chair thinking about fragments.
The sun is now glistening and sparkling off of one of the fragmented pieces of chewed up frisbee. A big wave of wind, the napkin and sheet of paper are almost caught up in it.
BC and CC at once
The dog is let back out.
The dog circles around me, she lifts her nose to a small wave of wind. She looks out at the backyard towards the school and sits down. With each little noise her head turns and her ears twitch in different directions.
A new bird chirping, the dog notices it and I see her head follow the sound. I watch her hair blow in the wind.
A really noisy car rumbles down the busy street.
A train horn sounds in the distance.
The twitching of the dog's nose in the setting sun as the wind picks up.
The wind is still cold.
Another noisy car, it sounds like a truck. Only trucks make noise like that, right?
Other cars whooshing by.
The sound of what I would guess is a trailer attached to a car.
The dog sniffs around at the chair cover fragments. I cannot see the grid patterned shadow.
I check the time. The dog returns to her hole and starts digging again.
A large crow flies overhead.
Distant dog barks.
The dog tries to pick up an awkwardly large stick but then decides to lay down with it to make it easier for chewing.
CC from various directions simultaneously.
Another crow flies overhead.
I check my phone for the time.
Dog barks, car whooshes.
A car pulls up to the school on the opposite side of our fence, I watch it’s silhouette move sluggishly.
Sounds of car doors opening and closing. The sound of the car horn signalling that it is now locked.
Distant dog barking.
A motorcycle or loud excelerator on a car in the distance.
A car drives down our street with loud rap music playing .
I can see the grid pattern again on the chair cover fragments. The dog walks between the back of the gridded chair and the chair cover and her fur becomes gridded just for a moment.
It’s cold now, but the wind seems to have died down.
Another loud car goes by.
The dog sits and lifts her nose to the wind.
Obnoxious recurring honking happens four times.
Vibrations of a loud car goes by.
Vibration music over audible music = cool guy driving car.
The dog lays down on the straw.
The straw looks golden now in the setting sun.
It is now four-forty in the afternoon.
It’s sunny I can see 2:45
Speed and elevation are not equal
It could be fall or spring in the way the sun is red and blue
No parking on Saturday
Streets are just wide enough to consider a U-turn, thinking
The trees look like the ground. It makes the air like soup.
Things that are big masks: 1) cars 2) buildings you have 2 keys
to get into
More people walk in one direction compared to the other
Red, blue, gray, black doesn't count
Warm paper is doing it right
Comfort is about one thing
Chunky red bike
No more tree
A sign I can’t read but I know that building has good soup
Wheels that are foot sized
My feet size on the windowsill
Gloves too, maybe they have touched vegetables
Waiting for a call, no, taking a picture
PINK wasn’t a color for sometime but it will be soon again
Something pointed out not seen by her friends
Red fire hydrant
+person is bigger
+light pole is bigger
+tree is bigger
+car with green aura is bigger
+imaginary flashlight is smaller
Does it not matter that he is going?
Hoods and green grass are juicy- that's the world I want to stay
Squirrels maybe fuzzy pears
Sunny licence plate
Hood is sunny like a music note
Truck wants to be fire truck
3 white cars
1 parked white car
2 white cars
1 white parked car
1 white dome like a sourdough loaf
Layers of fences I cannot count
The bushes look cold because they are moving
2 half circles
Truck bed is full
Standing while driving
Black mustang parks too close, typical
Ladders, but no one is carrying them
Pull up at the same time, same distance
Plant I want to brush against my face
Diamond with a little tail
I know there is a graveyard
Must be a wedding dress
Fines and houses
Big backpack biking
Bunny ear plastic bag
Cups are there then gone
Silver car gives me the future
White truck is always there, I can’t see it
Green cone stands alone, sharp tooth
Trees moving with cars
Fell from the sky vs. Falling from the sky
STOP faces one way
Always in need of quarters
Falling from the sky
Big lazy cat sun sleeping on cars
Stairs to nowhere up
White car looks me in the eye
Phone and car are the same thing
Exhausting a Place, Sydney Vize
Starting at 10:50 am on a Saturday
It’s warm in the sun & cold in the shade
Sun is fully out & shadows from the trees are very stark
I’m on my porch in the shade, cold
A neighbor across the street is on her porch in the sun
A younger (?) squirrel with red stripe on its side is upside down on a branch close to my porch chewing on the wood
Woman in a long purple coat & purple hat walks west on other side of the street
Two people with small black and white beagle walk west on my side of the street
Beagle looks fairly old
Car sound from down the street
Next door neighbor yells bye to her kids & leaves in white car, pulls into other house’s driveway to turn around
Her kids stay in the yard & watch her leave
Cardinal sounds but can’t see them
Next door neighbor on other side comes out onto her porch, shakes out blanket, goes back inside
Can faintly hear 11:00 am on the campus bell tower
Wind chime sound from next door
Breeze is moving some dead leaves & small branches, not strong enough to move the big ones
Angle change to try & see birds (didn’t work)
Blue Subaru passes going west
Across the street neighbor on porch in sun is reading & tapping her foot
Small birds near top of the big tree right across the street
Can’t remember the last time I saw my directly across the street neighbors in white house, maybe they left town?
My porch needs to be mopped
Cardinal moves to tree by my porch
Neighbor on porch goes inside & comes right back out
Maroon car that looks old passes going east
Leaves still moving but can’t feel breeze
Sounds from neighbor’s heating (?) system
Dog howls down the street
Louder caw-ing birds across the street
Pine tree next to my house is moving but not making sound
Something is dripping/falling from tree near my porch (or from birds)
Really quiet for a few minutes
Neighbor across street makes a phone call from porch
Two strollers have been left on next door neighbor’s porch, 1 double 1 single
Silver Honda drives very slowly west, driver looks at me twice
Forgot about my coffee now it’s super cold
Blue minivan (next door neighbor’s) drives past going west & parks
Kids yelling from inside van
Grey car going west very fast passes
Neighbors (+kids) go inside
Someone in their backyard a street over grabs something & goes back inside
What looks like a hand/arm pops out of a top floor window in a house across the street, too fast to be sure what I saw
Dogs barking & kids yelling from the direction of the park down the street
Small squirrel crosses the street in the tree branches
Larger squirrel on front steps of brown shingle house across & down the street
Shouting sounds from park
Helicopter sounds nearby
Man with red shoes & black hat walks east with young kid (3?) with red hat, crosses street
Man in grey with two large dogs on retractable leashes walks west on my side of the street. Leashes make a crackle sound when they overextend
Dogs bark loudly when they’re out of sight
Next door neighbor goes inside from driveway
Man in white hat walks small but wide golden dog, think it’s a cavalier king charles spaniel. It looks older
Young woman with very long hair walks quickly west on other side of the street
Porch neighbor sighs really loudly. Still on phone?
Porch neighbor goes inside
Shouting sounds from the park
Porch neighbor comes back out, man on bike rides up to her porch & goes in the house. Leaves bike leaned up against steps
Squirrel hangs upside down to get to bird feeder on pole next door (next to wind chimes), unsuccessful
Neon green hose bunched up next to white & blue house across street
Sound of glass door opening, closing
Sounds of kids hitting something with sticks? Can’t see them
It’s plastic swords, kids with shields and swords clang them around, 1 gets hit & other kid apologizes lots of times. They stop playing + walk east. Parents with stroller follow behind
Couple both in blue coats walk east on my side of street
Family with sword kids still moving slowly going east
Fed Ex van (small) stops square in the middle of the street & opens door but doesn’t get out right away. Gets out & gets back in, did they drop off a package? They drive away fast
Bike guy across the street moves bike off steps, then bikes away going west
Two honks from down the street – car alarm shut off quickly?
Sound of next door neighbor dropping keys in driveway
Person sits in window behind porch neighbor, looks like they’re sitting together
Dog howls down the street
Next door neighbors to the right tell their teenage daughter something in the driveway
Bug gets close to me
Man with grey hat and long beard runs east on my side of the street
Two women in blue coats walk east in the street with a very young puppy. Puppy has trouble getting up on curb, oh god
Bright yellow car moves fast down the street and parks
Can hear music being played, maybe from a couple houses down. Can’t hear what it is at all, only that there are vocals
Orange & white cat walks through driveway of brown shingled house & goes into plants in their garden
Can hear metal moving + maybe hammering (?)
Next door neighbors are sanding something – I can’t see them but I think it’s part of a thing their daughter has been building to go in the back of her Subaru
Brick house across the street – young son (3?) opens glass front door a little bit & then closes it again
More sanding (actually, is it sawing?)
Kid from across the street opens door again, comes out onto steps holding it open, then goes back in
Bell tower chimes for noon
Kid opens door again & his dad comes too this time. They stand on steps for a moment & go back in
Some kind of wreath is on their door – easter? It looks blue, can’t make any of the shapes out
Leaf falls and makes a shadow on brick house
Neighbors bring a big white bag onto their porch and leave it there
Can hear music again & really can’t tell from where
Porch neighbor in sun takes off her coat. Thinking vindictively about all the times I can use my porch when it’s raining & they have to run inside
Guy in black coat walks small black dog up to the door of a house across & down the street
Two people walking 1 dog each walk east on my side of the street. Both dogs are big & have very shiny fur
No one is parked in any of the street parking spots in my eyeline
Big black cat walks in driveway in the sun, pauses at side door of brown shingled house & keeps going
Silver car backs out of the long driveway the cat just walked down. Pauses halfway down, guy gets out & leaves car door open. Goes into house, car is still running. He comes back with an envelope, grabs newspaper & gets back in car. I feel like he had a different car not long ago – maybe he left it with its door open and someone took it
Someone with a big blue coat, blue hat, and blue shoes walks west on my side of the street
Neighbor on my right comes out on porch with yellow blanket & reads on porch swing
Breeze is cold
Coffee is freezing but still drinking it
Very intermittent hammering sounds from 1 street over
Leaves crunching to my left – squirrel?
Sunny porch neighbor grabs her coat & goes inside
Fancy black car goes east very quickly
A different silver car pulls into the black cat’s driveway
Some kind of creature is digging around in my gutters to my left above my head
Two squirrels are upside down on the branch closest to my porch
Weed whacker (?) sounds from down the street
Cardinal couple flies into tree by porch
Animal in the gutter is very loud
Someone coughing down the street
Someone brings a big yellow bag (pet food?) into side door of brown shingle house
Next door neighbor on swing gets up and goes back inside
2 squirrels are still there
Woman in very large brimmed black hat walks west on my side of the street
There’s a big plastic grey box on the front porch of the white house across the street by their front door (for deliveries?) I really don’t think I’ve seen them in weeks or months
They have a small wreath by their door too, but it looks brown & “non-seasonal”
Woman in white hat pushes orange double stroller west. Holding hands & walking with young kid (2?) at same time
Gutter animal has moved to front of house
(must be squirrel?)
Neighbor’s white Honda pulls up & parks in street
Silver Jetta passes by fast going east
Neighbor has trouble getting her kid to come out of car, kid starts crying
They go inside – kid is in ballet outfit
Can hear sirens from east – sounds like fire trucks
Really bright cardinal being loud
Sirens come closer then fade
Clanging in the gutter
Dog barking in a backyard
Fancy silver car goes fast east
Next door neighbors start their Subaru & take a while to back out of drive
Man with package and black glasses walks east
Neighbors finally pull out & head east
Sirens still going
Yellow blanket was left on neighbor’s porch swing
Bell tower sounds, but not the full hour chime
45 minute chime (12:45?)
Woman with big scarf & backpack walks east in the street
Sirens are still going? Or are they a new set?
Vacuum sounds from down the street
One curtain in an upper window in brown house across the street is caught on something
Footsteps in gravel to my right – in my driveway or my neighbors’
Woman in blue coat walks quickly east
It’s very quiet for a while, just vacuum sound
Blue Subaru goes east
Weird sound I can’t place right away – trunk opening & squeaking?
Neighbor calls to their dog
White car goes fast to the east
Neighbors discuss switching locations of chair & plant (on porch?), tone a little strained
Neighbors walk their dog west on my side of the street
Woman with very long red hair walks west on other side of street
Woman with mask on jogs east on other side of street
Dead leaves making scraping sounds against the curb
Sirens to west
A different person is sitting & reading on the sunny porch
Someone who is not my neighbor (babysitter?) exits neighbor’s house & walks east
Sirens are still going
Other than one small low cloud I see right now I don’t think I’ve seen any clouds today
Woman in navy coat walks small shiny black dog east
Door clanging from inside my house
Hear a conversation from down the block
Two middle school-aged kids in purple coats walk east on my side of the street & chat
Squirrel hopping on path in front yard of disappeared neighbors’ white house across the street
Haven’t heard gutter squirrel in a while
Woman in mask walks a very muscular and kind of scary grey & white dog east on my side of the street
New sunny porch neighbor goes inside
Guy on bike is back & rides down driveway behind brick house with porch
Next door neighbor’s kid (Bad Son, ~4) comes out on porch briefly & goes back in, comes back out & runs down driveway
(we call him Bad Son because we always see him beating up his siblings & yelling at his parents but he’s being chill right now)
Something is crunching in leaves below my porch in front yard – squirrel?
Other kids join Bad Son in the driveway from their house
Something scrapes on pavement down the street
Car alarm goes off somewhere – pretty faint & turned off before long
Very quiet for a few minutes
Someone bikes south on Orchard
Still very quiet, just hear kids chatting/playing in backyard next door
Bright blue truck with some weird stuff in the bed drives east
White car passes by going west
Anton walks into our driveway & comes back up, says he is changing into shorts (??? I am frozen)
Someone moves back & forth between front rooms in brick house across the street
Kids next door shout for their dad
Anton heads out again walking east to park to play soccer
Couple walks east on my side of the street, both in sweatshirts 1 green 1 black
No more wind, even dead leaves are dangling very still
Some sound I can’t identify – like a manual pencil sharpener but louder
Grey-brown Honda drives by going west – its windows are super tinted a purple color
Hearing bells but not the university ones. A church? Do they do that on Saturday?
Sirens from farther away – sounds like an ambulance because of honks
Person in light yellow jacket walks east talking with earbuds in on other side of the street
Mystery bells still going – maybe that church near the mall/weird old hotel in downtown Urbana?
Very quiet again
University bells chime for 45 min mark
Group of 3 walks west on my side of the street, 1 orange jacket 2 black jackets
Teal Prius drives west
I’m surprised no one has bottomed out today on the pothole to the left that is hard to see with the bricks
Hear voices down the block – the sword kids are back walking west. Not playing with swords but one is singing loudly
A guardian person walks behind them again with a very small kid in a very purple coat
Silver car drives west & scrapes on pothole (!)
Ending at 1:53 pm
Attempt at Exhausting a View Facing North from Behind 310 West Washington Street, Nathan Grimes
Saturday March 6th, 2021
A white van is idling.
A man just turned it on.
He left back to his house and now has returned.
He is sitting in the driver’s seat as exhaust billows from the back.
He pulls out facing me and turns to the right.
A white car opposite the van turns on, backs out, and drives off to the right as well.
Now there is silence.
I’m sitting in an uncomfortable chair facing the window in my second bedroom office.
The window opens to a view of the small parking lot behind my 8-apartment complex building.
Behind the lot there is a gravel road that splits the block defined by Columbia, Washington, State and Prairie.
This road splits the block into northern and southern halves.
I am looking north from the southern half.
Beyond the gravel road there are 2 two story houses visible.
My window is approximately 36 inches wide by 48 inches tall and split down the middle where it is supposed to slide open.
There are blinds currently hanging down about one foot from the top of the window.
This gives me a 3 foot by 3 foot divided frame through which to view the outside.
If I were surrounded by a circle this frame is about 60 degrees of sight because of my distance from the window.
A black shopping bag blows across the road from left to right.
My cat cries from the other room.
I can’t really hear what’s going on outside.
The ambient interior soundscape is too loud.
Not much is happening. Nothing rather.
This is what I expected.
A white vehicle flashes from right to left behind the houses on Columbia.
Another pinkish flash in the same direction.
How much am I missing by looking down at the paper as I write?
A spindly tree branch sways gently to my left.
I hear a bird making bird sounds.
I feel like the sun got a bit brighter.
The black plastic bag blows back to the left.
It stops, it starts.
A thud in the living room. The cat jumped off something.
A different birdsong.
This room smells stale almost vaguely of old cigarettes. We don’t smoke.
A subtle engine rev in the distance.
With all the nothing happen I want to describe the still life, but I feel I might miss a movement happening in the process.
The last sentence took me 30 seconds to write. Time not looking out the window.
The sentence I just wrote took just as long.
A truck engine revved in the interim.
I didn’t see the truck so how do I know it was a truck engine?
Perhaps its pitch and loudness.
So much of processing sense perception is based on assumption.
The black bag slides to the left.
It is much further to the left than it was a moment ago.
How did I miss that movement?
Now the bag slides to the right.
I’m sliding down in my chair.
It squeaks as I shift my body back into proper position.
In order to document the lulls, I must break them.
A car accelerates in the distance, off screen.
Another car sound.
The view through my window is ordinary by all means.
Even a little ugly.
I find the ugliness endearing.
It reminds me of home.
It’s a familiar texture.
An honest living surface.
A shadow, maybe from a bird flashing over the white siding of the house to my left.
A car revs.
The bag flutters.
The bag flutters again.
A white car flashes from right to left behind the houses.
A car revs.
A few birds dive around each other in the sky above the two houses.
The bag flutters back to the right.
I check the time and write it down whenever I fill up a page of college ruled paper with my observations. I’m writing around 1 page per 15 minutes.
Does this mean I’ll end up with 12 pages to transcribe?
The bag shifts.
This feels vaguely like an unpoetic description of that bag scene from American beauty.
A fence gate moves slightly.
An SUV flashes from left to write on Columbia behind the houses.
A leaf blows a few feet from left to right across the concrete pad the white van parks on.
There is a consistent sound.
I can’t tell if it originates inside or outside.
The bag blows under a white pickup truck at the right of my view.
The sound is definitely coming from inside.
A dead plant stalk gently moves in front of the deck railing of the house to my left.
There Is a red broom handle leaned up against the white French doors behind the railing.
Our furnace just kicked on.
The plank stalk is jiggling again.
Tree branches almost imperceptibly shift.
A dark bird flies from right to left behind the houses.
I’m becoming aware of the floaters in my field of vision.
Is it dust kicked up by the HVAC?
Or debris inside my eyeballs?
I’m also becoming aware of how dirty my glasses are.
I just shifted my leg position.
My window is also very dirty, but the view outside of it is dirty as well.
Compliments of a midwestern winter.
A woman just got in the white pickup truck.
She wore black pants and a red long sleeve shirt.
She’s just sitting in the truck with the engine on.
There’s a complicated aluminum ladder ratchet strapped in the bed of the truck.
The license plate reads “2749841”.
I think Illinois plates, not positive though.
How did I know this person was a woman?
She just got out of the truck and walked back into the house.
She’s wearing a red toboggan that matches her shirt.
The truck is still running.
That’s the second person that comes from this house to start up a vehicle and returns inside the house while the vehicle is left running. Do all people from this house do that?
She just got back into the truck.
Is it rude to describe peoples’ body builds when taking observational notes?
She is heavy set.
She just reversed the truck out and drove to the left.
That’s the first of 3 vehicles to drive off to the left.
Maybe she is heading west and the other two were heading east.
Water pipes gurgling upstairs.
The sunlight brightens a bit.
At 10:15 I’m going to use the toilet.
Right at the halfway point of this 3-hour exercise.
An engine accelerates offscreen.
Another engine revs.
People shift around upstairs.
Holy shit the sunlight just got way brighter.
That was painful.
Two birds flap from left to right above the houses and visible through the window blinds.
They make some distant bird sounds.
It’s so bright that the white house to my left is painful to look at.
A vehicle accelerates offscreen.
Offscreen or out of frame?
A shadow of a squirrel climbing up a tree is cast on the gray house to my left.
The squirrel shadow moves up and then to the left.
Maybe there are 2 squirrels.
Sitting here makes me feel like I need to pee more than I actually do.
I guess I’ll know it’s 10:15 by the time I finish this page lol.
I just took a photo of my view.
It’s not the first time I’ve taken a photo from this vantage.
An upstairs neighbor’s mumbles, or rather it sounds like a mumble through the floor.
The brightness of the white house to my left is almost nauseating.
It stands in contrast to all the filth, dirt, and detritus that contextualizes it.
More footsteps and creaking floorboards.
I think a car accelerated by it’s almost too quiet to be certain.
I hear crows cawing. I know they are crows without looking.
My bathroom break took 3 minutes.
Actually, it took 1.5 minutes, but I walked back to the kitchen to get my water cup and then saw the cat sleeping like this:
So, I had to come back into the room for my phone to snap a pic.
What happened in my absence?
Did I miss anything?
Did I miss more nothing?
I want to turn the space heater on, but I don’t feel cold enough to justify doing so.
How cold is cold enough?
My attention is drawn to the masking tape residue on my window.
The tape held up aluminum foil for 6 months.
Now the residue obscures my view, in its own right.
A white vehicle flashes from right to left behind the houses.
Why is my handwriting so messy?
A door creaks upstairs.
I have a small headache.
I think it’s from how bright that fucking house is. Rude.
More creaking and footsteps upstairs.
A squirrel wanders from left to right across the open gate of the backyard of the gray house at my right.
A white flash from left to right behind the houses.
When I say behind the houses, I mean behind relative to my position.
Relative to the house this is arguably in front, main street facing.
Maybe that is obvious, but I find it an important point to clarify.
A car revved while I wrote that last note.
Maybe I should just take observational notes right now, but my tendency is to analyze while I write about what I am seeing.
The woman with the red shirt in the white pickup truck just drove by, right to left, or east to west.
She didn’t park.
This is a little confusing.
An engine revs out of frame.
It revs again.
My HVAC kicked on again recently.
This obscures my ability to hear what’s happening outside.
A loud creak from upstairs.
My hand aches from gripping this ink pen.
The pen is branded “European LEFT” www.european-left.org.
I think it belonged to my borderline-communist international neighbor, Filipe.
So did our cat.
He still thinks it’s his cat.
Back to the street view.
Someone slightly opened the red curtains in the window of the house to my right.
How would they feel about me documenting their goings on like this?
Do I have the right to look outside my window if it inherently looks inside of their window, and their lives?
It feels odd.
I feel like a voyeur and an exhibitionist.
Am I botanizing the everyday of this Latinx family?
So many questions to which I have few satisfying answers.
My partner just got out of bed for the first time this morning.
I think she is washing her face.
Is that okay to share?
Maybe I should ask her.
I likely won’t.
My hand is really starting to hurt.
Perhaps I should look more and write less.
What would that choice mean?
To report less for my own physical comfort.
A vehicle accelerates off frame.
The soundscape of my partner’s morning routine.
A car revs offf rame.
I can hear more than I see.
I can see farther than I’m hearing.
A vehicle revs in the distance.
A tree branch shifts slightly.
My partner yelps.
Cabinets open and close upstairs and downstairs.
Silence broken by my scribbles.
Sound is such an important component of quotidian textures.
That becomes more apparent when life is still.
A truck passes from right to left behind the houses.
My partner opens the door.
Busy? Okay. Do you want anything?
I shake my head no.
Okay. I say, “I’ll be done at 11:45am”.
The quotidian texture of my experience is mapped in the space between her activity and my activity.
A car revs off frame. It revs again.
I’m very impressed by how consistently time is being measured by starting a new page of notes.
This doesn’t mean I’m impressed by my own consistency, but by the phenomenon in and of itself.
How is this observational note taking not just another form of mansplaining when a man is doing it?
A bird shadow flashes across the house to my right.
A white car passes behind the houses.
Alisha clanks around in the kitchen.
A red SUV passes from right to left behind the houses.
I’m thinking about getting a sip of water which has me thinking about writing about having gotten a sip of water after getting the sip. Yet now I’ve written about it beforehand.
How much of the future comes from the past?
All of it?
Just got a sip of water.
While standing, my perspective shifted.
Nothing was happening there as well.
I stubbed my toe on a music stand.
That is a thing that exists where it does now.
Maybe it didn’t prior to me stubbing my toe.
A vehicle passes from left to right behind the houses.
Another passes in the same direction.
I noticed the plant stalk fluttering in front of the deck, in front of the broom handle, leaned against the French doors of the house that hurts my eyes.
I notice it again.
Is it always doing that?
I’m fascinated by how subtle movement reveals something that I can’t see, but could usually feel, but also can’t feel from inside.
My pace slowed a bit.
I’m massaging my writing hand.
Alisha walks around off frame.
A bird shadow flashes across both houses from left to right.
I notice a splotch on my glasses.
I’ve had the same pair since 2012.
I got a new pair 3 years ago but haven’t transitioned over yet.
The white pickup truck pulls into its former spot.
The driver’s door opens and just hangs there.
The person in the cab is just shifting around, possibly gathering belongings to bring inside.
A crow sits atop the tallest tree in sight.
Probably on the other side of Columbia.
It soars away toward me and to the left far above the woman from the white truck as she carries a bag of groceries and departs her vehicle toward the house on my right.
A cyclist(?) flashes from right to left behind the houses.
I see the front of a parked truck facing away from me reflected in the right most window of the house to my left.
I think it’s a reflection of the white house from the truck windshield reflecting to me from the window of the house in the initial reflection.
How many of these recursions puncture the surface of the banal?
My body itches.
The HVAC kicks on.
My leg has a dull ache.
I shift in my squeaky seat.
A reflection of the sun twinkles in the right most window of the house to my right.
Some aluminum tags nailed to the electrical pole to my right shimmer in a dull way as they’re jiggled by the wind.
I still can’t feel the wind, but all these little shifts and jiggles of the inanimate point to some invisible mover.
Holy shit my hand aches.
Ten more minutes.
This exercise reminds me of the brick wall description exercise in Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
It has a similar quality, lol.
I mean, also a similar quantity that is part of that quality.
The branches shift.
The aluminum tags flutter and shimmer subtly.
How have I not noticed those before now?
My attention is drawn to all the electrical cables that attach back to this singular light pole.
I count 29.
Might have some repeats.
Might have missed some as well.
So many connections back to this one node.
A person in a black hoodie just walked barefoot out to the white truck.
I can’t see them in there, but I hear the passenger door open and closing.
They just walked back inside the house to my right.