Anise Hyssop

Figure 1. Anise hyssop, purple and abuzz with pollinators, mid-July thriving in front of Ypsilanti condo.

Next to the place where the over-zealous condominium association leadership by proxy of some hack “arborist” removed the crooked and wise sugar maple a couple of years ago, last year I dropped in a few anise hyssop starters, a gardening feat for someone so passively and disinterestedly tending to the outdoor spaces at this Ypsilanti condo. I could and probably should do better. And yet I also find appealing the unkemptness, the uneven and grass covered stone edge, the anything-whatever arbitrariness of a holly and a lilac keeping watch, a misshapen cedar hedge, lemon balm, sage, and leafy etcetera, green etcetera. I assume most passers-by shrug and nobody complains to me, so it is fine. The mess is honest.

About those anise shoots: they are full, vibrant, and alive with hope. Unexpected! Especially unexpected is the high level of bee activity from dark of morning to dark of evening, bees gooping pollenspecks until their collectors are heaped, glowing orange packs what? maybe half their body weight. The condo and its immediate surrounds are so modest they hardly call for a deep map. Flaking brown brick. Vinyl windows out of warranty. But the years here, even the choppy recent years with months between stays, and behind the weird calendar of living in two places are these paradoxes of banal magic–always there but awesomely there when the attention is slow and direct. Being at the condo for a few unhurried days in late July, I have more time for that kind of attention-giving, slow and direct. If summer holidays had resolutions, this one now–today–would include a rededication to that slow and direct attending, refilling on that edge of humanness haloed and intersurrounding where heavy bees pull at purple flowers next to a front porch step.

Dr. Everythingllbealright

How do you think Dr. Everything Will B Alright signed his prescriptions?

It’s not a serious question. No. Just an aside to what I’ve been thinking and feeling since we learned that pop icon Prince died four days ago, April 21. Much too much has been said about Prince online in the immediate aftermath. “Too much,” well, by that I sound a little bit judgmental, I suppose, but I really only mean it as too much for me. Had to look away from you, Facebook, umbrella my eyes from a Purple Fucking Downpour. Too much for me. So chose instead some quiet and solitude, a quieter reflection, a few chosen tracks, and some deliberation about what are still-vibrating sound experiences.

There are only a few slivers of sound, words and phrases and riffs, that come readily, earworming quicker than any other parasites. It’s 1984. I’m ten. I have a fancy Walkman. Purple Rain soundtrack, though I hadn’t seen the movie. Sitting on a big boulder at the south edge of the lawn behind the M-20 house, a boulder big enough to require climbing but invisible from the house, curtained from view by two rows of hearty pines. White pines? And that soundtrack was a portal, a getaway to some kind of elsewhere. The doves cry lyric, “why do they scream at each other,” of course it resonated and expressed not normalcy, exactly, but a variation of whatever adolescent frustrations and messes, whatever family tangles–other people are dealing with some shit, too.

That’s the gist of Prince’s influence and the measure of his loss, for me, personally. Prince’s (as distinct from David Bowie) filled with a spiritual-sexual-everyday searching the ambient surrounds of my most private and interior adolescence. Purple Rain was in my ears, looping the same way through highs and lows, yearnings and letdowns, more. What more than what’s playing through the sponge-covered earphones wired plugged into a Walkman, what more than those sounds accompanies you through such an intensely transformative phase as ages10-13? Prince’s music was there for it, often and reliably. And so it is with his death that the world seems farther away, somehow, from that fading moment, thinner, too, in its comparable supports, although maybe that’s not quite right, either, considering the persistent artifact, tracks that play on and on and on and on and on, associative and memorial, as poignant today as they were 32 years ago. With the death of a pop icon, through the leveled too high volume of everyone expressing attachments and sadness, there’s strange refreshing of something awkward and obvious but also easy to forget, neglect: the searching, uncertain, and intensive adolescence is still in this world. In me, possibly in you, probably in everyone who still has some growing up to do.