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Only through a disaster or a renovation does the entire brick side of a house come down and in this case the workmen threw stoves and refrigerators out the windows, letting them bounce off the fire escapes into the little Brooklyn yard. And I wouldn't presume to say they did it gleefully, but the brute force resulting in the massive sound well, it would be difficult not to feel some satisfaction I would think, but I don't take apart whole houses for long hours at a time, and I can't say how anything around me experiences life— for instance whether the sparrows who burrow in the small hill of dirt by sitting close as cookies on a cookie sheet then fluttering and chittering, and turning a bit like gears in a watch, and more chittering as if they are winding it— whether enjoyment comes to the sparrows; nor the tenor when the mice, bucking expectation change direction to squeeze inside after the long winter, seemingly undeterred by the four of us having an earnest discussion about the painting in the Whitney but racing—calmly, somehow—between the couches as if it were their private two a.m.; or the ants who also appeared in the kitchen as if the first daffodils in the yard trumpeted directions to them to carry items thrice their size right away finding just what they needed, a year later; and all this triggering a cleaning jag during which I pulled the refrigerator and stove out from the wall, cleared the shelves, took out the rugs and saw the naked planes and corners we made a life within, while across the yards the construction crew, passing their own halfway point, had begun to rebuild the place. How emphatically the truly knowledgeable have worked to insure we don't ascribe delight to living things other than ourselves! But when the cardinal joins his mate on the top of the fence— a peck on the beak—framed by the bared stories of the house and the furred buds on the winter straw of a bush look like green hoofs about to gallop into leafness you can't tell me to separate the work of instinct from the moment for a jay when something feels one-hulled-sunflower-seed-better than the moment-before-the-sunflower-seed or to deny that fortune in this place has allowed optimism to alight with sunlight on the orange construction helmet of the man now home in bed—regardless, regardless of it all.
"Seeing a house torn down and rebuilt always focuses me on the vulnerability and hand-made quality of our ways of living. And just as politics plays on us, so does the natural world, and world of work, regardless." —Jessica Greenbaum
Jessica Greenbaum is the author of The Two Yvonnes, (Princeton University Press, 2012). She teaches at Barnard College and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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