Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Combinatorium II: Ether

Ether: "the rarefied element formerly believed to fill the upper regions of space b : the upper regions of space : heavens ....  a light volatile flammable liquid C4H10O used chiefly as a solvent and especially formerly as an anesthetic" (Merriam Webster)

The cotton pad over the face. Ether.  Counting down to going under.  An anaesthetic from another era, the smell triggers nostalgia like some perverse version of  Proustian involuntary memory ... And with the anaesthesia, lost time.  Only an unaccounted for period of existence, and a residue of pain.

Cotton pads over the jars.  Chloroform.  Inside the jars were cicadas, captured for the purposes of zoological examination.  The best place for capturing cicadas was in the Valley of the Moon. The road up was steep, gravel, following the bluffs that face out to the sea, and then beyond was a more lush realm, with a stream running through it. Abuzz with cicadas. Trapped in the jars they would flutter for awhile before entering their own insectivorous reverie. Kept in their slumber for their journey south to the university, where their fantastically veined wings and crisp carapaces would be carefully explored. Drawn perhaps, as in the epitome of delineation, AWB Powell’s Native Animals of New Zealand, published by the Auckland Institute and Museum. First published in 1947, and seemingly unchanged for the decades to follow, it offered a litany of creatures, each carefully detailed in a simple, precise line drawing, and accompanied by a paragraph of description. Scale is irrelevant to AWB Powell. A whale and a starfish, a kiwi and a flatworm, are all given the same amount of space, the same degree of detail. Not badgers, moles and beavers, as in the other books of childhood.  Here are weka and weta, penguins and paua.

Large Cicada

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