Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Song of the Teakettle

I have a new teakettle. It's the whistling kind. This particular teakettle is an unpredictable singer, often overcome by shyness, laryngitis or an insufficient head of steam. But sometimes it does sing, with a strong sustained tone, not so high as to be shrill; a tone pleasant to the ear. Thanks to teakettle engineering, an inanimate object sings.

You could say that human beings are the way the universe's inanimate matter finds its singing voice, in everything from teakettles to pipe organs. We're also the way the universe marvels at itself. And the way it emotes about itself. That's part of our job description as sentient beings: to inject meaning and song into things, to reflect on the cosmos. To make wonders.

Then there are—especially at this time of year—our holiday lawn ornaments. I suspect that they may be the universe laughing at itself. How else to explain a serried flock of lawn flamingos, each wearing a little red flannel cap trimmed with cotton, in a harness made of colored lights, pulling Santa in a sleigh?

And then, there is a certain small, shiny, orange, gold-capped aerosol can which recently appeared in the Library's basement Ladies' restroom. That restroom is frequented by Library staff. The counter is often graced by surplus hand lotion or other smellgood, unwanted at home but too pricey to toss out. The gold-capped aerosol can is Pumpkin Concentrated Fragrance Spray. It's concentrated, all right. After I made an experimental squirt in the air in front of the sink, the scent clung to my clothing and reeked there. It is the most determinedly cloying fragrance I've ever encountered.

Could this shiny little device be the universe, via human inventiveness, playing a practical joke on itself?

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