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Catenary

I like words. Sometimes I find words and type them into my phone to think about later. While at SanFran’s ‘Exploratorium’ this summer i happened upon ‘catenary.’

(Wiki: ‘in physics and geometry, a catenary is the curve that an idealized hanging chain or cable assumes under its own weight when supported only at its ends.’)

I called my best friend this weekend–which is rare seeing as I hate the phone–and warned him: ‘i’m in full Daddy mode right now. Got three kids in the house, a saute pan going, and I’m grilling.’ We exchanged ‘how are you’s’.

‘How are you?’ is an important question, even when asked casually.

The question was asked of me and I had to think while poking at some tandoor chicken. I angered the fire with a greasing of grapeseed oil and finally decided upon: ‘Good, actually. Really good.’

Which was true, but also qualified with: ‘I’m exhausted.’ As in: there’s fatigue, uneven sleeping patterns, the constant shell-shock of anxiety. I can’t find a photograph where my eyes are not looking older.

Still: good, I guess.

Turning the chicken on the grill, I hear the kids play and they spill out into the backyard. My son’s friend takes particular notice of a dessicated snail-shell on the ground and asks for a paper bag so that he can collect it. A ‘specimen bag’, he wants.  I amuse myself and give him the only small paper sack I have. It’s from the ‘Museum of Communism’, via Prague. (Twice I’ve been gifted Hungarian paprika from my better-travelled friends and this last time I saved the bag).

I tell my friend what is good. Which could otherwise be lost, like the broccoli spears I dropped in the coals while explaining:

‘Had beers with some new friends at a North Park school fundraiser. Feel really good about work. Started up an e-mail exchange with an old friend leaving FB. Coached soccer. Got this amazing gift of cookbooks from my buddy in Jersey…’

The chicken is done. Cayde’s friend has meanwhile discarded his Communist knapsack on the sidewalk, contents being: one snail-shell and one dried-up myrtle leaf.

Our phones disconnect. I was telling my friend about a recent writing gig before the wires uncross.

(Again, I love words).

‘Catenary.’ So often I say: ‘burning the candle at both ends.’ But to rather say ‘suspended at two ends’ is better.  The chainette in the middle feels the weight but also takes on an attractive curve. This somehow seems more appropriate.

Like when Cayde wants to scooter down to the school with the neighborhood kids and ride the guard-railed and makeshift ramp, just when I’m desperately trying to get the cooking done (I put the knife down, I sigh, we ride);or, when we’re in Long Beach with friends and Cayde interrupts a game of billiards and we must have a time-out wherein I show Cayde how to aim the stick. (With four hands on the cue, Cayde sinks the ‘7’).

The interruptions are good. Amazing really, no matter how heavy my eyes get.

I have an affinity for the telephone wires that criss-cross North Park. The not-exactly parabolic lines they present. Catenary, and suspended at two ends. Without tension, with just some weight.

There’s a reason I saved the word.

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2 thoughts on “Catenary

  1. I first learned the word “catenary” while reading about Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk between the two towers. Watching the movie “Man On Wire” gave me the chills …

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