Friday, May 29, 2009


I love blowing bubbles; it may be my favorite form of meditation. When I was a child and teenager I would sit on the radiator and blow them out of my eleventh floor bedroom window. I would watch to see how far they travelled, if they made it across West End Avenue; I would follow as best as possible to see how many floors down they drifted and if any made it to street level. My cat RJ was extremely curious about these light-infused, delicate ambulatory objects. At first he was perturbed by them – he would chase them and they would mysteriously disappear as soon as he got his paws (or a paw or nose) on them. After a number of experiences stalking them he seemed to understand that that was their nature – they disappeared as soon as they were touched. And so began the practice of Bubble Hunting, a great game between us, in which he would follow them watchfully, sometimes giving sudden chase, and swat them as late as he dared before they reached the floor and disappeared of their own accord. Observing him engaged in this activity brought me no end of glee, especially as I fancied that he looked quite satisfied after a session, sitting up tall and licking his mouth. I sometimes blew them at night, when they looked even more magical and evanescent against the dark sky. On occasion the wind would play along and blow the bubbles back into the apartment.
I also associate bubbles with Lawrence Welk, which my mother watched when I was very little and which felt as oddly non-hip or American as my parents. Those bubbles are black and white, as was our TV screen then; funny because in general I think of bubbles as timeless, not dated. I remember my envy of the huge bubble-makers, the ones that came with large geometric wands and platters for dunking them in the soapy water; those were brought to the park by cooler parents and seemed decadent and daring.
As a younger adult I have often bought bubbles, cheap bottles from the local drugstore, as gifts or in lieu of cards, especially for birthdays, a way to give others a package of wonder to take into further adulthood. I miss Penny Whistle Toys on Columbus Avenue, which for years parked above their storefront a mechanical bear who blew oodles of bubbles onto the street to entice and delight.
One of my college neighbors fell in love with bubbles with a Zen philosophical fervor. He could wax about them for a long time and his pace was languorous and worshipful of each orb; when he spoke about them his hand curved as if he was holding one ever so carefully. I still remember the glistening of the baubles against the Gothic buildings and green lawns. One day he was distressed to come home and find one of his roommates blowing huge groups of bubbles out the window with the help of a hair dryer. I understood both impulses: the dashed delicate nerves of the dreamer and the irreverent genius of the jester; I remember thinking that it was the kind of playful inventiveness that really could save the world, as could regular doses of such meditative, dreamy and pointless play. Purse your lips and blow slowly; see how many bubbles you can get out of one dip of your magic wand. Our own orb will wait while you watch for them to pop quietly, wetly dispersing into the atmosphere.
©2009 Leah Strigler


Lucy said...

Great post. I like the blowing of bubbles individually, I always thought of it as cheating when I saw those contraptions that blow multiple bubbles in a stream you sometimes see street vendors sell.

I think your kitty must have had some kind of mind expanding kitty thoughts and feelings on encounter with this type of ephemeral plaything.

Ask Leah said...

It is a kind of cheating... or cheapening... some things shuold be the result of effort - including feline mind expansion!