She never came to the page unless she had a thought or an idea or had had a note. In that way, she never faced a blank page. In other words, it was a page already written upon, if only a little bit. And that little bit became when she did more to the page a little bit more. That’s it. So she never had to face it: the page. But “page,” anyway, is such a funny little thing. Here, in the United States of America, it is measured 8 ½ inches wide by 11 inches long, or tall. Not so in France. Not so in Hungary. The measurements of this page were different. And a pad of paper elsewhere won’t fit into your usual notebook, won’t fit into your usual binder. You’ll have to buy a new one to fit the new page’s new measurements. Anyway, the whole idea of “a page” was sort of silly. For almost no one in his or her right mind uses them anymore: paper pages. Paper pages of any kind of any measurement, long or short, wide or narrow aren’t used much for writing today. So, the idea of having to “face” one is a little bit amusing. The page itself is a sort of skeuomorphic reminder, the way little blue pixilated images of fake blue manila folders on my computer’s “desktop” are other sorts of reminders, too, of that other world, lost and bygone. Most of that world doesn’t feel forlorn to me at all, not anymore than my listening to a gramophone repeating the sounds of a human voice would be shocking.
I rather in my own life had sought a way, a methodology to be able to get exactly what it was I was hearing in my head down. Dante was apparently lucky to have had a scribe before him (I had once heard) before whom he could pronounce his golden words and they were taken down. In a similar fashion there is the lore of blind Milton having had his obedient daughters do the same. But I could never do that, could never face the rough circumstances of having to hear my own human voice making those sounds. The sounds themselves would barge in and push me off. There never had been anything to face at all. The blackness of dawn begins to change a little bit to light, just a little bit barely gray and the crickets of the night continue their wailful singing for a while. Soon enough the birds will come and cry among the limbs from tree to tree. An occasional car or trudging school bus or labored garbage truck will truck up the hill. This is just how it goes. Just as it is the nature of the black morning sky to soon enough open to become blue or gray or filled with thunderous clouds, that has been my own for as long as I recall. The truth is I had never had a thing in mind before my two hands were magically at work, like the shoemaker’s elves making a pair of boots, doing what they do out of joy and their own holy duty to serve for as long as they remained undiscovered by the poor & honest shoemaker and his poor & honest wife.
She had wished him to find her a little nearby cottage in the woods. And she would send him a note with a little picture of this one and that one every now and then. And she trusted his judgment, and she trusted the people that he knew. For, after all, he had been a woodsman these many years already, and if he did not know it himself, he would certainly ask someone else who did. In this, she knew he would never fail her. She had never supposed, ever since they had long ago drifted apart—she in the city and he in the country—that they would ever again be together. Quite certainly not! In that regard, the cottages she sought were cottages for one person alone. And in this regard, too, so had his always been. She fancied that should he find her one, that, by her invitation, he would come to her table every now and then. And, too, that when a thing or two went wrong with her little cottage in the woods, that she could call on him. And in this, she would not have been entirely mistaken. But they were in touch with each other so very little that she could not possibly have known he was already looking quite faraway seaward, away from the woods themselves, where he would find himself someday a little cottage overlooking the rocks and waves crashing there.
Having come to this coastline many times before, I know I cannot see it anymore than I can see it. I might as well be The Little Prince trying to describe the Fox to the Rose, or the world of the Lamplighter to the Banker. I might as well be a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas. . . The moment I lift a lens, pick up a ruler, even raise a wine glass to my eye, that world disappears in exchange for one that I have named ‘real’. We have moved the blue planet into its own space and observed it from afar, and by doing so removed it from ourselves. Indeed, the lever that Archimedes claimed that, if given, he would move the world, we have done so already.
Nevertheless, once upon it time, we lived upon the world, as though nestled within a fairy tale. It was, as my small son had said to me long ago sitting beside me on a bench in the grass, “If we are a part of Nature, then the bench has to be a part of nature too, and so is the grass.” There was, however, that Greekish fulcrum in both time & space that lifted this simple and naïve world of the peasant and country poet away, which placed those into the picturesque, never to be returned to again. Still, I think, we can indulge in a harmless glimpse backwards. There, we may quickly gaze upon these forgotten, obliterated places where long ago we were (as well when we were not) from moment to moment, step to step, and time to time.
It isn’t Mesopotamia. And it wasn’t quite Berlin. Nobody could claim Los Angeles or Dubai. But as the shift went from their being a slow cartwheel sort of animal keeping somewhat apace with technological progress—having begun with fire, flint, and the club—it was a long time a-comin’ before the wheel itself ‘outstripped’, ‘outran’, outdid human biology. But even back then in the latter part of the twentieth century of their Common Era, it was hard to say who were the people the proprietor had had in mind. Nobody could have imagined. Nobody could have foreseen it. The idea of suspending Prometheus’ stolen flame a-high in a store window for all to see like this as though held up magically, supernaturally (balanced on a clear, plastic stand one stood there believing one did not ‘see’) was radical, and shocking if not comic. But like the Ghosts of Christmas, pieces of the manikins of tomorrow had come many decades back, a good two hundred years more behind when the limbs & eyes of the window-shoppers’ curiosity, need, desire and wonder along with the shopkeepers themselves had later been replaced by the gears & shafts of the future’s perfectly machined selves now viewing perhaps through another ‘window’ of some kind their own evolutionary updates, or reverse-engineered replacements.