My last bout with mild hallucinogenics had been largely ineffective. That wasn’t because of either their lab source or the destination. It had been a chimerical sort of venture to begin with. It had been one step Minotaur, one step Peter Pan. I hadn’t been able to keep pace between monstrosity and fantasy. And the dull end of the uxorious rainbow of experience had once again been caught up with my promiscuous appurtenances. Licorice beans and flax seed concoctions mixed with almond butter syrup had been to me like the Promised Land. And a day behind Adobe Illustrator had also worked as the burden’s ideal distractor. Mention of Velázquez, Goya, and the Prado always a plus. A lift in spirit like a hem line just above the knee. An eyebrow raised. A half-fortuitous glance from afar, coming from across the street anointed. A purposeful roving down the track tracks of the northeastern corridor, the risen daily sun already losing its splendor and its golden color overhead. The pastel shading of memory could not have been more delightful at times than drinking by frozen hand in my palm the cold spring water in the Ozark Mountains where legend had it a lone bandit was time ago shot and had died six or seven generations before, some years before even the invention of the internal combustion engine and the early oil derricks began covering the world’s deserts and plains alike.
Having understood the process by which the people had been elected, I had long stood my ground. I would have given no quarter, I would have not flinched, I would not have stepped aside. Readers of the Ark, transcribers of the Infidels, methodologists of Unity, behold yourselves, I had exclaimed. And all, like wooly lovers, had bowed their necks, their heads hanging low near the ground where the trampled grass had once grown. Truly, my at times pilfered run down the cinder path had been stupendous, my knees scarred here and there from my having tripped and healed later on. Still, I could proclaim quite loudly: My votes had been cast for you and for you and for you. Ah, though my chiasmatic cynicism rang like silent bells in the stars, I had successfully enslaved the bright lights of their imagined moments of universal fame household by household by household, like starving potato eaters crumpled around a tabletop too poor to really think on their own beyond the next starvation-sized portion of comestibles, heaps and heaps and heaps of them well-deceived into the sodden belief that they themselves would become earls, dukes, princes, queens, and kings.
All the beauties of the lake had passed me by. The mothers with their children. The strong men with their lovers. I had had an incandescent longing once, but that had been time ago. Time ago it was, and it was not, my laces, too, had been tight. The thickest ice where skaters skate belied the little fire that I had built along the shore. And from my little hut where I would retreat, once the sun had vanished, I could still watch my dwindling fire burning out there. From the high Indian village of Mt. Hope, you could see the leftover trash in the Canada woods: the old, blue frayed tarps, the unneeded shoes, even discarded diapers. To me it had been a mess; to them it had been no longer needed. There had been no nostalgia for that, and no heartfelt feeling for any place except where our fingertips had once ago been raised to the middle of the chest. No place else, anywhere but here, would be ever called home. That word itself had become in me, like kindling, sail boat, or float, some kind of shibboleth, some kind of awkward curse. To know, besides the flotsam of these, that there is no yesterday pinching up against tomorrow, nothing really language can do anymore, is a sudden and calm thing. What I had ever known was fine, and what I had not akin to another season of falling leaves that had seemed even yellower than another. It may not have been true, but my recurrence of memory had made it that way. All the recurring beauties of time had passed me now, and I was glad enough not to frighten anybody anymore with my questions. Nobody went near the dirty and straw-filled mounds where beavers had built up their dwellings for fear of falling in water, where indeed winter’s ice had been thin. Had somebody ever had the temerity, or the pluck, to have come over and sat beside my warmed boots, I would have discussed the Old Flemish master. ‘Like skaters have been painted,’ I would have said, ‘upon a frozen ocean.’
Things just come to be as they are. A moment’s indiscretion, the mindlessness of a hand putting one book down because it doesn’t know where else to put it at the time; the passing misgivings of old ideas, old lovers, who knows. Old gifts, old returns. They just pile up that way. When, later on, one notices the shells of emptied sunflower seeds in a tiny little pile of spilling (a mouse), one notices only then that the mind just isn’t that careless after all. In fact, it almost looks staged, as though items had been moved into place—like movie props, to create a valid scene or two. A statement of sorts: Annie Leibovitz. Vivian Maier. Paul Cezanne. Really quite stunning, quite a triad. But it isn’t like that. Things just happen that way, and one day they become noticed. A mouse enters the picture and changes everything. Only then.
Time has no memory. The fact that one image is made today, and another was made a year ago, or two, or ten doesn’t matter to ‘time’ at all. They are all the same. So, if the onlooker returns to the same spot and creates another image there, only the looker really knows the spirit of return and having returned to it. To all else, who might ever view these ‘memories’ of the onlooker, even these words are nothing but a footnote, and really, when you get down to it, not a very important one. The onlooker can of course play a little bit. The equipment can be changed up, and the result will be a distortion—or an adaptation—of the vision of wherever the looker had once stood. These themselves will easily give the impression of history—time’s immodest patina that paints the world in the palettes of Diana, Holga, Nikon, and Leica, and so forth.
In the prehistoric images first drawn upon the walls 32,000 years ago of the Chauvet Cave, identically drawn animals painted near and atop other images of identically drawn animals, one, two, or five thousand years apart, were drawn upon the curved inner stone walls almost exactly as they had been one, two, or five thousand years the last time they had been drawn there before. In other words, nobody erased them. And thousands of years later, somebody else came, and sometimes drew the same images again beside them. And then this happened again. The enormity of this can only really start to make sense when one considers that all the ages that have passed since the time of Ancient Greece and now are like a blip between one painter’s hand in a cave and another’s thousands of years later.
In the most gorgeous places I have been, there are pictures of near nothingness. Everything that is normally seen—the rocks, the boats, the seaweed, the early morning fishing crew a-sea—is wiped out, wiped away. None of these is either dead or really gone of course. The mist just pulls herself, if I can get away with saying that, across the declaring light of day. And the mind, too, will have then another mist pulled across itself. These moments of retreat are not everlasting, anymore than a nod between one fellow passing another fellow along a sidewalk can be. And rather than the usual connotations of blurred understanding and mixed up comprehension that might seem to go along with this ‘mistiness’ or ‘fogginess’, there is an immaculate clarity, a surrounding calmness everywhere, greater than the eye can see. If there is indeed somewhere the sea and sky be visibly welded together without a joint, this earthly peacefulness extends itself far beyond that.
But as for confusion and fearsome uncertainty, that is why Alfred Hitchcock hired Salvador Dalí to design the dream sequences of his films. Terror and the menace of violence has a pellucid, and exacting quality to it commonly known to every human nightmare, which is precisely why a champion maker of those surrealistic visions of heinous genius was employed, rather than filming a set filled with puffs of smoke or steam, or going for the once fashionable hazy, dreamy, soft look of lenses with a gob of grease or gel spread by an index finger around the perimeter of the glass. Creating the ubiquity of peace, restfulness, and safety is altogether another thing. Had Hamlet perhaps perched himself along the Danish shoreline and looked outwards towards the sea’s offing, rather than bearing his princely gaze inland looking so inwardly, he might have seen something akin to the luminous gray horizon surrounding us all and him, rather than a smoky weasel up in the spare clouds or some other rodent or grass-land creature he had caught scrambling there, and had to catch, in his trap of antic fancy.