The Art of Leaving
10 January 2010 § Leave a comment
I know why they call the season following summer fall, at least in this country. Everywhere else, it is autumn, which is a beautiful word that begins to describe the thing it represents. Summer’s fall is exactly that – a descent into the normality of complaining about the cold (with respect to those in the Southern Hemisphere) and school, the season of beginning again.
It would be painstakingly typical of me to point out the irony there, so I won’t. The fact is that my summer has lasted for eight months, and I have not traversed the equator. The living dead of winter will be upon me in a few short hours – these hours being very relative to lifetimes – and will freeze the tropical weakness from me in moments. A silver alien that is not used to the sun stares at me with black eyes that seem full of wonder, curiosity, condescendence. His games are those that have been played for centuries – the act of bouncing between fortitude and humility, where status is required to reach some emotional parity with peers, regardless of one’s beliefs in his or her Self. It is watching this seesaw parade of achievements and misadventures that we begin to work out a balance of morals and use this scale to measure our calibre against the influences that landed us right here.
The arts and sciences were not developed in New York studios and university laboratories – they developed from a conscious need to experiment with that same wonder and interest I see in this snide little alien face – a Martian made from Mercury, Hermes from Ares, War created from the consequence of Mischief. It was Darwin tossing vegetables into a saltwater aquarium to see how long they would float, to see if they would still germinate after crossing the sea, it was the painter melting popular beliefs into human life to make them less imaginary and more authentic, more sensible to the simpleton kneeling to an otherwise bland and empty altar in thanks to _____ for allowing them to wake up that morning, providing rain, or later, keeping the plague at bay for a few hours longer.
Other arts, such as that of music, war, sex, and apathy have surfaced also, in the names of Expression, Pride, Passion, and many others. My personal contribution goes wistfully unappreciated much of the time, and I would not change that. Understanding is not sought, but it is hoped for and under drastic circumstances, wished away like an inevitable tide that will come and go again. If only it was always night, so we wouldn’t have to see every sparkle and glimmer that the sun gets to see. But noontime often holds the best goodbyes.
Like the ones that produce poetry from rooftops and photographs of a single shade of blue, which would appear to be stars if you looked at any other time of day. Simplicity is a good rule to leave by. Numbers that have singed their way past the skull and into grey matter will soon have their spellings broken by the perseverant hour hand, whose fingers scribble away at the future, much like we would as children, whittling at the stick with a pocketknife until it was a spear, then a useful tool, eventually the elaborate carving of a gull that bears no memory of its life as a twig. After all, trees do not fly – I do. With the trust and determination of those convinced that a jet engine weighing thousands of pounds can participate in flight above mountains and rivers and oceans, I keep a bag packed in anticipation of that flashing light bulb above my head, given that I look up now and then, for a chance at the unimaginable, the unknown, an opportunity to seize fear by the throat – because covering it with a pillow simply will not do – and choke the arresting tension from it without killing it, lest I lose interest in further adventure.
The high lasts for days. And like some drugs, perception is heightened to the point of exhaustion. Colors are more vivid, signs more clear, the sun and snow brighter than they will be when the inevitable crash strolls next to me as I’m walking, taking in the sights and sounds like any traveling soul, and it will replace that anti-intoxication with Complacency, which the police and the Normal are much more favorable to in everyday life. The filament flickers and dims, and suddenly memories are more demanding to recall, the feelings associated with them progressively less consuming. But when they do come, it is a concentrated whitewater assault that is dynamic as it is powerful, and it will last for ever. Again.
This is the sort of happiness that some prefer to the tedium of national dreams or the maintenance of organic creation. These, too, have their rightful and beautiful place high up in the hills of heavens, and eventually the tides may wash up on their shores the bewilderment and omnidirectional chaos felt by artists of my trade when that stubbornbroken compass wants to be itself again, and feels the magnetic pull of the north singing with the resolute passion it had been invariably attracted to for as long as it could remember. Perhaps that tide will come soon, and the surf will serve as that border between one lifetime and the next, which is more often than not the time between a goodbye and the next bout of confusion. This is where I live.