Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Sun At Noon

The Sun At Noon

“’I’m the strongest man in the world,’ said Heracles. ‘Except me,’ said Atlas. ‘And I’m not free.’ ‘There is no such thing as Freedom,’ said Atlas. ‘Freedom is a country that does not exist.’ ‘It’s home,’ said Heracles. ‘If home is where you want to be.’” Weight – J. Winterson

This is how fiction began. Once upon a time a mind began to lose its bearings in the sea of thought and the ocean of every response that seemed to be coming faster and faster, with every flit and flutter, like the butterfly’s wings and the spider web film over a face, faint but unmistakable. The mind was the mind of a mother, Caleb’s mother. Caleb’s father, Josh, had a mind firmly anchored in the ground of his thought, and he was sturdy as an old oak. Caleb’s mother, Angelina, was pretty and fragile and strong and sturdy all at once, and she had sensed this unbearing coming on for a while before it happened. She felt like a ship that had slipped from its mooring, slid silently from the piling, the dock, further into the dark water under cover of night while all were asleep and the waves rocked.

Fiction began when Angelina began to feel herself moving like this great ship in the dark water, soggy and full of the weight of old trees and the debris of all history, even as she felt occasionally light as a wisp of wind rippling through the water. Her imagination was born when she felt so many shifts and changes and related them to the nature of how all of life was, how the ghosts of her past and present joined into a future that involved all of time and even the end of time. She knew that this was how fiction began, because she thought of this as the way myth itself came to be, the great birthing of stories like children, words and stories and greater tales being born like the molecules of thought forming and joining and breaking open, the power of air building into a combustion that blew open and poured into molten fire, stars that blazed and persuaded everything inside to dance like a million fires without harm.

There were stories of great gods and goddesses – that all goddesses were still women remained in her mind – bending and bowing and flexing with the strength of vowels, consonants, airways, passages of time, and the great sinewy ropes of loyalty and lust that pulled and tightened even as the wind, water, and the force of will and open choice forged forward like the bow of a ship in a Mother Ocean.

Angelina was no stranger to drama – her life in Lima as a child was charged with dust, some danger, and a warm if chaotic thrill of life as a vibrant rush of laughter and frowns, songs, dances, as well as a yanked arm and the mark of a hand left stinging on a cheek. Her memories rush past, always, and she rushes to the place where she met Josh, at the University, and when they began to join together, he with his brown eyes and hair, that wave of curls at his collar, his freckled hands and chest, and everything about him so familiar and yet foreign at the same time, in a deliciously inviting way. This brought her laughter, and happy dreams. She saw them in dreams, later, with children, long before they had Caleb, and she rolled in her bed covers thinking of him, entwined with memories and dreams of her childhood and little bits like riding in buses in places she never knew she had been.

Her life did not feel poetic, only slow then, and happy, with a fullness that she could relate to armloads of clean, sweet-smelling clothes fresh from the clothesline, a burst of spices in her nose from the kitchen, and that ache from so deep inside her that came up like a flower bud in season. This was prose, more to her, the steady stream of rising and falling, the days and nights of life moving together, strolling, skipping.

Now long in America, near the Capital, her parents were still in Peru, and sometimes they faded from her mind, sometimes their faces loomed before her, smiling and warm and wishing for her. She had one brother, a pilot who spent more time in the air than on the ground, and who seemed to always be moving. Even when he visited he did not like to sit still. Caleb laughed at him always moving, even when he slept.

Fiction began even as Angelina stood in line and looked at the pictures of the magazines and newspapers while she waited to pay for her groceries. The lives of the people whose faces she saw took on the shapes of dough and dollars, of flowers, sunrises, sunsets, of buildings, towers, some of gun barrels, the swirl of clouds and leaves, bark and dirt, even dogs with tails wagging. Taxis moved in colorful strands, bits of newsprint blew against curbs. Monuments rose, water reflected everywhere into sky. Metro stations were grey and noisy, either loud of echoing with silence and leftover traffic. Even this entranced her at times, how shiny chrome was, a sudden surprise like a daffodil in a trampled park, that sweet-smelling breeze that blew in spring. The Cathedral. L’Enfant Plaza where once such a musician played while crowds passed that strains stayed in her memory that she wasn’t sure she even heard. She remembered children’s faces.

What was true, and what was false to her? War was everywhere. She no longer knew how to answer this question except as she felt the flow of the air on her skin, and this great star-spangled spread of lights twinkling to her as she saw the geometry of life itself forming and changing everywhere she looked. Josh’s loud laughter was like thunder sometimes, until she toned her ears and watched the sound waves move from within him, up his throat and out his mouth, molding his cheeks and nose, his eyes crinkling up, and his neck bending, moving, a dance in itself of weather ricocheting around a small canyon with all colors showing themselves.

There is no real way to know ourselves, each other, except this, she said to herself, beginning with this, again, and inside out, again, the motion and change of our thought and emotions forming the mountains and valleys, the crusts and canyons, your skin itself becoming my landscape when I love you as I love the moon, as I imagine it, as I love the Earth and its pebbles and mica and tendrils, as I love the rain, as I love my own secretions and skeleton. I am chewing my life, swallowing, savoring.

When other forms come, then, as ghosts and guides and shapes that help me to map my way, from the bedroom to the kitchen, from the bathroom to the deck beyond, to the grass outside, I know them and they are with me, tangible in the ways they want to be, and as I choose. We caress each other through the elements of who we are and who we will be, who we have been.

Fiction began when Angelina cried for her friend who had lost a child, for her mother who was dying, for her father who was forever a friend. Fiction continued when Josh was in the terrible car crash and came out alive, even well, now, and still laughing although not quite as loudly. The myth of all gods and goddesses, what we took on to be human in the turning and change of all elements that began as invisible specks and sparks and grew into monumental things as well as gracefully spinning sashes and globes, shiny reflectors, and honking horns, began to come alive, again, as the story never ends.

There was no single beginning that got her mind slipping away from its moorings, the dock of complacency, of comforts where she had begun to hope and pray and even hum a little in a way to distract her thinking stream that was ready to go further, into new frontiers. Caleb was part of it, as was every experience of her life. Caleb is 7 now, and as eager as firecrackers to light the sky. Caleb, with his dark eyes and freckles, his brown hair and honey-skin, lights up the world where he is, and his force of energy which she and Josh concentrated and formed, lit a slow fuse in her that burned. Every metaphor fits, mixed as ever, because this is how myth is, this is how fiction is, this is how life is lived. Losses add up to gains, gains add to losses, and the great sea of experience reveals its treasures to each mind that opens itself to the great water. The unfathomable water.

Today the news is full of students and professors shot and killed at a university, subtexts to broader news of war and dying around the world. Angelina watched in horror the way the scenes were repeated, the images that came and went, over and over, broken in by the voices and faces of students, parents, of friends, of buildings. These are to be halls of learning, storehouses where knowledge is revered, used, explored, shared. These were killed by a young man with a face impacted with anger, closed tight to the world as Caleb knows it, the joy of sparkling life.

As Angelina watched the news, she held her belly and wiped her tears. She held Caleb to her in my mind, in her arms when he was there, and she held Josh’s strong hand. With each thought, a child is born, at the height of noon-day sun- she heard these words within her mind, a clothes line, a spider-web of thread between her ears, winding around her skull inside. I am not only love, she said, but also sorrow and despair shared by such a mind. The love I find and share as seeds which grow, I plant in that mind which seeks and which wants to know.

This is how fiction began, with the myth that we are without hope, without the choice of life and love, impacted by death and the dark rattletrap of blood without knowing what makes the blood of life itself. The superstitions come from believing if we hold our breath, all will be alright, the wind will blow, we can close our eyes, and go. I know this old story. The myth we believe is our loss of memory, that our rage is real, and love is gone.

Slip from the moorings into dream, Angelina heard in her mind as she drifted to sleep next to Josh and his steady breathing. This dream is life. Wake well, children of noon. Caleb, my joy.


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