Saturday, May 29, 2004
Once more with gusto
I started writing many hours ago when the lights flickered in time to the rumble of thunder and the crackle of lightning outside my window. The computer rebooted and just as it reached cruising speed I decided to shut it down and unplug it because forks of lightning split the sky closer and closer to the cabin. The sky was white with a deep dirty wool gray closing fast so I put on some shoes and brought in my plants from the deck, filled the hummingbird feeder with the syrup I cooled in the fridge and picked up my gloves and wood sling. I haven't cut up the logs in the woodpile yet, but there was some wood on the ground so I gathered it up, some of it crumbling in my hands. Beetles raced for cover and desiccated bits of wood crumbled and drifted to the ground, but I got a good load and took it into the house. The idea of a crackling fire in the stove and oil lamps glowing in the window was too much a siren call for me to resist.
The golden glow didn't lighten the room because the sky was a brilliant paper white. Then the snow and sleet and rain hit in horizontal driving sheets. Surprisingly, my littel hummingbirds continued to quarrel and dog fight, scrapping and knocking each other off the perches on the feeder, even in the teeth of the storm. Nothing seems to keep them from the feeder, especially with a full bottle of fresh syrup.
I wrote a long letter to my parents in long hand and finished House Arrakis from the Dune series. Then I picked up Elizabeth Moon's latest, a Nebula winner no less, The Speed of Dark, which has been a revelation. The story is told from an autistic man's point of view on the eve of a discovery that would make him normal. Elizabeth has an autistic son and the book is dedicated to him. But the idea that even autism is a source of someone's identity, without which they would no longer exist, is an interesting take. When you get right down to it, all our experiences, good and bad, our histories, our friendships and loyalties and disagreements, everything that has happened to this point is part of our identities.
I thought about turning my back on my history and family and becoming someone new, someone who no longer fought the demons of the past, but I realized that changing my name and wiping out my experiences would wipe out who I was, would wipe out me. I have to wonder if the forgotten men and women and children who walk away from their lives and become bums or prostitutes or just wanderers don't feel the same thing, that they are blank empty canvasses from which the paint has been scrubbed and to lay claim to anything they know or have learned is to lay claim to an identity they no longer want or care to own. Even if you change your name and deny your past, it is nearly impossible to deny your identity without eradicating every moment of your life up to that point. Maybe that's why they take drugs and drink themselves into oblivion, so they aren't able to remember anything but the moment they're living. It's like being caught in limbo.
I haven't finished the book yet, but it is fascinating and I recommend it to everyone who would like to know a difference face of normal.
I entered Bulwer Lytton's Dark and Stormy night competition with the following:
It was a dark and stormy night when Beryl Beefeater, closely swathed in hemp and linen trench coat over the sumptuous polar bear fleece Ye Old Maritime T-Shirt with matching baby seal-skin trousers, snuck into the health food restaurant and into the darkest booth at the back in order to indulge her secret vice-avocado burgers and organic salsa.
Check out their site. There is still time if you'd like to try for a prize by writing the most atrocious prose you've ever written. It pays to write purple prose once in a while.
I also tried to write my essay for the Power of Purpose contest. I know the dead hummingbird I found yesterday is part of the equation, but I think chenowyn gave me the final key with her comment about giving the hummingbird new purpose. My idea has always been, since the moment I read the rules, the power of the small purpose upon which everything is built. Not the architects of Stonehenge or the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris or the Wright Brothers or even the architects who built the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, but the little purposes -- getting up every morning to go to a small job for small money and back to a small home with small dreams for the future and being completely happy. People like that are the bedrock upon which all else is built and made possible. But taking it to the hummingbird and giving him to the earth to nourish my future plants goes even further and it may be just what I needed. The essay is finally taking shape in my mind. Thank you chenowyn.
The lavender sky has gone deep blue edged with a lighter blue that is seeping into the white. Night is nearly here and I am wrapped in darkness and warmth. The night is not nearly so dark and the stormy has passed, but there is peace in my sanctuary here at the top of the mountain.