I think perhaps tonight is a good time to take a wander through my head, randomly picking up ideas, memories, bits of intellectual bric-a-brac. I stood at my window somewhere in the small hours of the morning before retiring. I opened it and let the dark tide of the night spill over me–cricket song, the moist scent of earth, and an unexpected perfume of gardenias blooming beneath my bedroom embrasure. I felt as if Ray Bradbury were writing on my soul–that melancholy he always described so well, that is not an inert or dead state of being, but one fertile and alive with anticipation. I went to bed, feeling as if I were a strange amalgamation of Montag and Clarice, numb but with a sense that possibility was waiting like a shadow on the lawn just around the corner.
“It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” ~Fahrenheit 451
The Nature of Memory and Experience
Perhaps better than anyone I know, he had a gift for discussing the deep ties of memory to who we are and the nature of the Reality we experience. He talked about the soul in a way that was neither overly cluttered by icons of the religious, nor devoid of the needful aspects of the spiritual. More than anything, he made something which could be so hurtful, so utterly ugly a thing of beauty. So that if life must wound us, there was a purpose to it.
I have had a lifelong love affair with Mr. Bradbury and his curios of the human spirit, couched in a rather gentle and antiquated brand of science fiction. But, too, I find myself remembering the first time I read a short story he wrote–about a house that mourned, in its mechanical way. How human he made it. How monstrous he made the loss of humanity represented by atomic war. That, I think was a hallmark of writers from his era, especially in that genre. The power of the atom had been unlocked and given into the hands of angry, irresponsible men. But life goes on, in some way. Life always goes on, even when there is no one left to mark the tides and movements of that pageant. I remember weeping with horror and heartbreak. I was seven.
“The five spots of paint- the man, the woman, the children, the ball – remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer. The gentle sprinkler rain filled the garden with falling light.” ~There Will Come Soft Rains
Heinlein Had More Energy
I talk about Ray Bradbury because, unlike one of my other favorite Secret Boyfriends, Mr. Heinlein, there’s a restful and meditative quality to his work. Heinlein seems to bustle off the page at me–there’s always action, potential, bursting possibility. Even when Mr. Heinlein paints a tragic picture, pens a story of sadness–and there are quite a few moments that have marked my book pages with tear stains–there’s also a sense of something left. Always, with Heinlein, there is an After, a Next, a Can-Do or a Must-Be-Done. Lazarus Long carries his grief in a secret place while getting on with the business of living for several thousand years.
With Bradbury, I always get the sense that the grief is out there, in its quiet way, like some sort of air-born virus of understanding. It’s a shared thing, but still, and it pervades the atmosphere of both the story and my own world when I look up from the page. He’s marked me like that. I can’t unread the words. I can’t unfeel the kinship with Montag walking home, sensing the presence of someone significant standing quiet, just around the corner–a stranger who comes bearing the future with a dandelion and dream-filled eyes.
I feel awash in that dense, viscous liquid of being–that melancholy. We ought not to confuse that with being sad or depressed. It’s nothing like those things, because it doesn’t stop the creative process. Think of it as darkness itself. Not the suffocating, death-pall of negativity, but the clear, pure sweetness of a country night. Here, there’s so much potential. I feel it, like the promise that the sun will rise soon–a bit of joy, hinted at. I feel as if sometime not too long from now, something wonderful will occur, even as I delve into all the somber thoughts harvested–world news, domestic affairs, being 32 without a culturally-acknowledged success story, being awake and so aware of my humanity without having yet found the right way to say all the words in my soul.
Tides of Awareness
I wish I had some profound words of wisdom to round out this entry, but I don’t. Instead, I am standing at my window, feeling the night pour in through the screen with the scent of earth and gardenias, the sounds of crickets like a wave. I am standing in last night, and all the nights that came before it, filled with a strange sense of Almost. I can’t really explain it logically, because it’s not a part of human logic. Perhaps I should be out there in the world, bustling and doing–shaping the flow of reality simply because I am in it. In a strange way, because you are reading these words, I am.
Inadvertently, I think that may be the best explanation for why I share my writing and don’t keep it locked safely away between the two covers of my journal. Perhaps, this is meant to be one of the ways in which I shape the world–because you are now not quite the same person who clicked on this link. You are different, perhaps remembering Montag or wondering who is waiting for you around the corner of Not-Yet-Happened. It may even be that you have gone to your window and opened it, and pondered what your purpose is. If not, I won’t press you for a reason. These are not things that can be forced, I think.
That fullness has to happen on its own. The sense of turning to speak, even if you are walking alone.