There are hitches along the way, moments or months when the clean line between life’s sky and water is broken, smudged up by grey-brown cloud gathered like coal smoke in the margins.
I wrote that sentence tonight and quite like it, even admire a bit vainly the way the landscape comes nearly to a boil. And I’m enjoying writing more florid stuff again, more contorted and tortured lines that hide meaning like stones set into the heart of plums.
See what I mean? The simple stuff, the easy bits and pieces that help to sell houses, haven’t been coming lately. I don’t know what happened. But I’m making it difficult for myself, I know, and for you too, who owe me nothing and may well abandon me here.
I’ve been in this country 36 years today. Perhaps that’s an influence on recent days. I remember the beginning, the first morning: the green Ford Fairmont we were ferried around in, April 1980, looking for a place to live, and a car of our own, as well as the Holiday Inn pancakes and some gelatinous milkshakes. The blackberry-rich pine forest of Shotover Hill just outside Oxford, where we’d rambled so often, seemed suddenly so remote, which, well, it was.
It feels in some ways, though, as if there’s only a second or two between that long-gone day and this one, some impossible compression having taken place between those days of OMD and the Human League, of Combat Rock and pop-perfect Undertones, and today, more than a dozen years into the next century. It’s as if time’s fabric has given out, become like frayed denim, a frail cotton web gone wide-eyed over a pale, bare knee. Another way of thinking about it is as a bellowing brain-music that pulls and squeezes time like an accordion.
Things coming together, that’s what I’ve been thinking on – careers, understanding, people, plans, partnerships – and things falling apart too. Those and the desire to buy an old gold truck that would likely drive me fast into some ditch deep with recriminations. Making it all worse is that they have been tearing down limestone buildings to build a (probably hideous) bank along the main drag behind my office. There’s a wonderful old song you should listen to, after you’ve walked that block and witnessed the carnage- My Favourite Buildings, it’s titled – and it captures the wistful melancholy I’m after here.
A friend’s upcoming art exhibition is titled Convalescence and it’s my worn-out mug that shows up on the posters. I look not well, I reckon, or at least mournful, as if I’m recovering after a long illness. Concidentally, this week I met on the corner a man I used to know. We were both watching the demolition crews. He looked awful. Like he belonged in the exhibition too. He’s driving cab now, he said, and lives down the street from me. We didn’t even pretend that we might get together. But back in the 1980s we travelled in an old vw to Montreal for a Violent Femmes concert held in an old roller rink. Someone hopped over the Formica counter and kitted out a dozen or so revelers with skates. I was high on something and when I think back to that evening with Todd and Bill, and Robert I still grin, though it was a modest miracle we made it back to Kingston alive.
Kingston. Where I sell houses. And plot novels again, and even poems, prose drumlins like this one, that outline some ominous glacial shift within. Where I occasionally pause before a mirror made from an old church window, and even lean on its pine sill to take stock.
I’ve rested a small painting of Dan’s against that same mirror. It’s as much Turner as it is Constable (though the skies don’t blaze so much as they simmer darkly, and the trees are not Constable’s congested clots) and it will make me absurdly happy; it already does. It’s the origin of this piece of writing, and its creamy horizon is so fleeting it makes me gasp. I watched myself looking at it just now, or rather I regarded myself an instant after looking at it, you see, to see whether it made me younger instantly, because that’s the effect I’m expecting. The recuperative power of art.
I drove home tonight, a day removed from the lines above, lines that frighten me, truth be told, and motored past the Big Apple restaurant and then fields full of granite erratics, then fruit trees I’ve never noted before, wizened and sweet, and impossibly old. I imagined myself among them, trying to glean from them what it means to insinuate roots so deeply into any one place. An hour later I arrived home, less indispensable than I could ever have imagined; my arrival made barely a ripple, a bluntly disappointing fact, yep, but also I guess consoling. The answer, it seemed to me, the next step--standing there, looking into a room getting on just fine without me--would be to walk off and begin a new book, find some way of illuminating an evening's dim silence, and to begin that book right here.
*Lucian took the photo up top and let me use it. Actually he sold it to me and I'm good with that.