Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jet Lag

Depressed and elated at 5:00 AM, I am the only thing prowling the countryside. I feel like I've swallowed a black hole, or taken bad acid. Travel is a hell-of-a-drug; it leads me to do strange things.

Under a shadow-casting moon, I can tell by their texture and heft that the bricks I'm stacking are terracotta, cooked earth, made from the clay around here. But I can't confirm what color they actually are.

Is silver a color? Is graphite? Is gray?

It is so quiet my ears ring, all cicadas and calliopes and high-tension wires. I agree with Shelley who insisted moonlight is the sound of bells, and Beethoven, who pulled silk threads of it from his piano keyboard. I'd like you to agree with me too, wherever you are.

Shouldn't “spider web” be a Crayola color?

The nights here are still silky warm, but I’m wearing heavy gloves in case of vipers. I am sweating and delirious with the need to harvest brick. There is a practical reason for this.

Just after dawn, the excavator is scheduled to scoop the 3-meter pit in which a cistern the size and shape of a small nuclear reactor will be interred. If I want to save any of the rubble here from the treads and claws of that clanky steel dinosaur, it has to be sorted and moved. Now!

That is what I am doing, harvesting stone and brick and mortar from the soil and debris dumped at the bottom of the vineyard when the remains of the derelict stone shack was demolished. There are iron hinges and shards of broken glass to be salvaged as well, artifacts attesting to generations of serfs, sharecroppers, and contadini who worked this land from times Etruscan until it was abandoned in the 1990's. Now its my turn.

Here I am, with half-a-century and three college degrees in my pocket. I am playing in the dirt and drinking moonlight so mellifluous it makes me want to weep. Please excuse me a moment.

OK. Better now.

There is this moment that comes after 4 or 5 days tripping on jet lag, when the existential fever breaks. Loved ones you haven't thought about in years enter the chamber of memory in what you no longer fear is perpetual twilight, and every moment of self-love you ever allowed yourself hits you like a a big, warm, accelerating snowball of comfort and relief. The gloom lifts and you think you might just be OK after all.

This is just the forgiving nature of the pituitary gland. Or the pineal gland. One of those amazing nuggets of tissue in the brain.

What awesome creatures we've evolved into! I agree with Richard Dawkins. I agree there has never been proven to be a god and, by definition, that there never can be. But I do have a religion of a sort, a reverance of the higher mind, of self-awareness and reflection. It is presided over by an internal believer in horizons, those places that by definition exist everywhere, yet can never be reached. For the time being, he is also an eternal optimist, alive and practicing in the very real part of the brain that we humans evolved beyond all other species. In a pulpit of bone domed by a ceiling of convoluted gray, he insists there is a higher authority, a sun from which the moon draws definition, because it can be proven to exist. Beyond that, he fills me with endless wonder. He endorses my decisions mostly. And chastens me when necessary. And tells me I really should be here listening to moonlight, a cult-of-one, for now at least.

Finally, around day 5, there comes a point of transcendent metabolic rebound. It reminds me of trekking down from Everest Base Camp. Around 15,000 feet, you reach a level where there is enough oxygen in your blood to think in complete sentences. All cylinders firing, all circuits connected, you are experiencing existence at a-mile-a-minute and you want to get some of it down. So you sit down and begin to write.

In the full light of day, once the cistern has been buried and starts to fill with that which gives it definition, I will do just that, I will continue this diablog. For now, there is still more brick to stack. And I hear a dinosaur coming.

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