It is strange to be a writer, particularly in the midst of life.
Those of you reading this who also write may understand, perhaps agree or disagree, but it seems to me there exists an often difficult and fascinating conflict between the voice of narration and the body of experience.
I am writing this in a notebook. The pages of compressed wood-pulp glare garishly white at my return glance as I attempt to interrupt its pristine nothingness, its blank receptivity, with ink scrawls of black. My pen is almost a phallus, leaking traces of lines and curves to inscribe and signify meaning I shall translate (and later transcribe) so to narrate for you my experience.
I sit crosslegged, shirtless on a wooden platform above a stream. Southern oaks, elder, alder, queen anne’s lace, blackberry and briar, grasses I cannot name, clumping and aeriel mosses, and beyond me pines and northern oak and what might be myrtle all surround me. Or perhaps I interrupt them in their slow dance. I try to describe this in my head to describe this to you through ink on paper, but my attention is hardly consistent. It took you perhaps thirty seconds to read those last lines, but between “pines” and “northern oak” was a gap, a silence, an experience outside what I’m attempting to narrate.
My attention was drawn from this paper, this dance of ink and meaning by muscle, skin and fur, wolfish eyes under brow furrowed against the strong afternoon light flooding through this soft ravine, the same light which makes this paper (now half-filled) seem garish.
He descended the steep path to the edge of the creek and dove, and I watch with admiration and the desire which is appreciation as the cold water accepted his beautiful, unclothed form.
And just as I’d wrote those last four words, I noted he was gone, and I am still here, writing.
Desire and delight seem to be a dance. The leaves of these trees long for the sun: the reaching of their branches leaves them open to the play of wind and rain, song in tempos which seem not our time, though perhaps only not in our notice. They all seem to delight in this dance. So, too, the water and rocks, streams from snow and rain and springs passing unhindered across and around the stones worn down, shaped and formed by this long dance.
Distracted now, not by sight but by memory. Trees grow against the weight of the earth, wend and weave themselves in slow dance-steps towards light, against wind, rooted in the darkness and hidden water. The stones seem never to move, yet they are themselves the cause of movement, the cause of this stream’s delighted laughter. Distracted by the memory of the man in this water, the memory of another man, the memory of myself, I remember how a human is shaped and honed and eventually broken and consumed by these same dances, and how I am a human, and how I am dancing very slowly, sitting with pen in hand above this paper, alongside this stream.
You cannot tell except that I tell you by words that there’s been a space between those last words and these. I’d measure it in time for you, but my accounting in this place makes little sense. In a field nearby, a sun-strewn meadow ringed by trees, towers now a pole braided with knotted strips of cloth. I sit now in dappled-shade, amongst myriad-costumed beautiful people garbed in dazzling array of skin and fabric, too many expressions to be contained by roles or by gender.
But before this, the procession. And before this? The stream.
I descended, repelling down ropes. Though I am too rarely barefoot, my feet are work-calloused enough that the rocks did not cut too much, and though the mountain water is still quite cold this first of May, I let it take me in like the paper and the ink.
The spirit there in this grotto surprised me, but the clothes and face she wore was hardly strange here in this place.
I’d not seen before such a painted face, the nymph unveiling with the sense of a queen in drag, white and black and royal purple smiling in sympathy at a sorry I hadn’t noticed I was holding.
Go ahead, girl, she said to me, as I sank into that water and cried. You can be both, as we are.You can be inside a place and also outside, within and without. You can be desire and delight, the cause and the laughter, just as we are. You can be still yet dancing, male and quite female, stone and river, character and narrator, the ink and the paper.