A Place to Explore the Vistas of the Mind
February 24, 2014
A VG Serial: Hills of Eden
Outside, in the dark, the fishing boats are gliding in to shore, their hulls whispering, hissing. The travel trailer is very close to the water, windows fogged up from our breath, the heat inside. Rain has misted the lake and this camp all day. The mist has smeared everything with a dull pewter glaze.
The windows in the little trailer make the things outside appear as if they were protected by a scrim. The picnic tables and barbecue grills are out of focus. They are that way in the dark, were that way under the gray clouds of afternoon.
The chug of outboard motors are muffled by the same damp shroud that envelops us. The mist hangs in veils like sound baffles on a recording stage of yesteryear. Sheets of mist from a point of light between two hills end, as far as we know, just beyond this inlet here at Tucker Hollow on Bull Shoals Lake.
My young son is asleep on the cushioned seat on the other side of the table. Lights shimmer like luminous ghosts outside our steamed windows. The radio, a lonely sentinel of FM, blares out music snatched out of the air. The music, too, is blurred, distorted.
We have had a good day out in the wind and the rain. There was not much rain. More a drizzle than anything else. A wetness that stalked across the lake under slowly moving dark clouds. We could see the moisture coming and when it hit us, it was refreshing—a spray against the face, cool and soft as silk. The light drench was brief, no more than a brush of lips in a fleeting kiss.
Marc, my son, has played on the damp swings, slid slowly down the slide. The metal’s wetness clung to his small trousers, holding him back. He thought that was quite an odd experience, and so did I. He has been concerned with speed lately, now that he’s almost seven years old at the time I write this. The lake, with its immense face, takes away much of that urgency. Everything seems to move in slow motion here.
There were a couple of small, light planes that flew over today, just under the clouds. They were gnats in slow motion, stuck against the gray sky, lights blinking like lightning bugs, for the longest time. Then they, too, were gone, like the fine mist that strolled across the lake and disappeared in the smoky trees beyond the shore.
The trailer is warm, cozy. It glows with a friendly orange light. It is easy to think that we are the only people in the world out here. Yet, there are other campers here. Their lights burn like copper halos through our own steamy windows. Fishermen load and unload their boat trailers. Some men fish only at night. They seem beckoned by some ancient call, some primal tugging of the veins that makes them go out after the sun is down and fish the dark waters.
They, too, must sense the darkness as friend. We do. Marc has no ingrained dread of the dark. His only complaint is that this phenomenon, when we are home, signals the arrival of his bedtime. That’s why he likes to camp. We do not look at clocks or watches. The night, then, is a time of blazing campfires, roasting marshmallows, delight in running through the shadowy camp with other children who do not have to go to bed.
His face is so peacefully composed right now, I want to reach under the table to his bunk and touch him. I want to tell him that I understand the rebellions that spring up in his mind like sudden squalls.
He is asleep now because there is school tomorrow. He cannot understand Daylight Savings Time. At 8:30 p.m. it is still light. Still light enough to play. Yet, he must go to bed. The lingering light, and our parental policies, are torture for a young man bursting with life.
It would be better if he could know that we care about his feelings and don’t want him to lose a minute of waking life. But, we are hamstrung by tradition. In the morning, if he doesn’t go to sleep early, his eyes will be puffy. He will be cranky and pugnacious when he has to be awakened so that I can drive him back home to get ready for school.
Somewhere, somewhere along the way, we lost sight of some things. Maybe, of everything important. We created jobs and built empires. We worked and acquired land. We began to possess things that we manufactured. We made watches and time clocks. We made charts and graphs. We stockpiled arms and wasted food. We dug and mined and kept building. Higher and higher, longer and farther. We raced the universe, knowing we would lose. The universe is a slow, inexorable entity that expands and contracts like a breathing lung. We thought we could beat it to the end of time, to the end of death. Instead, we found that the universe is curved and just keeps going on and on, endlessly. It is in no hurry.
So, Marc sleeps here under a fogged window, unaware of these movements within the vast universe beyond our night. He has a faint inkling of space travel when he swings high in the playground. He has an intimation of speed when he hurtles down the slick steel slide. He knows the motion of planets and stars and galaxies when he spins on the merry-go-round. These playthings serve, perhaps, as little reminders of our past, our future, our certain hitch to the universe. We spin and slide and glide through space and our blood churns like the sea, rises and falls in a tide surge with the pulling force of our own close moon. Something inside us knows where we came from. We do not know where we are going.
The glass of our future is smeared, fogged over. We can see little glimmers of light. Orange halos, yellow pinpoints in the fabric of dark. Far-off glows of other worlds.
Perhaps that is enough for us now. We are cozy inside our trailer. We can travel a bit. We can see new places, explore unknown vistas of the mind. We can drift a bit on our mortal tether.
And, every time we think we know the answers to all the eternal questions, there will be a sheet of fine mist stalking across space to blur our eyes, to splash us with simple rays of truth.
The lake seems huge and endless now. In the dark, it is barely navigable. We sit in the trailer and that becomes our universe. For now. We are not chained here, however. We can move. We can go on and on.
There is a beauty to the travel of mind and body. For every mystery that is bared, exposed, another presents itself.
The mystery is in the glass, in the fog-breath on the windows, in the magical peach-glow of lamps that throw stripes across the shore, bleeding ribbons on the water. The men in boats are out there, too, peering into the light-smeared lake, looking for something alive and shining that they cannot see.
Tomorrow we will hitch up the trailer and go back home.
There is irony there, of course. The trailer is our home. Or has been for a couple of days.
It is temporary, but in the ways of the universe, it is as temporary as the earth itself, although some say it will last forever.
The wonder is that every so often, for the fisherman, there is a dynamic tug on the line, a mighty, brief struggle, just before something marvelous and silver breaks free of the lake, dances above the masked depths trying to shake the hook that jarred it loose from its hidden world.
Outside, in the dark, there is movement. I peer through the damp fog on the window glass. I see a ripple of the water, the shape of a man moving along the shore. There is a sudden flash of lightning. For a second, I see everything outside clearly. A moment later, it is pitch dark again. The thunder rattles the windows of the trailer.
Marc, asleep, has seen none of this.
But someday he will. He will be awake when such things happen. I hope that he will begin to wonder, as I do, and to take comfort in existence. Not existence as ideal or perfection, but existence as a gift, as wonderment.
Again, thunder. As it rolls across the lake, reverberates on the waters and rockets into a muffled roar over the hills, it sounds something like human speech, magnified billions of times.
Someday, when Marc is a man, I hope that speech becomes conversation. Someday, I hope he will be one of those fishermen out there in the dark.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.