The weight of the night pushes down like a giant hand compressing the air until it bleeds moisture, soaking the grass and sinking into the flattened earth. There is no wind and the emptiness that surrounds me is so saturated that I could be moving through warm bathwater, gelid and thick. It swirls around my legs and sinks back with barely a ripple to mark my passage. The air tastes of copper and in the distance the sky blazes a violent flicker. Eerie and silent, there is no roll of thunder. The storm is still too far away. It’s coming though and I wait, watching the distant horizon split open. There are glimpses of a false burning day before rapidly winding threads of dark rush in to reknit the tears. The wheat undulates a silken whisper. An echo of thunder rolls into a roar and the sudden wind is like a wild dog let loose to savage the fields. The wheat cowers. The limbs of the trees thrash in confusion and the leaves hiss out their bruising. Like the surge of a great wave the storm crests the yard. The current pushes against the damp heat and then with a great heave washes it away. All that remains is the wind and finally the rain. In the dark it does not seem to fall from the sky but rise up from the earth seeping through the concrete of the patio in silver dollar sized drops of dark grey blood.
Across the yard a single leaf trembles and the palsy passes on from tender limb to limb. There is no corresponding tempo in the adjoining greenery. The steps of this dance are performed alone. The white wreathed faces of Shasta daisies blush a mustard yellow but the heat of that complexion does not turn their heads. The amethyst beards of moneyed irises are soldered in burnished karats to emerald stems, rising, yet static upon the burnt umber earth. The distant leaves stir and sway in a still air. A closer inspection shows no insect or avian influence. There is no illusion or magician’s trick to be exposed under the bright light of day. This singular isolated rhythm, this pas de une, seems a syncopated mystery in the heat hazed yard.
The long days of summer, sun filled and as yet evening cool, stretch out in front and behind. The sleepy afternoons are filled with new ideas and combinations of lovely, lovely words. Books are an old friend, my first love really. Saviour or scapegoat, friend or enemy, whatever else they have been, books remain doors that open up the world both around and within myself.
We all have a love for the things that strike the note that vibrates to our individual pitch. For some it sings a smoky diesel tune that hums along interlocking cogs while pistons clef the staff and determine the tempo. For others the sharp tang of the holy trinity…onions, celery and bell pepper…is the savory altar they worship at. For many the hymn is the song itself. It is not necessary to understand the notes played but it is a certainty that there are as many true loves as there are hearts. For me the perfect note has always been and will always be the written word.
As the years have passed this old love of mine has been continually packaged up in bright new boxes with a pretty new ribbons. The gift inside, in all its variations, has never changed. There is no single heart that beats beneath the breast of my revisited love. As always, there are a thousand hearts that beat out the inky tattoo. I am never discouraged when I bite a bad one and find half a worm in the white flesh of the pages. I simply spit it out and dig another indulgence out of the bushel. It is a hunger that never totally fades and so I feed at the trough of literature until I’m bloated with narrative.
June afternoons redolent with the sweet scents of ripening wheat have ebbed into the upsweep of July’s race to the longest day. The dog days of summer, hunch ruffled and teeth bared, wait just past that apex crouching on the slope only a score of tomorrows away. Looking up from the last page of a chapter my eyes are caught by the movement of a single bush dancing by itself, perhaps in a breeze I don’t feel or to a note I don’t hear. Who can say? I turn the page to begin the next chapter of my book. My foot taps out a rhythm as I move deeper into the story and then I’m dancing alone, to the harmony of my own note.
The memories that form the foundation of this place are old. Old as the world really perhaps older as things seem to exist here half in and half out of the dark and the light. Souls walked this land, marked the sky and tilled the soil as the Aztecs spilled blood and the Mayans measured the span of the heavens. My lineage heart first felt the gravity of this continent in 1912 so in this ocean I could be said to be a novice in the interpretation of the windings of the earthen tide. But all the earth is joined under the water, under the sky, and there is a memory living in blood that runs through the enatic line. A curse or a gift, superstition or sight, forgotten tales are embroidered red on crisp white linen.
High above the cemetery stark against the cornflower blue sky there is a brilliant white shade flowing, billowing with the wind. It is gone when I breast the hill. At the end of the yard, under the century spruce, a small body huddles in pain. A broken leg…or perhaps it is missing…tilts the course and direction is lost careening through the trees. A numbing blackness empties beaded eyes as jaws unhinge to advance on the frozen rictus of a garden toad. These signs number three, supposedly a mystical number. But nature and the layers of ritual that shape it are never subtle. Multiple auguries chime in the wind of change.
Change is the little death as we move from the old to the new. Change is the great death, an unknown dark abyss that brackets breath and the cessation of all hearts. Even then its course is not stayed. Change is the ticking of the clock, the undulation of the wheat, the bird in the air and the cold bite of snow. Change is the slow spreading smile, the tear that falls and the blooming rose above the granite of the tomb. A wind that rises under the light of day echoes the steps of an invisible multitude. The same wind that rises under the canopy of night is crowned in a tiara of stars and the dark that holds the key to the wild mysteries of the universe. It never ends, it follows all, it is all. Interlocking, life and death feed upon each other. The ground that we stand on does not exist without the sacrifice and renewal of the substance that weaves our reality. The act of creation is change and death is inherent in the first gasp of existence.
Purification…I burned canvases tonight. I was tired of looking at them and I think they were tired of looking at me. An overly dramatic device for any painter and not entirely original. I called the Prodigal to take the dog out, as a witness I think. We artistic types always need a witness to the completion of our acts…not only the act of creation but the act of destruction as well; a polar opposite twinned in power and absolution. They were becoming nothing, existing in a state of flux, waiting for a fulfillment; a purpose that I felt would never come and so onto the burn pile they went.
The best of all was the oil canvas that sweated and then bled linseed. The oil beaded on the dark blue surface liquid in the glow of the flames and then poured in runnels feeding the heat until the final burst of energy and light released the potential in a blaze of orange and azure. The fire pushed through the canvas tearing away at painted rock and the velvet of the horn and the blended green of two dimensional leaves. The fire burned brighter as it fed upon my labour, devouring it, changing it and freeing it to the star crowned mysterious night.
The signs called for change.