Walking outside in the drizzle this late in October (Halloween is Saturday) I feel a chill yet I don’t need a jacket—it’s a short walk—just long enough to see the thick golden blanket of leaves on the lawn, the swirl of leaves falling through the breeze in the trees, and hear the whispered rustle of so much paper-like shuffling it becomes its own white noise. All summer long the trees had been uniformly green—now they each display their true natures—dark crimson, golden yellow, or faded sunset orange—and the leaves leave the trees, filling the air and carpeting the ground, gathering in wind-blown piles.
All yesterday the neighborhood ached with the high groans of leaf-blowers—today’s light rain leaves me the joy of autumn’s delicate hiss, unsullied. I know I am old because I no longer sense the aroma of mimeograph ink in the smell of fall’s foliage and moldering breath—even a passing school bus makes me ponder the driver’s sobriety rather than its sweat-stanky back seats—that’s how old and parental I’ve become.
Neither do I obsess over my costume or dream of pillowcases filled with candy—instead I dread the monotonous getting up to answer the door and sitting back down only to hear the bell again. But Trick-or-Treating has fallen out of favor in our modern age—so now the wearying chore becomes instead a long wait between rare interruptions—almost a relief as well as an annoyance. Where are the crowds of kids that wandered the local streets of yesteryear? Why do I feel my own age so sharply as the year itself comes to a close?
I don’t know. I have a lot going on inside me—it makes me feel like I have something to write—but there’s just chaos in there, virtually screaming a million things at once, none of it coherent. So, no, not really anything to write.
My body seems to be slowly bouncing back from its long decline—enough so that I begin to feel restless about spending all day every day inside this tiny house. Not that we don’t love our cozy little cabin—but hell, sometimes you have to go out. Now, that wasn’t true—hasn’t been true for many years—I’d focus more on having the energy to get out of bed or make myself a sandwich or take a shower. But before I got sick, it was pretty common—I get bored and frustrated very quickly when I’m in touch with my full capacity.
And I’m sick and tired of retracing my words just to explicate that ‘full capacity’ now does not mean back to my original 35-year-old, healthy, rambunctious self. Take it as given that if I’m talking about a resurgence of my vitality or a sharpening of my senses, I’m only talking relative to my near-death experience and decades-long infirmity. I’ll never be young again. I’ll never have twenty-twenty vision again. My hands will never be steady again. And most of all I’ll never have the ability to get lost in my own thoughts again.
I used to think of that zoned-out state I’d get into while programming code or drawing a picture as a kind of wandering—but it wasn’t. I was taking for granted something that came easily to me—but now I can see it for the very strenuous hacking through the mental jungle that it was. I can feel the effort of thought now—if I heard about effort of thinking in those young days, I refused to believe it. I couldn’t perceive any effort—even though my mind was functioning like gang-busters. I miss that a lot—in the way you can only miss something that you lost without ever having known how valuable it was.
Of course, I also miss it because it was my meal ticket. I used to think that I was lucky to find a job in programming and systems—now it is clear to me that I was never good at anything else, not professionally. My mind started to weaken from illness at about the same time I was considering looking for more challenging coding work. It was very frustrating to lose my super-power, slowly, mysteriously, just as I was trying to move on to even more difficult puzzles. Now I can’t program my way out of a paper bag—which leaves me with a large past life that was headed towards something I can never go back to. So, yeah, I miss that a lot.
My old self is dead. I am alive. It’s a quandary.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015 10:29 AM
Fall proceeds apace—others have posted some striking photos of the leaves changing, so I’m gonna pass on taking my own photos of the yard and environs. The urge to photograph things is always there, but I’d rather conserve my energy on the off-chance that I’ll get antsy enough to draw a picture instead.
The endless drone of leaf-blowers gives the Fall a sour strangeness—these people want their mess cleaned up and their lawns bare, and they don’t care how much racket they make getting it done. Who could have imagined that getting an artificial wind to blow would be best accomplished with tiny engines that make a deafening whine and emit grey clouds of diesel soot?
But enough of my seasonal peeves—no more. What matters is the doing—and what am I doing?
Monday, October 19, 2015 6:04 PM
Joseph Henry was an American physicist who discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction nearly simultaneously with Michael Faraday, the Englishman who, through the vagaries of history, is known as its sole discoverer. But such quibbles about ‘first-places’ abound in the history of science—Morse was not the first man to send a signal by electrified wire, Edison was not the first man to create a moving picture (or a light-bulb, for that matter)—there are often two stories. One is the closely researched story of who did which step and when, and how it all ‘worked out’ to what we’re familiar with today—and the other story is what we call ‘popular history’, where Ford ‘invented’ the car and Italians ‘invented’ pasta.
It is a little odd that in trying to tell some of the detailed, accurate story, an historian has to set up and knock down several widely-held misapprehensions common in the popular understanding of history. Serious historians must tell the true story while ‘untelling’ the false ones. This can lead to great interest amongst the populace—and some will argue with any history based on the archived records simply because they love the popular version so much better. And some details are just too bothersome to retain—Columbus’s voyage west to the Indies involved five ships—this is well-documented, and even taught in school—but the image of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria endures.
The only book offered on Amazon.com has a blurb which extols the great achievements and the seminal place that Joseph Henry held in the formation of the United States as a scientific world leader, but such importance is belied by the fact that there is only the one book—a biography. I placed an order for a used copy—I want to see if I can find out why we care so little about a man who was Edison’s Edison.
I’ve also downloaded Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” from the Gutenburg Project’s digital library—I’m thinking of doing a video that combines my readings of passages, my illustrations of the story as images, and my music as soundtrack. The book is enormous—the idea of illustrating every passage, even in rough sketches, would take a younger man than myself—and completing such an audio/video chapter-book is that much more unlikely. But it will give me a project that never ends—and in my mind, they are the only ones worth starting.
Over the last two days, I have created three new videos.
First is “A Fall Turn”–it is an unusually long specimen and includes photos of the encroaching autumn in our front yard.
Second is “Rough Riders”–a peppy sort of galloping thing, with reproductions of famous masterpieces and other art.
Third and last is “Her Face Had A Halo”–after playing this, I heard it in my head, then wrote the lyrics below.
So, here they are:
[written on Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 10:02 PM]
“YOUR FACE HAD A HALO”
O say, can you remember
when school started every September?
When greens turned gold and
Winds blew cold, remember?
And hair around your face once made a halo.
Your face a lovely setting for your eyes,
Your eyes a gateway into outer space,
Your words like honey wrapped in silk,
When with you I was never in a ‘place’.
When we were young we had that hungry fire,
That curiosity about desire.
We had no way to know that life was long—
We only knew the words to sweet love’s song.
The hair about your face once made a halo.