* * *
Brothers cast to land and sea
Both will feel the ocean breeze
Else fall upon one subtle tempest
And a life of joy and liberty
* * *
LOOMING IN THE ETHER
Here down on this plain
PROVIDES MY SCRIPT
I inject to the main vein
I too easily forget, too
And only now can I say after countless revisions and rewrittens of this work, One Subtle Tempest, my first and closest (I think) stab at a metaphysical laud- that I finally accept the most pure way of telling a story is to tell it all by means of the first recount, no subsequent look agains and no prior drafts- there is only what has been committed to memory and what comes out as if I were speaking to you from across the coffee table-
So for the sake of no interruptions and no intervening it’ll be as if I’ve closed my eyes and spoke to you the words spewing across the backs of my eyes as a Lyrical Banner- and I’ll not be bothered by punctuation or spelling or grammatical standards as these’ll be the inhibitions of the reasoning mind and here I’ll attempt, in the best way I can, a deviating, vertical, celebration of the ups and downs of life, the time spent lying in bed awake at night unable to dream, the emotions flipping as a coin, the one voice of the inner self that is the one and only voice that’s truly real-
I don’t care if it makes sense to you, and if it doesn’t I’m sorry, it’s at least important I get this out somehow as it’s weighing on my soul and there’s only one thing I’ve got to leave and I’ve got to share in this world and that’s my story- So just hang on for the ride and this inaugural chapter may be different from any of the others following, as it is a personal account of a transformative experience, or awakening of some kind, but you see I’ve already led you astray as I’ve even no idea how this is going to end-
So here it goes:
SITTING ON A TRAIN heading west out of London one purple evening, it had never occurred to me that a few moments, even moments that had already come to pass, could change my life forever. I can’t say if there was anything peculiar about the situation, or for some reason I was predisposed to having such a rush of nostalgia, but it came, and then it went, just as a subtle tempest brings on the rain and has vanished before the earth has cause to show that it has ever been. I looked out the window at the blurred landscape, whizzing beneath a gray sky, and all I felt was this heavy sentimentality that went along with the gray. The air looked so damp and so fresh it seemed to hit my chest with both excitement and sadness while flashes of taxicabs and phone booths all came to me as images with the rain and the lyrical drizzle that tapped lightly on the window beside me. It’s kind of like that feeling you get when you place your source of fervor in another body, whether it be the sun or the moon it doesn’t really matter, but you relate all your memories of a certain time with something a bit more tangible, something that you can come across in your day to day life, even when you’ve left that place you’ve grown so fond of. I kept looking at the rain making tracks on the glass but soon everything faded and all I could hear was the whisper of the train and the wind slowly dissolving.
THE TOWN HUMS gently off in the distance as I stroll along in the evening, barefooted, along in the drizzly Oxford dusk on the west bank of the River Cherwell in University Park all lugubrious and droopy, sighing to remember that I’m all alone and sad to be alone, sighing most of all because I had played wrong the renaissance land, “I wonder where it all went wrong,” I realize, wrong by spiritual hopelessness, spiritual despondency, the sort of spiritual wretchedness that weighs you down with a mental and physical melancholy that you can’t just shake because the very root of the whole ordeal lies deep within your core- and here I thought, “as soon as I get to England I’ll come face to face with all the meaning of my suffering and then it will all make sense and it’ll be solved” but instead I’ve wandered far into the darkness with the night finally falling apart and coming in these words: “I want so badly to live, to live down to the chilling bone and with it every little thing, but I just feel so incredibly lost.”
I nod my head down and take a long melancholic pause. I feel the wet grass and mud beneath my feet and toes. I take a deep breath and watch the exhale come out of my mouth like a cloud. A fog had swept over the hills and had intertwined with the trees. The sight of the river was gloomy and mystical, and you couldn’t see that far off through the fog and down the river. The bad weather had rolled in from the jet stream and the west.
I walk along the edge of the riverbank, bending down and pushing branches aside as I keep to the edge and avoid all of the vegetation. The leaves hung heavy and were wet and depressions in the ground were gathering little pools of water from the steady drizzle. I kept making my way alongside the trees, parallel to the river, and up a subtle slope on one of the hills. Some of the large stones in the ground were slick and mossy and I had to search to find my footing. The birds were dancing in the trees and singing as they sought to avoid the rain. I could hear them a few clicks behind me.
Now it’s beginning to get dark, the phase when the sun’s completely gone behind the horizon, but with the rain and the fog, thick as they are, there’s no light left at all. Trudging up a hill to get further and further away from the common areas of the park, the only glimmer of satisfaction I can extract from the entirety of the scene is that no one was around, not a single soul. Suffice it to say, I was right in the middle of one inhospitable, convoluted pancake batter mess of thoughts in my head at the time and right on the verge of a breakdown (the reason for my wandering in the rain at night, later I had decided I had taken of my shoes for some sort of a deliberate cleansing)- and yes, there is all that beauty, to look around and see a panorama of the abiding intellectual city beyond, the hum of the water whirr up and down the softness of it you’d think right in your ear, the melody of the birds somewhere, the eternal picture of the river flowing- but, there’s a dreadful neurotic aspect sometimes to nature when you’re in it and lonely, when you’re looking around and it’s dark and the scariness of it first strikes you. Suddenly I feel a terrible hatred for myself and for the air. Everything is panicky again. The languished brain, I can’t for a second focus on anything around me anymore. I start walking again, “I’m just gonna keep walking down here a-ways”- but the moment I start moving my feet, my stride turns into somewhat of a festination. I’m shaking my head, practically running through the trees, with all the low hanging branches thrashing and scraping my legs as I bust through. Red floods my eyes every time I blink, the throbbing from the cuts on my shins only making my pain more nerve-wracking. As soon as I find an opening from the trees, I stop to let out a great guttural scream. “What on earth is happening to me?” So estranged, and the thunderous climax coming, I go spinning in circles in that opening by the river: “What the hell is going on?”
That night I stand there and all I know, as I glare down, my eyes welling up with tears, is that “something down along the line had somehow been cryptically broken, and that obscure force was sucking blindly away at the seemingly exhaustible reserves of my serenity.” I sit down on a large rock, overlooking the water, and stare at my murky reflection in the dim hazelit night, at a face floating along, like a piece of a forgotten dream, with no connection and resemblance to early prosperity- an expression so utterly lost, so utterly estranging- so I let it all go. I take a deep breath and take another look. Something changes- actually, in my mind, what I really see is my own face staring back and I look deep down into my beautiful and hopeful and maybe even tender soul and I start thinking about how wonderful it is to breathe this air, to see what I’m seeing, to be here right now and nothing has to make sense because it just does anyways and I have this thought: “Live life like a miraculous dream, we are but one drop in an infinite stream, one speck, one split-second, one whiff of eternity passing through everything.”
It was like a little voice inside my head had whispered it to me, had read it off a page, telling me to sit back and relax and watch and wait and observe the world and even adore it. It was that one instant that one little thought, that one split-second of treasure that changed everything. I look around and say firmly to myself, “you’ve got all the time in the world to just sit here, to just revel in the wonderfulness of the world, no more asking myself why am I so lost, why, what’s it all about, no, that’s it, be yourself and be alone, love the world, no more self imposed misery…it’s time to realize that this is the only chance I’ve got, watch, listen, feel, understand that within a flash I’m gone and the world as I know it’s gone too and swept away like this river too sweeps away everyone and everything and then we’re all gone…this is my life man, be happy just to be living.” It was an instant of universal understanding and love. I couldn’t help but cry.
The trees can’t pass judgment
The river flows
All rejoice as observers of the infinite
And so from that moment on the river had become my healing sign, and any time I’d find myself perplexed by the same unfortunate deep-running helplessness, the same bleak thinking, or any time I simply got mad and cursed the world- I’d close my eyes and see that river. It put perspective on the whole storm.
It’s not that I had really learned anything practical, perhaps viscerally; on the riverbank- after coming into a night like that you swear most definitely and positively that you have committed to such an experience- but sooner or later, and inadvertently so, we resort back to the same habitual path the mind always takes.
But that didn’t seem to be the most significant thing that had happened to me that evening. In fact, the most significant thing seemed to lie far out in the future. And although I had come to some great realization out there on the riverbank, it was still fairly evident that I had no idea who I was.
That is how it all started.
And only now can I say, after the experience I had on the side of the river where I was alone in the dead of night with the primordial sound of nature all around, contemplating, when I had a complete turnabout and revelation concerning how I had been living my life- I now wanted some way of putting that feeling of absolute peace and serenity and harmonious solitude into my own day-to-day. It seems to me entirely reasonable to suspect- maybe meaning something or maybe not- that the swell of being comes to a head from time to time, without knowing or reason or a flash to suspect, that no reflection or vivid memory can recount that divine sense of living, of being alive, when the universe dissolves in the palm your hand and becomes you- we put our heads down and carry along just waiting for the next crazy adventure to consume us.