Friday, March 20, 2009
The Aqua Mustang 72 - THE LIGHT
And then past was mixing with present again as I stood on a familiar hill in the family part of the White Mountains, stood where there had once been a timeless old summer hotel. Stood looking out with my back to what before it burned down had been the Sunset Hill House. I was looking out at the same panorama seen from White Pines, and I said to myself that no place in the world has light like this.
Earlier that day I stood with Mickie as I looked across the field in front of White Wings, to which she had returned to live maybe forever – looked past an apparent Juniper to the woods beyond, the woods between White Wings and White Pines, which had been my grandfather's woods, as too had been the woods on the other side of White Pines that linked the house to the panorama. But right now I was looking towards tamer woods where Gaga had walked each day to check the level of two concrete-sided cisterns, with shingled roofs over them, that he called reservoirs. And that special light again, and this time I spoke aloud saying to Mickie what I had said by myself, which was that no place in the world has light like this.
I thought of it as the long rays of winter light even in summer, and could forget that the long rays came at the end of the short summer. Though in memory summer was always like the end of summer. Like the long sad cries of northern birds that thrilled me, the end is always there – winter light always there, even when the mountains are soft in summer sunshine.
It was a direct experience of what had drawn me to romantic poetry and emotional painting. And I had to ask myself if this meant that I was comparing everything in the world, always, to what was in northern New Hampshire? Like those family members, always wearing blinders, who could not see the totally different mountains of Switzerland without thinking they saw the White Mountains in them.
And I asked myself if I too had looked at the world that way? Whether it was that field with sheep across from a self-consciously rustic bar filled with stuffed animal heads that was near Vassar college and where I drank to the point of sickness with a not quite happy red-headed Vassar girl. Or whether it was the hill behind our Connecticut house, where high and happy one spring night, home from a date, I lay in the grass looking at the stars and feeling a happiness that was usually illusive. Or was it in the primeval woods of Borneo? Or the careful dark woods of Bavaria? Or that ripping drunk night on Manila Bay’s malodorous beach that I spent with a slippery girl named Baby, and after sunrise reached for an open San Miguel beer and remembered too late I had pissed in the beer bottle in the night.
Had the piercing light been there when I looked across green fields from the train I had boarded in Liverpool when I was 16? When I thought of Ryder rather than of New Hampshire, though England was far more in the Waspy summer people’s worlds than any other place.
The piercing light that at times posed as soft light. I knew before I was 16 that it was there in Wordsworth and Thomas Grey and Thomas Wolfe and especially Thomas Hardy. In Conrad too, a feverish tropical version, like sunrise on Manila Bay. It had been all over literature, certifying what was here in the White Mountains.
Though my turning point took place not in the sanctioned family part of New Hampshire but down in the non-sanctioned New Hampshire lake country, where I was changed forever by truly seeing the spring come in.