Friday, July 31, 2009
The Aqua Mustang 95 – EVOCATIONS
As I drove here in Vermont by bright fields in various green hues of grasses and grains and vegetables, drove past orchards and up and down and around and over hills, beneath surpassingly gentle mountains, sometimes driving beside that rushing mountain water – as I drove, the scenes from nature that surrounded me this summer were raising emotions in me that made me feel again the emotions that had first seemed so right as evoked when I read Wordsworth at 14. And as I drove, I was right back there beyond Wordsworth in the distant summer of Kitty and the Playhouse and the our summer gang.
I stopped in Rutland for takeout coffee at a Burger King among strip malls and gas stations in a part of the small Vermont city that could have been anywhere. A wide-eyed young girl with an overbite, all eager smiles, served me and said how nice it was to see me. And again I was full of feelings that brought me into scenes so many years ago when I was coming into life. These many years later I again longed for connection (again also wanting life to be open ended).
Kitty, with her special smile, and the playhouse with our gang, and Gaga with his floppy sun hat and cane and rows of books he had written. Kitty and Gaga, and the mountains changing from harsh black and grey to steely blue to soft green and back again.
These scenes of the White Mountains, which actually were only three hours away from Rutland. These scenes from way back that as I drove alone were superimposed on visual scenes from after childhood to just now that were also in head:
Wild Havana, all bright colors and suspicion, in the final days of Batista, the Upper Nile on a boat that may have been one of the boats Kitchener took into the Sudan in his vain attempt rescue Gordon from the Mahdi. A wild girl in a dark room (she had cigarette burn scars on her smooth back from apparent gang retribution) near Prince Sihanouk’s strange casinos outside Phnom Phen. The Thai and Chinese temples and the stupas and palaces, and the royal barge house across the river in Bangkok from where I lived with Sunisar and then Bonnie.
And more, fading in and now, in Vermont, fading out as if overtaken by the nature I and Wordsworth had celebrated. In and out, Athens stretching out before me from the doorway of my whitewashed house where Vannie and I had lived on the side of the Acropolis. A dark minaret blasting a scratched recorded call to prayer and half blocking the view from my terrace in a bad year at the Levantine end of the Mediterranean. The deadly if comic fat man Somoza’s beaten-down Mangua in earthquake rubble around a lake with freshwater sharks, the even deadlier Duvalier's lovely but crumbling Port-au-Prince, then the girls Santo Domingo. Great Kinabalu rising straight up all alone over northern Sabah. The also great Kapuas River that I took nearly to its source, Conrad style, into the heart of Borneo. And Luanda when, despite the start of revolution, it was still a bright, white's only, Portuguese Mediterranean city misplaced in Africa far below the equator.
At nighttime on a Norwegian freighter where they let me take the wheel and follow on a chart of the North Sea the places still to avoid because of World War II mines. The untamed mountains of Slovenia circling a city with a river and a castle. In Switzerland a landscape nearly made quaint (they brought the bodies from the Matterhorn through Zermatt at night so that so no one could see). And times of hope in San Francisco and Paris and Singapore.
And then there was a fading of these scenes that were still coming in from the years between childhood and this year now when everything in the landscape of my past life was unfolding in new ways.
And I was back at the Holderness School in the New Hampshire lake country down below the White Mountains, alone in a small but crucial library on the second floor of Livermore Hall, looking out over woods and valleys with hills – foothills not mountains – out there against the sky and I was seeing things no one had ever seen before – the coldness of death after five months of a world covered in snow, and that earth coming to life, at first nothing tangible but life in the air, and then the bare branches, the bare twigs, taking on a reddish hue, something I had never heard mentioned, something I might have been the first person to ever see, and then the light green-yellow shoots of reborn flora.
And then summer in the mountains.
And fifty years later a girl in a Burger King.