Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Sunday After Halloween

You can cut a chicken’s head off, and it will run around for a little while longer. So, why aren’t ghosts just energy left over from people’s bodies? Like chickens without their heads? We discussed this around the kitchen table after breakfast.

My grandson has a friend at school that claims to have ordered ten school busses from the Internet, and then jumped them with his bike.

He told me this after he awoke this morning and recounted a bad dream he had, one about dummies in the closet, scary ones like from an R.L. Stine movie. In his dream we (him and I) got out our guns – his a .22 and mine a .45 -- and blasted them.

The guy at the archery shop is mean. Or merely being instructive, we’re not sure. But one thing is for certain: there’s something out behind the old barn, cloud-like, not quite human.

If you only had enough money for a face-lift on one side of your face, would you have to talk to people sideways, hiding the saggy side?

It’s “fall-back day.” Time to stop the clocks and wait one hour. Is this just wasted time, waiting to restart all the clocks? I feel cheated, like we don’t really get to use the extra hour any way we want. Maybe there are no extra hours.

The works of Edgar Allen Poe at the kitchen table, along with the writings of art photography criticism and images, found in Aperture magazine, inspiring ideas of miniature sandwich board photographs, the size of slides, distributed non-randomly and disturbingly around the interior of the domicile. One is simultaneously intrigued and unsettled, not sure if this represents a joke, or has more serious intentions.

You can lead a kid to a bucket of water and fleece scrubbing mitt, but you can’t make him Wash the Car Your Way without the intermittent dispersion of angst across the driveway, like water trickling down the curb from a leaky hose.

But you can load a sheet of grade 2 resin coated black & white photo paper – preflashed under a 7.5 watt lamp for 10 seconds – into a pinhole box camera and lead same said kid out to a sunny corner of the rear yard to make a 40 second exposure, in the gentle autumn light, of some visually interesting setting; and then lock ourselves into the dim, red-limned darkroom, shoe-horned into a corner of the garage, and proceed to process said sheet of paper through the Three Trays of Chemicals to reveal the negative image upon the glistening paper’s surface. First the developer, a dark brown, faintly vile-smelling liquid, like a mixture of stale coffee and urine; then the stop bath, a yellow-tinged vinegary elixir; and on to the fixer, a clear, water-like solution with a funny metallic smell that hits you in the back of the throat; and finally into the rinse tray, overflowing with fresh aquifer water from deep under the base of the nearby mountain range, at the south end of the Rockies, down the sink and out the hose on the side of the garage where it is found to be watering the nearby shrubs, soaking into the soil, returning from whence it came.

Later that afternoon my grandson fell asleep in the back seat of the car, his angel-like face warmed by the afternoon autumn light, as we drove down into the north valley of Albuquerque, to purchase some lavender-scented potions from Los Poblanos farm and explore the lush grounds surrounding the Bed & Breakfast, where we happen upon fairy-like structures magically hidden within the underbrush and hanging from dry tree branches, bird-house-like but disheveled, like the fairies are now gone for good, perhaps wintering in Cozumel or Sun City or Yuma.

We said goodbye to the fairy houses; the chicken coop; the pigpen with Hardy & Lardy; the lavender shop; we drove our grandson back home, where he prepared to attend a Day of the Dead parade in the heart of Albuquerque’s Hispanic south valley. I wish I could be him, nine years old, all of life unfolding before him, still full of innocence and the hopefulness of youth, still afraid of shadows at night and what’s in the closet, not burdened down by the weight of life but able to fly free, free, bird-like freedom as he pedals his bike up and down our street, across the sidewalk and up into a neighbor’s driveway, not disturbed by any notion of privacy, the whole world his to explore, his feelings open and free and right up front, not stifled and submerged and covered over in some veneer of learned sophistication.

Whatever else we may believe to be true about the afterlife and eternity and heaven and hell and judgment and nirvana and death and decay, one thing becomes true when you are in the company of your grandson, and that is you can sense a part of yourself, ephemeral and nondescript, transferred into his tender heart, living on in the life of that generation to come. This is our way of settling the issue of that Final Great Question: our Fountain of Youth is found to be in our family offspring, into which we impart our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows, our expectations and disappointments, our idiosyncrasies and our greatest attributes. We die a little bit every day in order that we may live on in their lives, whether through fondness or regret, so that the common thread of our humanity may continue.

In the failing light, the dry, yellowed cottonwood leaves erratically scratch and pirouette and rattle across the roads in the gentle, warm breeze, warning us of the winter to come.


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