A Crass and Callow Child

"All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it."
-the little prince

Halcyon Years

On the third floor of a waterfront house, an old woman stands at the window of a furnished room among the morning sunlight. A deluge of light pours through the dust packed glass that offers a view of the peaks, rooted across the vast divide of water. The water ebbs, and illuminates decadent reflections. Sea birds twirl in a commotion of voluptuous circles, spiraling downwards and falling to rest in the water. They place their bodies among the tottering flow of the tide and pepper the surface like ivory beads. The waterfront house is raised behind a grassy fold that meets the rocky beach that meets the water. And three stories up, an old woman stands at the window of a large furnished room amongst the morning sunlight and looks onwards.

“The maple tree in the grass has grown taller over the years,” She says.

The old woman looks downwards towards the verdant yard where weeds and wildflowers have grown thickly together. 

“Must cut those out,” she mutters and looks out at the sea birds in their frenzy. She moves from the sun glazed window and sits at a table cluttered with paper clippings, magazines, files, and a cup of acrid-smelling coffee.

“Whose is this? No one is here. This must be mine.” She sips. It is bitter and lukewarm. “I must have forgotten it.” She sips again.

A moan gurgles from the adjacent room.

“The old man must be waking up,” she says.

The woman turns a stiff neck to look. In the center of the living room sits a bed, covered in thick quilts and pillows, and underneath peaks the gaunt face of a man, white-haired and weathered-skinned. His eyes are closed tightly, but he moves his thin lips. At the edge of the bed, his bony, pale feet lay exposed and display feeble limbs like knotted branches. The woman walks over and covers his feet.

“I wonder if I made the coffee yet,” she says. “He’ll be wanting some soon enough. Look at him. I can hardly recognize him.”

From downstairs sounds a commotion of voices and moving feet. 

“Who’s here but me?” she says.

Rapping at the door follows. A few light taps on the door and the click of the handle, and a young man appears through the entrance, hair long, scruffy faced and handsome. 

“I recognize him,” she thinks.

“Good morning Grandma,” he says. “How are you this morning?”

She hesitates to answer, thinking, “Grandma? That’s me. My grandson? Yes.”

“I’m fine,” she says. 

Her face is perplexed still as the young man strides by her into the living room.

He looks upon the old man and thinks, “Grandpa is still sleeping. Good. Let him get his rest. He doesn’t appear quite as sickly as before. Still skinny though. Good to see his beard’s grown back. He looked strange without it. I wonder if Grandma recognizes me this morning. Maybe. Best let her to herself.”

The old woman retires again to the kitchen to putter and muse over the cup of lukewarm coffee. The young man sits at the couch and watches the old man sleep. He looks around at the home and at the stacks of books, clutter and messes piled upon each other. A spurt of wind surges over the house, and outside, the timbers tremble, their leaves shivering in the breeze. The old man stirs.

“Do you hear that noise?” says the old woman.

“What noise Grandma?”

“That noise. Hear it?” 

She is aggravated and her weary face is drooped like a sheet over aged bones. Her messy hair drapes like silver chains over her face.

“Is it the airplane Grandma?” asks the boy. A red sea plane is landing in the center of the bay, it’s engine coughing violently.

“No. It’s not the plane. I heard it before the plane started.”

“I’m not sure then.”

“I guess I imagined it,” she mutters as she fumbles back to her coffee.

From beneath the sheets of the bed, a voice croaks. “What’s the matter darling?” The old man is awake now. His blue eyes are open and he gazes them at his wife, mouth open. Such a small bit of spirit is left inside rusty machinery; that’s the human body. The old woman assumes a kind voice as she kneels by the bedside.

“Nothing is the matter,” she says. “I thought I heard something and I didn’t.”

“Oh, alright then, Gorgeous,” says the man.

From down the stairs, the voices commence again and a thirty-something year old man, short haired, thick bearded, hurries upwards.

“Hi Mom. Morning Pop. How you doing today?”

“Oh,” says the old man faintly. “I’m alright I suppose.”

“Hey Ma,” says the man. “I’m gonna make some coffee. Do you want some?”

“Well, I have this, I think.” Her slender bony fingers are wrapped around the coffee cup in a death grip and she stares coldly.

“Ma, that’s old. I’ll make you a new cup. Simon you want some too?” he yells to the young man in repose on the couch.

“Thank you, James. Yes,” says the boy.

“Now wait,” says the old woman. “I can get my own coffee.”

“I know you can,” says the man, “I’m just making it for you.”

“This is my house, I don’t want you to… I’ll get my own coffee.”

The middle aged man speaks harshly now. From the couch, the boy listens, agitated, to the garbled voices in the kitchen. The gulls yell as they careen over the water and mix with the sound of the two arguing in the kitchen, an irrational son and a mad woman. The commotion escalates to curses of the man and the boy on the couch shrinks until the man leaves, harshly shutting the door, deadening his voice, and filling the room with the vacancy of noise.

“That idiot’s put her in a bad mood now,” thinks the boy. “I’ll just hope she forgets in a few minutes.”

With a groan, the old man in the bed sits up and slowly draws the sheets off of his body, displaying his decrepit limbs.

“Poor man,” the boy thinks.

With difficulty, the man moves his legs to the floor, staring at his feet. Not quite lucid, his head shakes from side to side. Arms quaver as he lifts himself upwards to stand. He stands nearly on bones alone, fossils, ivory and brittle. The boy darts from the couch to attend to the old man, snatching his arm as he totters backwards. The fool will kill himself. Steady on, old man.

“Careful, Grandpa,” says the boy, and the old woman gazes with a frown from the adjacent room.

“Thank you, Michael,” says the old man.

“Michael is my brother, Grandpa. I’m Simon,” says the boy. “Michael is gone. He’s left for school already.”

“Oh, of course,” says the old man. “I’d forgot. I meant Simon.” 

The old man stands limply, bare in his undergarments and a shirt. The boy helps him to sit again on the bed and pulls pants over his bony limbs, covering his knobby toes with socks.

“Grandpa, would you like some coffee? Lets sit at the table. It’s beautiful today.”

“Well, yes. That sounds good.”

They rise again, the boy helping the old man to stumble across the floor to the table. The old man sits and the boy moves quickly to pour two cups of coffee, steam swirling and spitting upwards in plumes. From across the room, the old woman mutters audibly, “I’m going to stand on the porch. It’s far too warm in here.”

The boy and his grandfather sit in silence in the room. The boy sips at his coffee. The old man stares blithely at the dark liquid as if he has forgotten how to drink.

“Grandpa,” says the boy, “you should drink your coffee. It’ll get cold.”

“What?

“Drink your coffee.”

“Oh yes, Michael, I mean Simon. Hehe.” He laughs at his mistake, laughs to alleviate the severity of his condition, laughs at his idiocy.

The old man slurps and sputters a cough, and sets down the mug. Methodically, he places his hands upon his forehead in frustration. His hair is seldom and grey, bristled like tufts of grass. He lifts his gaze again, blue eyed fire, a shrouded flicker that has lasted so many years.

“Now remind me, Michael, when does the boat leave?”

“There is no boat, Grandpa. This is your home and we’re staying here.”

“Now wait, this is my home? Oh yes, that’s right. And there’s no boat?”
“No boat.”

The door hinge creaks as the old woman returns inside. She appears refreshed. Time heals all wounds when mingling with forgetfulness.

“Oh hello,” she says pleasantly. “You are having your coffee without me.”

“We’re just enjoying the sights,” says the boy. “It’s beautiful today.”

“Yes it is,” replies the old woman.

The boy smiles, looking at her, and says, “I was just looking at the maple tree near the beach. It’s grown so much, I can hardly believe it. I remember when it was first planted.

“Oh yes. It is, uh. It’s gotten, well.” The woman moves her hands vehemently to construct the words that elude her. “Bigger. Yes. It has gotten bigger.”

“Now,” says the old man. “When do we have to return to the boat?”

“What boat, Honey,” says the old woman.

“Well, the one we came on.”

“Grandpa,” says the boy. “There is no boat. This is your house. You’ve lived here for over forty years.”

“Oh, of course.” says the man. He sips again at his coffee.

As the old man raises his head, the shroud is lifted from his deep, blue eyes. His gaze becomes precise and coherent as he fixes it upon the boy who feigns a smile. The old man’s thin lips purse to a grin as recognition begins to set in and he strokes his balding head.

“Now, boy, look what a mess I am, Simon. I’m breaking apart like rusted out parts. My mind at least.” 

He gazes long over the ebbing bay and the birds fluttering about and the smile dissipates though the eyes continue to glow.

“Simon, has the fishing begun yet? Have you gone yet?”

“Yes, Grandpa.”

The old man continues to look outwards, sees a large heron chased about and tormented by the flock of smaller seabirds. In a revery, he mutters, “I’m glad.”

“I’ve caught nothing yet on the grasslands, but it’s early still. You always could catch them before I could though.”

The old man looks back at the boy, smiling generously now. “And I always will. I’m the best damn fisherman this family’s ever known. I’ve got salt in my blood.”

“I’m sure you have. Somehow, it must have gotten into your system from all that time on the boat.”

“What boat?” The old man’s face is perplexed.

“Something you were saying earlier. You were talking about a boat.”

The old man assumes a stern and gloomy expression. The briefly felt vigor in his limbs declines to weariness.

“I guess I must’ve been speaking. I don’t remember now though. I must’ve remembered the boat we arrived on. We never planned on staying here, you know?” a slight smile curls around the edges of the old man’s lips. “We never planned on staying here. Two years. We would leave after two years. But the land wouldn’t let me go. The ground snatched at my feet, the forest, the flats; it swallowed me.”

“I’m glad you stayed.”

“So am I, boy. It feels like I’m leaving though, now.”

The boy is silent. What does one say when silence pervades the fibers of a moment? He looks at the man who looks out to see the heron alighting upon the stony beach. Outside, the wind has wrenched the sallow maple leaves from their limbs, scattering them obliquely until they lay to rest upon the October ground.”

“I had fished the flat lands for so many years before the others arrived, or before your father was old enough to cast a fly rod. That yellow grass and the muck and the crud. The mire. I must hardly have been older than you then. How old are you? You’re twenty now. I could’ve died there once, you know?”

“You’re a lier.” The boy smiles slightly, feigning disbelief.

“Yes, I could’ve. I was your age then, and one day, I was fishing, and when I had fished several hours and caught several fish, I cleaned them and I began to walk through the muck and grass back the path where I’d come. And half way there, I had to piss. There was no one around to mind me, so I set down my fish and did my business like anyone would’ve. And when I finished, I picked up my fish, turned again to the trail I was following, right there lay a great, black bear, bigger than any I’d ever set my eyes upon. He was sitting on all fours, sitting like one of those sphinx, the dead eyed demon. Here I was, carrying fish in my hands and totally helpless. He could’ve gutted me like one my fish. I don’t know how long we stood there, but finally he set himself up and lumbered off through the tall grass. That bastard could’ve ripped me open and left me in the sun, festering. It’s peculiar how we are allowed to be the regulators of the death of others, but somehow, we’ve got, ultimately, no dominion over our own demise.”

“I don’t like this story, Grandpa. Let’s talk about something else now.”

“I don’t like this story either. This one I’m in now. We’re all just stories. It’s like there’s someone inside our heads writing it all down and storing it up. Someone set fire to bits of my story. I’m a fool most the time, withering away to skin and bones, and all the while, you get to watch it happen, Simon. You’ll watch me die, and you’ll see plenty of death, and you’ll attribute it to something such as everyone does, like deity or fate or the natural progression of life, but somehow, no answer will ever seem to suffice.”

The old man pauses, and the boy stares deeply at him, lovingly and pitying, but he stares fearfully too, terrified of the ostensible descent and inevitable loss forthcoming. He imagines the black furred, dead eyed beast, stationed amongst the tall grass and he could envision the blanket of dull, grey clouds, and the frigid wind on naked skin. He feels the cold and felt the warmth of tears growing along his eyelids.

The shroud is lowered again over the glowing, blue eyes of the old man, and the bright color is filled with murkiness. The old man turns suddenly to the boy, and he asks, “Now Michael, when does the boat leave?”

The boy raises himself and places himself at the window that overlooks the deep water. The birds cackle and careen in the midst of the bay. Laugh at the wind that carries you. Wind lingers and rises into torrents or storms or calms, and wings wither to dust. The boy gazes from the window towards the bay and he sees the cold wind spreading waves. He envisions the shape of his grandfather, young, fishing in the channels between the flats. Somewhere, the shadow of a black bear is reposed between a curtain of grass. The impalpable image dissipates, the ebbing flow of the channel, the vastness of the earthy plains. The boy gazes, observing the dispersing leaves of a maple tree over an untended garden, over the stones of the lapping beach, over the boggy flatlands, and observes the dispersing leaves across all the frozen floor of earth.

When does the boat leave?

The boat is leaving soon grandfather.

Sleepy Monk

You figure it out, I can’t stay.

Water’s in the clouds. Is my life about to change?

Who Knows, who cares? 

Local Natives-Who Knows Who Cares

Late in the evening, during an exceptional cold spell in the beginning of December, a young man climbs out from the flat bed of a Toyota pickup and walks into the street. Slowly, as though he cannot make up his mind, he begins to move in the direction away from the Astoria-Megler Bridge, a spray paint can clenched in his right hand.

The salt sea brine perforates the air and the cold bites his lungs. He walks a few steps with hands sunk in his peacoat pockets before he looks back at the truck, wondering if he left his electric heater running. It’s not worth checking. Along the E. Columbia River Hwy., He passes a patch of frozen rose hips, lipstick red, and he passes by crushed junk food bags and roadside trash. It seems like there’s a fine line it is between artistic expression and littering. Who gets to decide who plays the curator of a street or a wall? Damn, it’s so cold.

By December, Astoria, Oregon is abnormally cold. The ground freezes, pipes freeze; vegetation is paralyzed like cold origami and lakes glaze over. The clouds linger, suspended pieces of canvas, sheltering the city from the illuminating gaze of the sun. The fishermen have packed their nets and lines away, now occupying the bars and cafes with seasonal work. Astoria is packed up for the winter.

What is the result of the abnormal climate change?

Simon grows restless. He visits his elderly grandparents often and works seldom. Rarely now does Simon find himself in the company of his friends, ones departed for school, busied by the regularity of their own lives, or simply solitarily confining themselves, house arrested due to the weather. Simon did not posses the luxury of a home. Instead, during the summer Simon had moved from his parents home and begun to live in his aged toyota pickup. A gentrified flatbed with carpeting, an electric heater, a gas stove, and a futon mattress transformed Simon’s pickup into the carcass of a living arrangement.

What was the general total of Simon’s valued possessions?

Cooking utensils, a zero degree sleeping bag, various non-perishable food items, a hiking backpack, the contents of which were a conglomeration of survival equipment and the possessions of a naturalist. He possesses a laptop computer, his only piece of technology deemed necessary. A false-leather bound notebook full of sketches and poetry is considered Simon’s most valuable possession. Lastly, he owns copies of a King James Bible, Ulysses, Walden, and Being and Nothingness.

It is the 2am on the 1st of December in Downtown Astoria. Simon takes steps like he is about to slip on the mosaic light patterns around his feet, bouncing a yellow glow from a lamp post. A Subaru turns onto the street and Simon’s feet scramble to huddle behind a billboard, advertising a weekend farmers market. The wheels of the vehicle spin past Simon’s cowering body, leaving the street vacant. He emerges cautiously. Both of his hands are shoved in his coat. He draws them out slowly and a spray-paint can situates itself in his right. His fingers wrap around the metal cylinder which he presses into his chest as he walks down the boulevard. This is the art gallery from a few days ago. He pauses to look at the glazed windows, peers into the dark interior of the building. He was removed from the store for sipping complimentary wine nine months before he will turn twenty-one. It was almost melodramatic, the way they made me leave. I should’ve swore more. Simon looks up and down the store front, at the large, black windows, looks down the alleyway between the buildings, looks down at the paint can in his hand.

Simon’s fingers are numb, but they sting pretty badly as he grasps the metal handle on the bed of his truck. He crawls in and shuts the door quickly. His fingers work desperately to turn on his electric heater and then his propane stove. Simon is cooking canned soup, warming his fingers over the flame. His is a cold rebellion, a sheltered anarchy, weightless but gratifying. The truck is warmer now and he unzips his denim pants and clambers halfway into his sleeping bag, sitting upright against the back of his truck. Steam from boiling gumbo fogs the windows. Simon stares at the glass as if if he gazes for a little longer, the fog will clear and he’ll see right through.

“You should move in with me.”

Molly has invited Simon many times to live with her; an open home, an expense-less living. Simon cannot bear the thought of comfort at no cost or effort, even at the charity of a friend.

“I like my truck.”

“Your truck is a dump. How do you stand living in it?”

“Easily. I like it.”

Simon sits in Molly’s living room, reclining on her couch over which is draped an earth toned blanket that she brought back from a trip to Mexico.

What does Simon smell?

The pungent aroma of Yerba maté, grilling vegetables, freshly melted candle wax, and the scent of cucumber shampoo.

“I don’t know why you would want to live like this. It’s getting colder out too.”

Simon watches Molly, laying on the floor while she sketches out a portrait of him. Her long, brown hair tumbles loosely on the edge of the paper. Her hand works resolutely and the pen graces the page, tracing out his image. Simon is focusing on the window, watching the clouds occupy the sky with only a faint remainder of orange sunlight, stifled behind the heavy canvas as it tries to slice through. The wind slips through the cracks of boulevards and pulses at the window frames behind which Simon sits idly. It’s got to be freezing tonight!

“I have an electric heater, so it’s not that bad, even when I don’t use it. My sleeping bag is really good.”

“You’re still welcome to stay here anytime.”

“Yeah, thanks. We’ll see.”

It is eleven p.m. when Simon leaves the house which Molly cares for. On the exit steps, he looks around for his shadow and cannot find it. As he walks, Simon’s pace is meticulous as if a wrong placement of his foot on pavement will result in a barreling fall. He focuses on his breath, watching the steam of each exhale like tossed linen napkins. I should’ve parked by her house. Hell, I should’ve just said I’d move in. She has more than enough room. Simon’s pickup was parked in the Harbor lot directly next to the Astoria-Megler Bridge, spanning the length of the Columbia like a green caterpillar for 4.1 miles. Frozen paper grass crunches beneath his feet as he steps onto a residential lawn; a short cut to the harbor. He fights his way through the branchy skeleton of the late summer brambles, pushed their rangy limbs away as they grappled for him until they gave way finally, and Simon entered another dead garden, but past the yard, Simon could see the harbor lot and his truck, sitting idle.

What did Simon think of when he lowered the bed of his pickup and clambered inside?

He thinks of living with Molly in her downtown apartment. Living in his truck seemed preferable as an idea only before it had become a reality. In the morning, he will drive to his parents home to shower and wash his clothes. They will again ask why he moved out. He will explain that he wanted to live simply and didn’t want anyone to be responsible for him. In reality, living in his pickup was not unbearable and not even undesirable; Simon simply expected it to be more gratifying. He sits against the wall of his truck, unscrews a gallon container of orange juice and sips, filtering frozen pulp and ice through his teeth. 

What was the result of these culminated agitations?

Simon lays restlessly for an hour. He sits up, stares at the window and clambers out of his sleeping bag. Laying on his back, he pulls his denim pants on, accidentally kicking his heater. Searching through piles of clothing and plastic grocery bags, Simon finds his paint can, and opening the back of his truck bed, he looks out at the dark roads and jumps to the pavement.

Near the corner of Fourth and Bond St. behind the Columbia Inn, there is an three walled enclosure, large enough for two cars to park in where the inn’s trash cans go. Simon stands, pensively staring up at the brick walls of this space. The air stinks, but in the divot from the street, hardly any light reaches Simon. He is worried at first each time a car drives by, but they pass so quickly that apprehension soon dissipates. Simon raises his right arm to the wall and carefully paints a hexagon, four feet wide. On the inside, he begins to write out the words NO EXIT. The brightness nearly sets Simon on his back. It comes so quickly that he hardly notices that it is there until the white glare encompasses his entire vision. He stumbles backwards, dropping the paint can, grasping whatever is around him. His desperate fingers find the handle of a trash can, but he falls anyway, pulling the empty bin onto himself. There is a shooting pain in Simon’s tailbone and he writhes on the pavement, oblivious to the half smoked, frozen cigarette butts and candy wrappers all around him. Footfall.

People put a lot of stock in self-examination, self questioning; so do I. We’ve always got to live “the good life”. We’re always becoming, always changing, working towards our telos. That thought is terrifying to me. The more I question my actions, the less I understand them. So I situate myself outside my actions, play the narrator. I wonder if the world makes much more sense without much purpose?

“Dostoyevsky.”

“What?”

“That’s what I did in the cell all week. I read Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment. My mom brought it to me the morning after they caught me.”

Molly picks Simon at the entrance to the Clatsop County Jail the day he is released. It is eight in the morning. Their feet drag through the two inches of snow on the ground as they walk to Molly’s truck. It’s snowed for the first time in years last night. The clouds are dispersed and it is colder than ever. Molly is clothed in a wool jacket, and Carhart pants, laughing as they step along the sidewalk.

“How poetic. You read dumb books.”

“Dostoyevsky is a really influential author.”

“No one gives a crap. I still can’t believe you anyways!”

“What?”

“A week for graffiti? You’re the worst delinquent ever. What was that, your first time and you got caught?”

“I’ve been doing it for a while now.”

“Sure. Come on, let’s get some breakfast.”

“I don’t have any money on me.”

“Are you joking? It’s on me. You don’t make anything working at that cafe anyway.”

“I do too.”

The car is warm and Simon shivers in his flannel shirt as he steps into the passenger seat from the cold outside. He takes a panorama of the city. Pillars of smoke, erected all over suburbia, wood stoves sending up incense to the horizon.

“It’s beautiful out,” said Simon.

“It’s been like this for the last few days. You’ve missed out.”

“Yeah. I Guess so.”

Simon watches the fir trees ornamented white as they pass through the town. Molly speaks and he doesn’t listen to her words but he listens to the sound of her voice as he stares at the Pacific end.

“Simon? Simon?!”

“What?”

“Did you hear me?”

“No sorry.”

“Why did you start doing graffiti?”

“Bored I guess.”

“That’s an awful answer. You wouldn’t do graffiti because you were bored.”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re the worst,” she laughs. “Just give me an answer.”

“I think too much. I guess I needed to do something mindless.”

“So why not get a real job? Why not put your efforts to something worth working for?”

“What is worth working for?”

Molly punches Simon in the shoulder. “Don’t joke around with that philosophy crap. I’m serious.”

“Me too, I guess.”

“You’re right about one thing Simon; You think way too much. Where do you want to go for breakfast?”

“I don’t know. Wait, let’s get coffee at Sleepy Monk.”

“That’s in Cannon Beach. That’s an hour away.”

“Yeah, I guess so. It’d be fun though.”

There is a dark blue toyota pickup ambling down the northern Oregon Coast in early December. Who is in the vehicle? The bodies of two young adults fill the front seats of the truck, gliding down the rises and falls of the Oregon hills, covered mildly in fresh snow. The cold is a entity that weaves people and things together like a cross stitch, binding like clasped hands or a goodnight hug, or something positive like that. It’s difficult to tell whether a story is positive or whether its questions really made any sense at all until you have reached the end. But here you are, I guess. The sun is orange and hazy over the mountains, lighting the road. Where is the road going? Who knows, who cares?

 

December Like a Photograph

The colors that bloom— evergreen skin over ragged stone and abalone— paints a home.

The city— dizzy beneath the hemisphere— the shuddered exhale of home.

I find myself here; surrounded by mountain’s vicious spine,

by whisky streets, church steeples, ski bums. We call this home.

Baptized in the snow, we clothe ourselves in rifles and wool coats, wearing our history

so when we leave through frozen doors, we can still carry the name of the north as home.

Wood stoves burn smoke, cigarettes bite our breath like freon

eating holes in the ozone, over thickly knit altostratus, clouds cradle our home.

We communicate through coffee during 5 minute breaks in 5 hour days, laughing too loud

as we speak about night terrors and last night’s potlucks, congregating in each others homes.

Guitars and guns haunt our stories. Yes, we hunt and forage, heave carcasses of deer,

but we see the casualties of each sidewalk occupant who makes the street home.

How can I be oblivious to peripheral needs of South Franklin St.

when we both hear a common language and name this land home?

How can I not feel the guilt of my ancestry when the snowy hue of my skin

bears violence? Responsibility brazed to me like ice clings to the windows of homes. 

I find myself here; surrounded by grass flats and questions such as how do I bear

my name? Here, we populate the incisions of the land, the scars of history inflicted upon the skin of our home.

teachingliteracy:

theaberranteye:
Le Petit Vader
I can’t tell you how many revisions of this I have done. 
I submitted this (well, a slightly different version as I had to half-tone the colors to hell to meet their 6-color limit) to TeeFury in hopes that it can be made into a t-shirt .
Now we wait. 

teachingliteracy:

theaberranteye:

Le Petit Vader

I can’t tell you how many revisions of this I have done. 

I submitted this (well, a slightly different version as I had to half-tone the colors to hell to meet their 6-color limit) to TeeFury in hopes that it can be made into a t-shirt .

Now we wait. 

(via englishmajorhumor)

The Well Kept Skin of a Beast

I lay under the cover of linen and light in a room meticulous fashioned. Soon I will rise, I will brew coffee and sit on the patio in the garden, staring at the apple trees, listening to the harsh voices from the jays. The unburnt clouds leave the morning chilled and provide an atmosphere brooding and melancholy to contend with my mood. Soon, I put on my gloves and take up my instruments of labor, pulling from the soft ground each unwanted plant. I go like this for hours, and the work is satisfying. 

There are far more weeds in the world and in this garden than desirous plants. I am in Portland Oregon, thinking about evil. Over my head, casting a shadow on the grass, a butterfly flew and landed in the fir tree near me. It had great yellow wings with black stripes and dots of blue and red at the bottom of its wing. I learned later that it’s name was the Oregon Swallowtail. It sat unmoving, and I too, fascinated by the thinness and frailty of it’s wing and by the fur which grew over the stalk of the wing. I thought of petting it, but I imagined it would fly away immediately, so I refrained from doing so. After some time, I ceased to look at it’s wing, and began to inspect it’s abdomen and body. It was nearly all black and fur covered, with thick muscular legs. From its face protruded its curled proboscis like a thinly wrapped wire. It was not a beautiful insect, despite the allure of it’s wings. A thought came over me, that if I were to rip those wing from it’s body, those delicate, felt wings, what would one say of that butterfly? Certainly not that it was still the same picturesque and idyllic creature? Would it take on the appearance of a locust, a wretched vermin whose sight would make one cringe? Who could honestly think of such a creature as this as beautiful, when all that was required to strip it of it’s beauty was the subtraction of it’s wings? An individual may be beautiful during youth, but when age has wasted their form, and days have amounted to the desecration of their features, we say that there beauty has gone. But has their beauty gone, or merely their youth? The individual is unchanged, relatively, despite physical changes. One would not dispute that they still remain the same human being and the same individual. Why then, are they not beautiful? I think that the butterfly with no wings is just as the individual without beauty. In both cases, something has been robbed, stripping the figure to some more grotesque but truthful self.

We commonly hear the phrase, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I find this to be far more true than is often realized, even so to the point that I would revise the statement to, beauty is in the eye of the voyeur. One does not wish to see the grotesque self which has been laid bare. We require adornment, we require the colorful wings to stare at the butterfly. We are like voyeurs who chose to half blind ourselves so that our contentment may commence. Am I not a voyeur myself, who pulls weeds from the ground where I desire no weeds?  Usefulness always dwells in utility, and when beauty becomes fallow, so does value. 

There is a  small spider which had laid its web between two strawberry plants. The web is so thin and fine, that I can vaguely make out the pattern like tarlatan fibers; the two insects caught in the tenuous threads float strangely in mid air. One of the two has been wrapped already so that I could not see what kind of insect it was; the second was a very small fly of unknown sorts, and as I watched, the spider made it’s way up to the fly and began the wrapping process, leaving it eventually in a pallid cocoon. 

When I was younger, I had a acute fear of insects, particularly spiders. As I have grown slightly older, my repulsion has not simply desisted, but has been redacted for a peculiar fascination and obsession. This spider, in particular, so petite and fragile, I found myself enthralled by, gazing long as it worked it’s thin legs around the body of the living insect. How awful the process was, and how little remorse I felt for the insect, I who would like to think that I have a tender care for all living things. This is how shallow I am in my sentiments. I have my speculations surrounding the cognizance and consciousness of animals, but I enjoy wondering if the spider felt any regret at its process of feeding. The lives of most insects, people would consider revolting and think there appearance grotesque. Again, I find the naivety and voyeurism of human perception, demanding beauty before truth. The greatest refusal of truth may in fact be, the un-objective pursuit of beauty and happiness. We either shrink from that which is unpleasant to our sight, or we convince ourself that there was in the first place, something called beauty which existed in the first place. 

This is why our discourse has run dry. Who would care to know that there is less beauty in the world than something which we have come to name evil. We cannot approach the butterfly with no wings, because our hands would be burnt from holding to much truth. Thoreau states that “Many an irksome noise, go a long way off, is heard as music, a proud sweet satire on the meanness of our lives”. There is no truth to ugly for us to find beautiful if we remove ourselves far enough from it. This would mean that we cannot stare closely at the spider who devours his meal vulgarly, and we cannot look soberly at the earth to see that it is a cannibalistic. Have we lost the capacity as social beings, of looking straight at and fronting the world in all of it’s beauty and evil? But who would truly be desirous to know a world in which we found that beauty was less abundant than evil.

It is for these reasons that we have even created such a concept as evil. Evil is merely the fancy of folk who required an opposite end from which they could designate the merit of what they considered good. We think that rudeness is bad while etiquette and politeness is good. Murder is evil while service and selflessness is righteous. Was the spider a murderer or did it merely follow the instincts which have been imbued upon it? Surely we won’t mourn the insects which it devours, yet we feign sorrow for the so called tragedies which we hear about by radio or paper and then forget shortly after. Evil, then, is something which is only permitted when outside of the vision of the individual; something which dwells within our periphery. We think of ourselves as moral creatures, capable of righteous or evil differentiation, but who has really seen anything of evil in the world since evil is not permitted within our gaze. Only what is righteous by our own standard is allowed to permeate our perception, and thus that which is truly evil is unknown to us. I am a voyeur in this garden; I look about myself, to the apple and pear trees, to the foxglove and the roses and the strawberries, and I see the well kept skin of a beast. The writing of Nietzsche has demanded for a hundred and fifty years that our art, our self proclaimed beauty has taught us the “viewing ourselves as heroes-from a distance and, as it were, simplified and transfigured-  the art of staging and watching ourselves. Only in this way can we deal with some base details in ourselves” (Nietzsche, 133).

Tragedy is always a surprise, and don’t I wonder why. People are seldom prepared for that which is not beautiful or happy, and when we come into direct and blatant contact with cruelty and pain, we are shocked as if it’s existence was impossible. The question I ask myself is, is it better to live in obliviousness to the cruelty and pain of life, and to live like so many others, with the concept of evil which exists solely in a sort of mental periphery. The garden is beautiful and lush, but only from the patio, and only as a voyeur. If I look closer, I will see that I have rent and set a massacre to the ground to cultivate the illusion of beauty; I will see the cocoons beneath the web which harbor the husks of some insects who have glutted the stomach of my spider; I will see the grotesque underbelly of a butterfly whose wings act like a veil against the ugliness of it’s own body; I will see the living and the dying; I’ll see evil and the abundance of instinct which is imbued upon all things that grow. Yes, there is something in the world which most people refer to as evil, but the mystery of grace is that there is beauty in spite of it. It is pain which often turns people away from God; Yet God is more apparent in the wake of pain than in its absence. A great selfishness of human rationality is the belief that we are something worthy of salvation, such that when we are not, it is considered it a theological injustice. Who would ever think of there-self as something to admire? How could I? If I could look past my skin, pull myself from Nietzsche’s stage, and view the evil which I have internalized, I think that I would understand better that my own existence, that of this garden, my spider, is the presence of mercy in the wake of vulgarity. I wonder if we do ourselves injustice by only seeing the beauty and not the evil? Would the beauty of this garden become more apparent if I could come into a fuller understanding of it’s ugliness? Perhaps the greatest illusion is not that the world is beautiful, but only that we think it is.