The Union

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An drifting bohemian embarks on a journey into identity and self-expression guided by nature and the heart of a simple girl.

Submitted: February 10, 2017

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Submitted: February 10, 2017

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Outdoors

Afar at the homestead smoke from the burning chestnut logs puffs up in sluggish rises. Just the way I like to see smoke. That way it gently inserts itself onto the scene, rather than streaming upwards so fast that it distorts the rustic tranquility.  The precise cadence and ringlet size of smoke clouds from chimneys have everything to do with the occupants of the house. Careful observation of such forms is like the work of a psychoanalyst. My body is a little restless with an itchiness. Is that physical itchiness really an outward manifestation of the inner itch that has dogged me for so long? Splendid cold streams of air force their way into my eyes. Thus my vision is both watered and cleansed and I ready myself for new delights in the land and sky. My attention flickers back and forth between the moonlit land with its glowing grass, the fat leaves of the vegetable plot and the white bark of the eucalyptus giant which has slowly raised its solitary majesty above all other living things in the valley. And then it dashes inside me for glimpses of clarity. A luxury indeed. That the way should be torch-lit and clear, the waters clean of even the slightest strains of murkiness is forever a splendid utopic dream. But what if I myself secretly darken the path, throw sand in my own eyes as it were for some deep interest in remaining confused? I glance over to the little baby copper beech that shot up superbly in the spring.

The copper beech leaves, now dark and brittle like little black plastic bags, are a suggestion of something synthetically formed. Unknown forces spring me to my feet and I find myself skidding my new climbing boots across jagged rocks and scrambling to a higher point in the valley where the grass is longer and stringy like riverside reeds and as if to confirm that fantasy a fat duck takes to the sky, quacking angrily. From here the homestead, as I watch it through the thick grass with its chugging fire smoke seems like a contrived installation on the land, a purposefully planted oddity which makes little sense to the surroundings. I am struck by the sense that man doesn’t belong here, or at least only as spectator. The land belongs to a greater force. And then I consider what exists in that little dark matchbox of a house; the odd tools and devices of the human dripping with vibes inconsistent with the moonlit land, and then I consider Eric and Mark. They are now miniatures, little ornaments in my landscape. Just like that! in the spread of 15 minutes since we parted on the path they have converted from being one of my kind to a new dark miniature species with which I have little in common. That’s all it takes, just a little walk away from someone and then we are separated not just by space and time but by size. And while I am out here alone far from others I am to them another species; my own miniature species with more in common with the miniature forms around me than with other humans. And what if I only view myself from the perspective of distant other? I become a tiny form of little irrelevance and all my concerns about identity and how to continue living in the world become proportionately reduced and thus I am rendered a tiny irrelevance. This is a form of liberation. Perhaps nothing matters again. I can move forward as if nothing mattered.

On the highest ridge is a cool clear stream or more properly described as a canal, for while it is narrow and wild looking it was actually built by the moors many centuries previously to connect two villages. The water is beautifully chilled, silky to touch and in my gentle reverie it is a liquid animal, affectionately playful like a young labrador pup.

Every new image, every new movement produces a slightly different me. These new Mes make slightly different arrangements of priorities. For example, with my large hands dipped like paddles in the cold water, with my body bent over with a slight ache in the lower back, I momentarily feel myself to be an old fisherman, let’s say in rural Asia, and I am simply carrying out a practiced labour at which I am competent, even masterful. In such a persona no considerations of identity persist or rather identity is somehow subsumed into the activity into which I have thrown myself and the hazy peripheral vision of moonlight rocks and brittle fawn reeds is of such shocking actuality that it’s place in existence is far superior to my little sense of self. The self is then briefly a mere wispy cloud tapering away into disappearance. Would I be better, I wonder, living merely from that perspective?

I delight in simply fixing my attention on a rose-coloured quartz stone which I literally stumble upon, and holding it up to the furry green background of holm oaks and wild tufty valley grass and allowing those elements to inspire in me images, throbbing vibes of existences elsewhere in other distant, forgotten lives marks a thrilling return to me as a simple nature lover, immersed in the very best Jah has to offer. There are wild grasses at my feet, strong, independent blades whose skyward ambitions amuse the solid, old wise Encinas.  The grass forever too soft to stand yet so ceaselessly eager flops down in a whistling wind. By my feet are the chocolate-coloured outer shells of fallen walnuts. They have had the fun of rolling down the bank, escaping Mark’s nut-greedy fingers and are now clustered together in a group of nine or so. I grabbed instinctively at one and start bashing at the shell with a quartz infused stone. The slimy casing quickly becomes a pulp and suddenly I am through to the little golden brain. Silver moon above, golden nut in my hand, time stilling to a halt, my hands delightfully cold and alive from their dip in the stream, no need for thinking. I could pack up my affairs head back to the homestead. A mug of warm, frothy milk and a shot of Mark’s cherry brandy would add just the right colours and textures to the end of the evening to complete what I call the tapestry that I had taken to stretching out over my days.

The tapestry was a collection of internal feeling experiences from which I collected only aesthetic information. I noticed that a day’s collection of images, conversations and ideas all produced a certain aesthetic theme. And so beautiful they may become that I would deliberately amass experiences simply on the basis that their contents would collectively form a pretty whole, when viewed and felt purely aesthetically. One such example presented itself just two days ago when I deliberately filled my vision with nut coloured leaves on the orchard floor, then looked around for all things autumnal and nutty; I buffed up a chestnut with my handkerchief, stripped off a little papery bark sheet from a cherry tree; drank a warm Barleycup, gathered some walnuts which I placed in the top of the jars of honey which we made; whittled doorstop from a seasoned lump of hornbeam and spent a couple of lethargic hours polishing the walnut stock of Mark’s shotgun. Then I deliberately walked along to an area of the estate where the soil was a soft mocha. I ran my fingers along the chilled soil while yellow poplar leaves blew around in a high wind. It seemed to me that I had entered a dry rustic vibe. This again affected my own sense of self such that my dreams that night were almost entirely in sepia and the characters within them were less of flesh and more of wood.

Sometimes a sudden realization that the tapestry was shifting as a result of previously unnoticed phenomena occurred. I found myself grabbing for the sensual components that would complete the vibic picture of the tapestry. It may be a theme of rusty metal on plough shears, sheep hurdles and ancient aluminium-framed deck chairs that my senses would harvest and then I would go searching out either rusty items or colours and textures that would attractively contrast with it. This could even be a deliberately wrought conversation about metal dustbin lids or old horseshoes. Thus I would be transported into a world of warm, hazy memories- of summer lit red bricks on small livery stables, of the smooth and bruised handles of trusty pitch forks contrasted with a background of distant mid-morning meadow grass. I may toss in the dark red of my thick mountain socks by sitting on the rocking chair, twitching around my toes so that they filled the periphery of my vision. Thus a sumptuous poetry amassed around me and I created my own little expansive and exclusive psychic worlds which, after summoning the courage, I could assign to the front page of my experience, as if all this tapestry, while barely noticed by others, was life, my life and all other matters, like war in Afghanistan, a wild party up in the cherry tree valley, my body, even me itself were petty background considerations.

A run of water trickled down from the stream, filtering between a bundle of quartzy rocks which cause the fresh water to muddle into a slight froth. I can hear the gentle mania of restless crickets in the grass and the moon as I look up at it seems a rather friendly presence, watching over me with a cool emotionally detached sort of love. I could be set upon by a rabid pack of wolves and it would still be somehow lovingly smiling, transmitting something like an indifferent compassion, if such a thing is possible. And for my part, I wonder what the moon means to me. If a comet suddenly smashed into one of its smiling cheeks, how would I react? I think there would be something shockingly sad about that. With all these images and sensations I became aware of a tapestry which reminded me of a night time boat along a Carribean river, of a magical sadness.

Lucia

I left the valley and ambled along the lane under the electric white light of the moon until I reached the rear gate of the farm where I could see the thin rusty glow of light above the distant town. Then the tapestry changed as I filled my head with the carnival of the urban night, of sloshing beer mugs and sex. I recall something from last night. I had slept with Lucia. She was the girl that all three of us shared. Not a prostitute, a simple, local girl from a peasant stock. Of course, if she were more middle class and educated her decision to be sexually promiscuous would achieve the labels of open-minded, adventurous, bohemian, that she was a simple peasant girl meant that she was a slag. Although to me, she was such a strange bundle of things which I regularly failed to understand. The fact that she slept with us all must be evidence of some sort of independent thinking for she came from a quiet catholic community where one certainly didn’t do such a thing. When did the notion first arrive in her pretty head that such a practice might be ok? And why wasn’t this notion immediately mobbed by a pack of strong counterarguments? In between all her small town Spanish programming that dictated that you spend the majority of your life with your family eating Jamon and tortilla there seeped some delightful anomalies which she allowed to flow and flow. But some of the programming never faltered so my experience of being with her was an up and down, stop-start affair. The previous night we had been engaged in the type of banter that always surprised me; for on the face of it we had little in common. I had grown absurdly complicated while she was simplistic, but somehow she pulled out of me a kind of primitive bawdiness which formed the basis of our flirtations. This confused me no end because I sometimes wonder whether the earthy utterances that her manner elicited from me may reveal a truth about my essence. Perhaps everything on top of that was just pretension and flights of egoic fantasy. Anyway, the previous night we had taken a stroll through the dry trees of the autumn orchard. She looked slightly uncomfortable, as if such a dainty activity as walking through the orchard as though we were awkward lovers in some 18th century play was plainly stupid. I looked at her pure golden face and her about-to-pop green eyes. It looked so plain and pure and I knew that through her entire body there was not a single blemish, as if her innocence was displayed by her skin, and then she took off her sandals, tied back her hair and ran through the orchard in an act of unexpected spontaneity, and from afar she now seemed the rather self-indulgent middle class hippy who tells you how wonderful it is to paddle in the sea, who is forever indulging in their senses and reporting such information as though it were a startling novelty. However, I knew Lucia to be far more of nature, and sensual enjoyment was so much a part of her that such delightful events were merely well received, rather than loudly publicised. When she ran back to me she did an odd thing. She literally rugby tackled me to the floor, and since she came from a country that barely knows what rugby is, let alone has their females play it, it seemed all the more odd to me. Odd, of course, in a delightful way. It turned out that during the week she had seen a game of rugby on a satellite tv channel and had reckoned she could tackle a man to the ground. While I was on the ground she showed an extraordinary strength in keeping me pinned there, her smooth brown knees pressing on my arms and her hard hands pushing on wrists. I could have pushed her off, but it seemed right not to do so; it was part of some necessary play which I suppose was a metaphor for any little psychic struggle which may exist between us. I imagined all sorts of tensions that such a playful battle may secretly aim to air, like the fact that I was entirely impractical and under the influence of all sorts of eccentric notions; she would rather I was as simple minded as she was and that my primary motivations were a plain bundle of desires for ‘normal’ things like a house, a secure income from a local firm and maybe even children. Then there was the fact that I was considerably more intelligent than she and certainly more bookish. In her opinion all those ‘books’ were full of silly ideas from people who had too much time on their hands. She would attempt to steer me away from any such conversation in which I revealed any elevated concepts and god forbid that I should ever quote anyone. And for my part, I was, ‘intellectually’ absolutely fine with the fact that she also slept with Eric and Mark and yet something, and perhaps it was biological or on a profound cultural level preferred a more exclusive arrangement with her. This annoyed me. Any jealousy that arose seemed extrinsically imposed and not truly of me and yet the desperate feelings that emerged when she was in either of their bedrooms were undeniable. That little bio-cultural me rarely won the day though. I found I could dampen its flames with the simple act of staring out at the skyline, at the evergreen oaks and a new peace would come upon me.

Despite all our manifold differences I still found on an elemental level we were magnetized together and if we never spoke at all so that no differences dogged our union would our bodies and our body language tell the whole story of what we were to one another?

While the homestead puffed its sleepy smoke I found myself wondering now what my true feelings were towards her. It seemed to me that while there was much to keep our hearts and minds from one another, there is always another level where everything is possible. There is another her, another me, another time and place. Perhaps, I was deep down, as I previously speculated, just like her. Perhaps any blocks between us were entirely contrived by me. I could throw away my books, my bohemian friends and my quirky ideas, dumb myself down and live a simple life of practical tasks and low expectations. Was life calling me to do such a thing? Was it even possible? How did I know?  I didn’t even know who I was.

The night was patient with me. It seemed to hold off from getting too dark or too cold until I had finished my mental trip into the terrain of Lucia. Now I was looking up again at the sky, a cool wind ruffled the thick hair on the back of my hair. With my head tipped entirely back, my eyes glued to the stars and the bright black sheets of sky I noticed that with nothing else in the periphery of my vision, while I could not see any of the land, the town, nor parts of my body the only thing that existed was sky and I no longer had a location. I was as much the sky, all of it that is, as anything else. So just like that all the concerns of a me dallying with a Lucia had dissipated into meaninglessness I was the black starry sky, vast and energetic, a generic and widely spreading, loving indifference. I slept then on the stone bench by the gate and woke up perhaps twenty minutes later, chilled right through to the marrow of my bones. The puffing smoke of the homestead had thinned into the wispy trails of a dying fire. I trudged back home like a vagabond, cold and tired and still a little drunk.

The House

Even though I had joint ownership of the house the first moment of entry into any house always feels like an intrusion on the people inside. While they have been alone in there the energies and rhythms of their characters have entwined and concocted a certain atmosphere which my intrusion will surely disrupt, albeit fleetingly. A door that folds inwards especially provokes a kind of bursting in while one that opens outwards is seems all the more violent as it sucks out a type of warm atmosphere so deftly and unknowingly (until the door opens) created. The door then acts as a kind of wooden hand gesturing towards the outside saying Look at this! Not that!. The outward opener is a rejection of that atmosphere while the inward one is much more of an invasion of privacy, a wooden gotcha!. Our thin oak door was inwardly inclined so I always moved it slowly and gently. Even if, as now, I suspected that Eric and Mark had gone to bed, I liked to play with the idea that the atmosphere within could be slowly crept up upon and perhaps deciphered in some detail, if my tentacles of sensitivity were game for such an event.

The rocking chair was still swinging by the smoking remains of the fire. One of our bottle of homemade pacharan was on the coffee table, half empty and next to it two shot glasses shallow pools of red at their base. Also two mugs both with coffee river stains on the outside were paired on the central cork mat, cork I might add which we had harvested ourselves from the many cork oaks on the finca. The scene was a picture of a harmonious duet. They had probably enjoyed drunken chat that wavered between frivolous and poignant, wondered what I was doing outside and then headed for bed at approximately the Luciae time, although their pre-bed activities would have been markedly different: Eric got lethargic and heavy at the end of the day. He could barely converse and would take the simplest route to bed, any busying around would, in his mind, wake him up and therefore deprive him of completing his passage into sleep. Mark, on the other hand, would faff around, selecting some music to play in his ipod before sleeping, perhaps stack up the days washing up and place it in the sink, covering it with a splash of tap water- an activity that Eric would find almost painful to carry out, claiming that it would wake him up, and that waking up would be sheer agony, for Eric hated the night. It was full of danger. So many bad things happened at night. Sleep would rid him of the night and the sooner that process started the better.

The rocking chair creaked every third swing. I couldn’t understand that. What might change every third swing to produce a creak? I likened this to the mysterious noises in building- creaks in the rafters, the sounds of switches and gurgling radiators. Each house sings its own song, has its own little orchestra to conduct. Perhaps the creaking rocking chair was an instrument of the entire house as much as the hissing remains of the fire. I preferred though to think that the noises were outer sonar of the inner lives of the inhabitants, and since Mark was the majority user of the rocking chair those intermittent creaks were everything to do with him. It expressed the rhythm of both his two step forwards-one back life therefore also the inconsistencies in his character. Mark was a charming companion- witty, funny, kind, thoughtful - but after short journey down a road of niceness something inside revolted and all his good work was sabotaged by a spiteful remark or a sudden deliberate diversion into another Mark which he knew would estrange his victim. This might be a sudden display of self-indulgence to exclude others like singing a song that only he knew or a deliberate tirade about which he knew you were ignorant. Once the distance was created and he could sense the newly won disharmony a sadness was born and he quickly closed the gap by being nice again. Of course, a certain paradox prevailed though, since the two of you had still shared the Luciae journey of closeness then estrangement then closeness again and so in a meta way you were as bonded as ever and in a meta way I think Mark was silently dissatisfied with such harmony. It suffocated him yet, riddled with contradictions as we all are, he also loved to connect to like-minds. That swinging, creaking rocking chair was a constant reminder of his plight although the wood itself was the purest, unblemished timber I had ever seen and always reminded me of Lucia’s skin. It occurred to me then that the bars of the rocking chairs back had something to do with Eric. They were the bars of a cage within which Eric felt incarcerated. This cage of course may have been constructed by his parents but he certainly held its key. He described the imprisonment of a compulsion to be at all costs nice and obliging, however inconvenient that might be. It was the result of nice catholic parents who did nice things with nice people and of course, like his fear of the night, might find its origin in a very basic fear. He even said himself that God was not nice and therefore niceness was not a god-like virtue, rather it was a strategy to avoid confrontation.

The Mark- Eric- Lucia rocking chair slowed its rocking and my attention turned towards the rain-stained window and out onto the black curves of the hills and the moonlit walnut tree in the unfenced garden. Interesting that just a few minutes ago I was on those very hills. That now seems a lifetime ago. And those hills look so distant. Now that I am in the house I am surely not the Luciae me as the savage-on-the-hills that I was. As soon as I walked into the house I became involved in an energy of re-acquaintance. Everything in the house immediately sprung up associations for me and all those associations spoke of things that those hills do not understand. Something in me longs to be back out there in the dark sleeping land, to be rid of all such associations, to have never accrued them in the first place, to be as pure as the moon, unspoiled by the business of living in the world.

Whether to sit down and where to sit down featured briefly but then a more domineering inner voice enthusiastically ordered me to simply stand, and so there I stood on the red Morrocan rug to all the world a statue, simply absorbing what lay before me both in the inner and outer. Did it make any difference to the balance of the house that I was rather bucking the system? Certainly, the house was not used to someone standing still in the centre of the room, apparently doing nothing. Did I see the white and cream wallpaper embolden a little as if in a defensive contraction? I wondered how Lucia would react to see me like this? Perhaps I would not feel free to behave in such a manner, nor would such an impulse arise within me, if I were with her. If she suddenly arrived on the scene, she would assume that I was involved in some intricate process, like trying to locate a tapping sound or inspecting a bug on the ceiling. Once those options had been eliminated I guess she would urge me to sit down. Fortunately, and this is something I perhaps loved about her, she would probably never ask me what I was doing nor what I was thinking. She would assume that I was engaged in one of my eccentricities which could be swiftly quashed in a very matter-of-fact way. Never knowing the details of my quirks meant she could not try to reason me away from them. In fact, she was so accepting of them when we first met I interpreted that as meaning that she instinctively understood them. I was wrong about that, for she was as simple and straightforward as a barn door. Or was she? I often played with the idea that as souls we were all experiencing many lives simultaneously in other realms, other planes of existence, in which we were distinctly different in form and character, and that somehow in any given life we had with in us, somewhere in our cells the knowledge of those other existences. In other words, somewhere inside Lucia was an affinity to everything that I was and that meant specifically, my more eccentric behaviour was understood by her, if not intellectually, then somehow in her body. Her body knew how to handle me.

I waited in that set position. My arms by my side as good as paralyzed, waiting for a new impulse to move me. I told myself that I would not use any of my conditioning to decide what happened next, rather I would wait for an impulse. And so I stood there for some minutes at peace with more or less everything, the exception being a certain dryness in the throat which caused me to swish saliva around my mouth and swallow on several occasions. This seemed a gentle and minor tragedy which I playfully transposed into grand proportions, mentally casting myself as a weary traveller lost in a hot desert, trampling clumsily over dunes-vultures overhead, hazy mirages of fertile watering holes. Once this image had passed I became starkly away of the night as though it were an individual entity, that had somehow encroached upon its territory. It was accustomed to having this living room to itself, gradually shading it into black and yet now I stood there as if in opposition to it, although, that was not my intention. I was only an observer. But since the matter had arisen I had no intention of giving way to the night. I would stand my ground. Let it haunt me, unnerve me, blind me.

The walnut tree outside was now at the peak of its moonlit brightness. The leaves looked metallic and the trunk perhaps plastic as if the tree was merely a stage prop. I rather liked that idea. For brief moments I tantalized myself with the deceit that everything outside was and always had been fake; underneath the mountain grass was hard rubber moulding, the clouds were created by sophisticated weather machines and the moon was merely a projected image. This left only the inside of the house as real. This was it, folks, here in this house is the beginning and end of reality. In fact, why stretch further than my current experience. Eric, Mark and all the other rooms in the house might not exist and even if they did, they might be simple props in the theatre of my individual experience.

A gentle voice from my body whispered that I should go to bed. I obeyed it and quickly found myself under a comfortable deep purple duvet looking up at a milky moon. Perhaps I was smiling. Certainly, I felt my cheeks had a subtle taut of good cheer.

My first stirrings out of sleep in those grey hinterlands, where one is not really a biped human form, rather a shapeless , buzzing presence, I noticed only thoughts queueing up and colliding into one another like dodgems. Just as one found a clear path, BOOM! it was railroaded by another one keen to take the lead, and for a moment, just a brief moment I had the glimpse of something incredibly satisfying, perhaps it was a memory of last night or a thought about the day ahead,  but before it could come into full focus it was smashed out of existence by that vague sense of dissatisfaction of self, that abiding sense that all is not entirely well, that something needs to change, that there is work to be done, questions to be answered, that I cannot present myself to the world until these fundamental flaws have been remedied.  Apart from the existential confusion that all drifters and artists occasionally feel I figured it was everything to do with Lucia. Annoyingly she was becoming a strange obsession about which numerous analyses and meta analyses failed to clarify. It seemed inconceivable to feel such a lure for someone for whom I felt no deep love. Ah but then the run of thoughts lead to ‘ Perhaps you cannot love’ Perhaps your distant youth left you ill-equipped with such powers’ Fortunately, this cacophony of speculative voices disappears as my eyes open and javelins of autumn sunlight fly into the room. I hear the cock crow and the ducks rumble about. I remind myself that I am to collect honey from the hives today (perhaps that was the satisfying thought that eluded me before) and that immediately gives me a warm feeling as I set about compiling a tapestry, readily initiated by the honey coloured walls. Through the small window of the bedroom I see the sky is bright blue, a blue that reminds me of spring. I hear Eric and Mark’s voices, not their words, only noises that sound fresh and keen and I think of the golden coloured panels of the beehives. We recently varnished them and for a while the wet dripping varnish looked as if it were honey oozing out of the hives, as if the hives were literally bursting with honey. That remained my abiding image of the hives.

The soul-cleansing blue of the sky, together with the honey set a tone of something both exotic and familiar. I was for a moment entranced by the intoxicating brightness of the idea. It was as if behind both the blue sky and the honey there shone an array of spotlights. To this image I added some memories of harvest days in the wheat fields into which I placed a young band playing shiny trumpets while shuffling about until their feet settled on the luminous fawn stubble. While all things were golden and I was doing up my laces I considered Lucia for a moment. She now appeared in my mind even more flawlessly golden, like a goddess. I suddenly saw her possessing all sorts of wisdom and relegated her personality, the one that I normally experienced in the naked reality of normal exchanges, as being far, far in the background. It occurred to me that maybe I had overlooked her spirit. By that I mean, there was perhaps, as I had alluded to before, a Lucia that was not the personality that she presented nor the words she offered, but if I thought back to silences between when she was only a presence, what was that presence? I had noticed with both Eric and Mark that when they were moving around the house in the periphery of my vision, where the sounds they made was only gentle percussion and their movements not much more than flickering shadows, they revealed themselves as phantoms and by that I mean their very spirits were revealed. In the case of Eric, his spirit was far milder than his projected personality. This caused me to wonder how much of what he presented to the world was simply a counter to that essential mildness. 

Right now though I was more interested in how the tapestry of the day related to Lucia and for the sake of play I crafted a notion that the golden images and the blue sky both within and without me were all a result of the Lucia filter which I now had installed within me and which was currently very active. This seemed to be the way of it, as I spend meaningful time with people I can take some of their flavours, see things through their eyes and I supposed that Lucia was in truth a gold-blue being.  Was it possible we could all live with such nudity? That the colours and textures of our being could simply be on show, unfiltered, unmediated? Her gold and blue were together quite marvelous although my own blue was darker or deeper or contained a few different blues.

As I looked again at the sky, perhaps once the initial excitement of the day had waned a little I could see that to the East the sky was much lighter, a colder, autumnal blue and above it was a white haze which reminded me of the truly hot days of summer when the sky seems a misty white rather than blue. Other shades of white and blue litter the whole sky and I reveled in my choice of focus. I had all four seasons in that sky and I could convince myself that we were in any one merely by a crafty focus. And while I moved around the patchwork of worlds above me, I simultaneously glanced over a multitude of Lucias, a multitude of Mes, bringing myself to rest on the first clean blue which held the majority stake in the sky. As I did I heard Eric shouting ‘ Hey, Saul, wake up , you lazy bastard!’ Then a small clod of earth hit the window, causing a vibration through the whole house. It was surely the most fragile house I had ever known. Before she left that morning Lucia had left a note. She wondered if we could meet that night for a chat. This was a strange request since we met regularly and she was around the house almost every night.

Later I set myself down to the task in hand. While I filled my jars with warm honey, attired in my astronaut suit life immediately took on a new simplicity. In a flash the gorgeous complexity of nature and the sophisticated images and notions that I usually played with became the new background. What was important was food, survival and pragmatic activities. This included pragmatic thinking, and as soon as the first impulse came to venture into an interesting enquiry a big stop sign sprung up and what may have been implicit in such a strategy was the attitude that to venture further along that road was to embark on a futile voyage into fantasy land. Although I could never quite work out if fantasy was rejected because it was not functional in putting food on the table or because it was a frightening slice of all that was unknown.

Once I had five full jars I reflected a little on the background tapestry of the day which I could, now my work was done, pull into the foreground. The panels on the hives, the honey itself, a golden yellow on the chins of the low clouds in the sky, a conversation with Eric about pine furniture, Mark’s beige neckerchief all contributed to a solid design. However, for a richer mix I knew some contrasting colours were needed, and I was also keen to maintain a variety of sources. Using the colour of a barn door was fine but this needed to be balanced with other forms, textures, smells and sounds, and could even be represented with the vibe of a conversation or a misty collection of images from the memory banks. As the tapestry evolved I replaced the blue of the sky with the darker green of the long meadow grass, a bold move I know, but all too often I relied on blue for my psychic kicks and it seemed to me that green would offer me a little expansion.

To that end I later gave myself the task of slashing at the long grass which grew around the borders of the homestead and rather than using a long slasher I took a classic sickle from the barn. That way I felt closer to the grass and could sometimes hold steady a sheath with my left hand while I hacked away at the below-knee sections. The shiny new sickle quickly became stained with grass juice and my left hand was covered in grass pulp. I found myself feeling clean and straightforward, even a little classy as I pictured myself handsomely dressed, walking down some classic street, like Old Bond street, and perhaps buying a vintage silver pocket watch. The smell of the grass though pulled me closer to the earth and I was for a while a gentlemen farmer inspecting his crops, prior to a meeting in town with the rotary club. A lunch of beef steak and sponge pudding would finish an agreement with a group of men dressed in checkered sports jackets. I didn’t much like this scenario so sought to alter the tapestry a little. It seemed to me that the green had dominated the gold. I looked back at the honey jar and focused on the sunlit side of the jar where the honey was glimmering. This gave me a direct route into an Arab palace which was also unwanted.

I turned my attention to Lucia to see how my day’s vibic tapestry had affected our union. Perhaps because of the confusing influences of the day I found a surge of interest in Lucia as a girlfriend. It wasn’t that she suddenly became more attractive or more interesting. It was rather the idea of her purely as a standard girlfriend, not a shared lover, not a life partner, not a soul mate but simply, and perhaps only for a week, as a girlfriend. Perhaps she had the right blend of physical attractiveness and open-spiritness and the right stock of emotions and irritations that would make her a standard pretty girlfriend available in every town everywhere. If I was with her, for a week, I’d have the experience of normality, mediocrity and all things standard. This seemed an attractive escape from my plight and I reckoned I had just the right store of actors inside me to pull off role of standard boyfriend…for a week. Strangely and disturbingly I suddenly found myself looking up to Lucia. Perhaps she had, albeit unwittingly, managed to achieve a solid place in society. Perhaps I had failed. Were my free living eccentricities a result of that failure or were they the cause of it? I continued hacking away at the grass until I was so absorbed in the task that all such matters disappeared. I was for a while a lonely peasant, but life was simple.

Mark swished up to the homestead in the quad bike. The trailer was full brambles and thistles. I guessed he had been slashing his way through the undergrowth in the spinney where next year there were plans to keep pigs. He swung his skinny body off the blistered plastic seat and headed towards me. I was struck by the swagger in his skinny body. It always seems that the first impressions of you have of someone come back to haunt you if there is a sufficient gap between the times that you see that person. Since I hadn’t properly seen him all day and besides I had crossed mountains and swum oceans in my head since I last saw him, he was immediately reduced to the sum total of my first impressions of him. These were that he was an arrogant trouble maker but that certain strong political convictions kept his behaviour decent. But even in acknowledging the return of these impressions I greeted him as though no such traits were present. I spoke to him as one who had travelled beyond the first impressions. This dichotomy felt odd but unavoidable. His pale cinnamon jumper helped me a little as it added a certain harmonizing layer to the day’s confusing tapestry. In fact, by stretching his jumper across my entire day I could dilute all the day’s components so that my vibe settled into a tranquil receptivity. Suddenly, I wanted a decent reunion with Mark where we could exchange jokey banter while we drank frothy milk coffee, and my newly acquired hunger helped in reducing other psychic phenomena and in rendering my identity as being little more than a tired work beast, a mellow-mannered ox.

 I suddenly remembered that Lucia wanted to see me that night, but I was oddly resistant to such an endeavour. Perhaps my delicious tiredness was too wholesome to disrupt. Mark would be seeing her anyway. He could tell her I was tired old dog that night.

The kitchen-lounge was a different place from the previous night. It was the sparse mess room of busy workers. Strewn on the table were brochures and magazines. Coffee cup ring stains and bread crumbs littered the outer panels. It was a silent and dull room, but the thick rugs on the floor and the large couch at least suggested the possibility of a cosy retreat from the wild winds of Autumn. While Mark bashed around the kitchen making our coffee I looked at the spot where I had stood the previous night. It seemed very much like a different me, yet I couldn’t blame it on the alcohol because I had done similarly things in a sober state. The patch of carpet where I had stood seemed especially distant from me. It wasn’t an area that was ever trod, unless to change the lightbulb from the light on the ceiling directly above. The pattern was such that the very spot I had stood was a beige circle in which blue birds fluttered around. The other images in the room were Eric’s birthday cards on the mantlepiece which were now a week old. I found myself wondering which of these images I would like to find myself in - I mean, assuming that these images were actually just little windows on real events. I certainly had a fine spread of possibilities: a cartoon of a happy man in a classic open top sports car in a cartoon land where there was only one tree, an enormous sun and an eternity of sandy coloured hills; an abstract of roughly brushed red and black lines over an amber sphere; and a white Andalucian village in the first dimming light of evening- glittering lights and a moonlight sea. It seemed to me the little pagoda on the floor would satisfy me for some time. I could sit down in the Pagoda and let the blue birds sit on my shoulders.

Mark grabbed the boiling expresso maker while launching into an old folk song about an Irish milk maid. I reminded myself of the last time I was alone with Mark I concluded that the journey to understanding someone usually ends in failure because not only do you find more and more contradictions to their main strains of behavior, but also in the living, breathing dynamics of each passing moment they become a new mystery. As Mark shuffled around with cups and biscuits while singing his song, it occurred to me that this precise Mark had never existed before. However, when he skidded a plate of gingernuts in my direction with a ‘here ya’ and began chewing his nails he seemed true to one of his former types.

A while back when we had realised that there was a certain spread of interest for Lucia’s affections the four of us had sensibly worked out a rota, giving her one day off. It was Mark’s turn to see her tonight. They usually met in the village for cheap copas of local wine and stumbled back along the valley track to the homestead where they engaged in hard rapid love-making. Very often Mark would appear straight after in the lounge, sprawl out on the rocking chair if it was free and smoke a thick roll-up and stare at the ceiling in a sort of cool trance. The conversation after either one of us had spent the night with Lucia was always a little strange. There was a sense in the air that the two who had been left out, as it were, were now more bonded and united in subtle opposition to the most recent possessor of Lucia. Of course, in theory, we were all above such petty jealousy yet still something base and confusing would arise to partially and briefly sabotage our friendships. For my part I found Mark’s interest in Lucia a little too primitive. I was certain that he merely indulged in his own merries while she was brutally and selfishly taken. However, I guess, that on some level, on her own base level, that satisfied her immensely.

I found that Mark’s fawn woolen socks added to the tapestry of the day, as did the dry chestnut kindling which I split using a bill hook while I set about the business of lighting a fire. In so doing, while Mark went upstairs to get ready I realized that I was subtly taking control of the house for the evening. While Mark was upstairs, certainly the lounge was mine and Mark, would surely, as most people do when they leave for the evening, casually give up their rights over the house with very much a spirit of ‘do as you please’. With that implicit in the departing swish of his green parker and with the knowledge that Eric would be attending a pregnant cow with the vet for most of the night I settled into the rocking chair waiting for the onset of hunger.

From the house’s perspective I was a little upstart. I alone spent time unravelling its spirit, observing its secret personalities. It had previously assumed that it could eke out its long life largely unnoticed, relying on the inhabitant’s ignorance of its true spirit, reducing it, as they would to merely a structure. Its misfortune was that I on to it. There need be no unpleasantness between us, but I would have it know that I was aware of it invisible self, of its passing moods. I set about my sly espionage, listening, sniffing, and watching for strange shadows or changes in colour tones and once satisfied that at least for that night it had gone into hiding I sat at the kitchen table playing around with new ideas.

 I noticed that physical labour had two effects on me; it made me far less mentally active and somehow installed a new intelligence in my body. My body felt deliciously tired and stretched as if it had successfully performed. In fact, it had outshone my brain. It was the most active intelligence in my being, a fact that in subtle ways it seemed to laud over me. Its voice grew stronger and I couldn’t help but hear it. About all matters that had previously existed as mental confusion it had simple wise words to impart. For example, it regarded my question of identity as a confected problem caused by idle time, and Lucia was basically a sexually encounter, nothing more.

And of course, if my body lay idle my brain took centre stage, and no thought was ever enough. There were always more sophisticated ones being designed regarding identity, Lucia and any other topic. This caused me to wonder which version of events might be the true one or even which version I preferred. Yet since I had physically toiled that day, there seemed little gas in the mental tank. Instead, I drifted off on a bizarre train of thought in which my body, my brain and the house were distinct entities in some far off cloud in perhaps a land that never existed.

I went to bed early that night with the painful images of Lucia being royally shagged by Mark. At around midnight, I heard the squeaks of Mark’s mattress and felt both appalled, and compelled to turn up the volume and sharpen the inner focus of the images I had of them. Somehow I slept after intermittent waking up in several shameful little panics.

The light of the morning was a little dimmer, still predominantly blue, but not the shiny blue of previous days. I noticed that a certain tapestry had already begun, without my attention. Perhaps in the drama of dreams and the anxiety of the night had begun the first craft of a certain vibe which seemed familiar to me. My attention had swung to the green mould on the white window frames, the wet moss on the roof beneath a dripping tap and to the sound of thunderous jet airplane above. Inside I was smaller, much smaller. I mean, as I swung the lamp of my attention inwards I saw my form as being so small, not the vast kaleidoscope of other days. That is not say that I had been reduced in complexity, rather that I was now a compact bundle that seemed from the perspective of my vision much further away and strangely metallic. I conjured up the image of an abandoned car that had been compressed into a metal bale by a scrap metal merchant. This peaked an interest in filling the rest of the day with the colour white, sheet metal and a sense of wet urbanity, lucky-to-be-alive sentiments and an acceptance or was it surrender to all the foibles and nuances of both my character and those around me, including the house. At once I remembered rainy unemployed days in London inside steamy windowed café’s where implicit in the vibe was the idea that we were thankful to have escaped the rain and in that we could be united. That cosy sense of escape and union then manifested in a ramped-up gratitude for the hot tea and an excessive willingness to communicate something, anything to each other, strangers though we might be. It may be an offer to pass the ketchup or one of the oddly wrinkled newspapers.

Yet outside it was not raining and my eyes could not stay on the roof moss for long. I would have to settle for a white and bright theme, an idea immediately seized upon by my attention to my white bed sheet, brightened by the faint glimmer of a morning sun. I would clearly have hot milk for breakfast and a cluster of bright gold biscuits. I would crunch cleanly through them and drink the milk in swift gulps. With white and gold in my heart I guess I could afford myself the luxury of contemplating my recent psychic woes in a manner that would be clinical and decisive yet elegant, even handsome. Prior to that though I found myself thinking about Eric and Mark. It seemed that whenever I thought about one the other quickly came into view. Of course, they naturally united together in my brain as my friends and as being the people with whom I lived. They were currently also my principal experience of other people and on top of that there was something genuinely indistinguishable about them. When I thought of Mark in his thick country jumpers and farm boy jeans his presence of being another human being was no different from Eric’s. This caused me to wonder if it was the natural threat that all other beings pose, that identifying the threat from Mark as being the Luciae threat from Eric, so it was my fear that lumped them together. But even putting that aside there was something in their spirits that was similar and perhaps this shouldn’t surprise me too much as birds of a feather and all that.

As I drank my hot milk silently at the kitchen table I looked across at the young pine trees in the valley. Their tips swayed a little in the cool Autumn air. Did they have thoughts? I wondered. It must be so. They so obviously had personalities, as did the thuggish boulders to the East tip and the poplars down by the river and to some extent the cup in my hand, although it was only barely alive- a bland half-being. And if these things had personalities, surely thoughts or something similar must fill their days. As I watched the thinnest one, and perhaps this was only by my own contrived reckoning, it seemed to be cheeky in some ways, even brash. I wondered what it would make of the Lucia-Eric-Mark- Me situation. Was such a state too complex for its intellect or could its take on the whole matter and many others be somehow read in its skittish juddering in the wind? The copper beech may also have a basic angle on me. I wondered if it would regard me as rather paralyzed with confusion or even neurotic. And how strange that seemed to me since I was known for my calm level-headedness.

Lucia left in silence. It was the odd protocol that had been organically established that when she came to visit she only interacted with the person whose turn it was to entertain her. This protected us all from any awkwardness. Even still it was indeed a strange affair to watch the girl with whom I enjoyed so much time and who occupied much of my thinking to brush past me silently and close the door literally and figuratively on me. Sometimes I observed her face as she left and noticed the swings of her limbs. In those moments she was simply nothing to do with me and in my mind I had reduced her to being simply a sexual, even sluttish, local girl who was leaving the house having been fucked. I knew she had wanted to chat with me and I could have broken with protocol and stopped her at the door, but I simply didn’t.

The Spirit Moves

My tapestry that morning was of a gathering new richness that embraced all sorts of textures and forms. The whole barnyard, the light blue sky, the jokey stickers on the rear window of Eric’s car, the corrugated asbestos roof on the chicken shed, the black rubber handle of a new shovel, the yellow leaves of the distant poplars by the river, the hairs on my hand and the dry pebbles of earth that blew around along the farm track were all welcome and inspired in me a new sense of One-ness, that everything was inter-connectedly beautiful. Everything was perfectly positioned and perfectly sized. Yet, I detected that still my sense of self was a little distant from this One-ness, that I myself was not connected to all this One-ness. I was a quiet observer on the scene, almost engaged but not quite. This didn’t bother me as the excitement of my as-yet-unknown creation was enough to satisfy me that all was well with the world and that my recent sense of inner disquiet might be, at least temporarily, in abeyance.

On the old plough which was entrenched in the long tangling grasses I could see flecks of gold glistening in the sun. Each fleck was evenly spaced and evenly sized, although one was especially big, a burning little orb enjoying its short life. There were acres of space between it and the next bright thing, which was a distant glass pane on a neighbouring farm to the East, and this caused me to focus more on the space than the brightness. I was suddenly enthralled by these acres, now existing not as fields of vegetation but as space between two points of brightness. That hollow space, the very emptiness of it sent my thoughts onto a new path. I was suddenly free, playful and mischievous and instead of getting down to the task of the day, which was to bleed the air lock in the tractor, I decided to head out to the barn where I instinctively knew I needed to be.

As I looked around at the usual array of phenomenon in the valley, around the homestead and in the pale chalky blue sky, I had the notion that something was missing in the view, something only I could confect. What was needed was action. Perhaps it was to mark the end of a period of intense passivity. Perhaps when such a plant dies the bursting shoots of another one automatically appear. Either way I knew that action of any sort was now inevitable.

I took the inspiration of my mood and started welding bits of our farming implements and tools together. It may seem like a suicidal thing to do, but Mark and Eric quickly joined me. A tractor was joined to an oil tank, then rakes and hoes and scythes and chicken cages and wire netting and pretty much the entire contents of barn, which meant the entire contents of our farming kit. Mark said it was a unique desire to connect everything because as people we were confused, fragmented and felt apart from society. Eric said it was to see how everything in existence was connected and that sooner or later all humans needed to see that. For my part I thought it was to merely mischievous play- a protest to all the things in my life that didn’t make sense.

So we battled away. Each with his own sweet ideas about what we were accomplishing. Soon an enormous form which we called The Union was born. And in our artisitic fervour we could see no end to it. As passion grew The Union grew. Febrile, rabid we were, at least for an intense morning and when that session was done and food was in our belly, the afternoon beckoned me in a different direction

I went among the pines while the magnificent events of the morning seemed to belong to another me now obediently waiting in some misty green corners of my brain house, like a statue waiting to be brought into life yet somehow content to know that there was still an energy its static form. I was once more the wandering animal of the valley.

I always associated pine trees with golden evening light and sure enough once I reached the little family of pines a misty golden afternoon sun brightened the dark orange bark. I wondered if in any way those pines could hear me, smell me, sense that I was among them. Surely so? With my hands resting on one of the trunks while I knelt down on the soft needles on the ground I played with the idea that the energy of the tree was entering me, not just its energy but its personality. From then on I would walk around a young pine tree in the body of a large human, or so I giddily imagined. Then as the first tiny strains of autumn melancholia appeared in the slightly dimming sky I gave a few moments of thought to the inner me. I peered inside myself noticing that some of the furniture, as it were, had been moved around or replaced. All in all, the inner house had temporarily given over to a new minimalism, a scanty Scandinavian design. Perhaps, I reasoned, the events of the morning had either emptied me of the needless clutter or I had maintained the new persona to which it had given rise, or, of course the third option was that the young pine really had usurped me! I knew that wasn’t so. I then spent a little time assessing the state of that dark internal organ of disquiet. Was it there still behind the jubilation of liberation from this morning a subtle sense that all was not well with me? It seemed not but then I found that I could not separate the outer ensuing chill with that inner feeling of disquiet. This seemed something of a breakthrough as I noticed that the supposed inner and outer wrong had no particular location at all. It just seemed that the psychic disturbance was inside me and the chilly air was outside me. Seen from my new perspective they were location-less and even indistinguishable. The pines waved around a little and I looked back over the homestead. Once again I had that sense that the homestead and all its contents were of a different dimension. As I looked at them I was looking into the visible past. It was all utterly gone now. I should accept my new status as being a pine-infused being in a pine spinney, and this idea started a new tapestry in me which had at its foundation the sandy soiled pine spinneys of my childhood. I remember most of all that around the American military bases at Lakenheath and Mildenhall on the side of the road there were lines of scots pines in light blowaway sandy soil and then behind those were perhaps flint cottages. I remember passing by such a fragment of such a scene in the car and being overcome with waves of desire to be there, for somewhere in the collusion of all those elements was something undeniably warm and welcoming yet safely desolate. The sand may remind me of the desert and the flints of remote sea cottages in Scotland. The Scots pines were so orange their energy at once enticing and playful. If I put such an urge under the microscope though I realise that the actuality of the scene would be a little dull, especially courtesy of the cold grey flints, and that the entire scene was at its glorious best while it featured as a passing image and then converted into a fantasy. That was all by the by though since the merest memory of such a fantasy was enough to propagate a rich new tapestry of long East Anglian skies above big summer wheat fields, that sense of chilled air poignancy where life was seen as strange distant event. I wandered slowly back to the homestead convincing myself that I was the only person alive in the world with that uncanny sense of being so right and complete and yet simultaneously its opposite. I figured a union with Lucia would do the trick. It would bring everything back into order albeit it a fragile one.

As my head softened down onto the pillow I gave another thought to the rousing event of the day. And suddenly I was back in an artistic fervour. Eric, Mark and I had started something wonderful. Perhaps this activity revealed Eric and Mark at their best, maybe me too and if none of my passing fantasies came to fruition, it seemed to me that something had changed. Was it my imagination or was the world going to change forever as a result of The Union?

The morning came upon me like a bomb. I was suddenly perched on my bed drawing open the curtains looking down on the thick stone steps of one of the out sheds. It was a cracked and crumbling slab which had some chalk written numbers, perhaps about its dimensions. The pale grey of the stone and the white of the writing started in me a new tapestry of all things pallid. I remembered a history teacher at school who was the epitome of such a vibe. He wore soft cream loafers, very pale ginger trousers and perhaps a cream shirt. Some days the loafers gave way to a sandy coloured suede desert boots. It was as if he was making a deliberate statement of softness to the world. Even his walk was a homage to all things foppish- all his limbs so slack. As I looked across the sheep paddock I could see the disintegrated salt lick and strands of sheep wool caught on the barbed wire fence, and my eyes looked up to a cream faun sky. The world was caught in a vapid air, a twee harmony that had me feeling almost sick. As an escape I travelled to the place within me that was concerned with pending matters, and suddenly a new scene played out in my inner screen of The Union we had created yesterday and all the surfaces yet to be filled with our daft and daring text. I was at once wrenched into a species of excitement that was as broad a type as I had known, for in acknowledging the surging fun about to begin I noticed, and perhaps this is true of all such excitement, that within its core was the sense that things had permanently changed, that I had ‘arrived’ now, after years of journeying through the misty swamps of confusion and despair. I could sense a lightness in my being. The weights had been lifted off. Things would never be the Luciae. And also implicit in that whole story was the idea that nothing that had previously disappointed me was relevant anymore. I was now a turbo-charged artist passionate about his work. That was always who I was. I was just blind before. Another spice added to the mix was the idea that we, Eric, Mark and myself were a creative trio, united by chance or divine design, like John, Paul, George and Ringo. I could hear the story of this beast being told in documentaries and dramatic re-enactments of how it all came together. And then, of course, there was the question of Lucia whose status in my imaginings changed to being like an artist’s moll or perhaps even a muse for Mark, for Mark seemed to be more genuinely taken with Lucia’s soul than Eric or myself. I was endlessly intrigued and confused by the girl, I think.

I billed this day as being seminal. This day everything would change. I mean everything. From the grass blades on the valley, to the roots of the pines, to the invisible music that crafted clouds. The extent to which I could already feel as if we had all shifted to another dimension was so strong that I wanted to tell Mark and Eric and yet somehow, with some outrageous regard for self-spun superstition I decided that such a move would sabotage the whole thing.

As we traipsed out of the short doorway, bowing our heads into the fresh pale blue sky morning there was something of the workmen about us. This made me snigger inside. The idea that what we were doing was a serious business to be handled with some sense of gravitas added yet a new level to the humour. As we approached The Union it looked a little smaller than the day before, and the night air had left a damp film on the metal which made writing initially impossible to achieve, but while the misty golden autumnal sun dried the air we worked on attaching more implements and all agricultural paraphernalia, stopping just shy of tethering a cow to it.

As it grew and grew I was struck with the strange sense that I was like a god. I had created this form, this unique and absurd form and so complex was it, so big and so undeniably here in existence was it, a form no less wondrous than a tree that it set forth all sorts of megalomaniacal feelings within me. However, these were quickly snuffed out by the shear enthusiasm of the new ideas that were racing themselves into existence in my busy head.

Mark continued his business like a charging bull; Eric employed a more gentle artistry and I became enraptured with the thrill of watching fast flowing ideas manifest into tangible forms. As I looked around the farmstead and beyond I realised that nothing was ‘safe’. For it could all be included in the scope of The Union. And while the day before was fuelled by pure playful enthusiasm today held me in a cooler vibration of forward planning, strategy and thoughtful craftmanship.

The days passed. A few weeks passed dedicated solidly to The Union and Lucia had stopped coming. None of us had seen her since I had failed to meet her that day. Strangely though, given the force of our obsession with The Union as though he was somehow righting all the wrongs in the world Lucia’s absence did nothing more than puzzle us a little.

Autumn raced to the winter border and a new stillness came upon the land. As I wandered the land in the afternoon there were muddy sugar beet fields, distant car and house lights came on. The bright green needles of the young pines turned dark olive, these young spirits with a French goodbye disappeared, although they had a foliage their deciduous neighbours lacked their tendency each winter was to hibernate. Besides, the striking naked silouhettes of the oaks took centre stage. My eyes were filled with black moody lattices of tree branches. The new kid in town was melancholia or something similar like a constant gentle pre-dawn excitement.

While the land became less friendly, even hostile I enjoyed the contrasting cosiness of the farmhouse. I sometimes wondered if I deliberately went out into the cold muddy fields so that I reap the reward of its direct opposite: sitting around the log fire of the farmhouse with a cup of hot frothy milk. Was it this contrast that made the dark wet fields makes so compelling or were they intrinsically attractive as the aesthetics of the sublime? Is one made better by the other? Did I only want to experience the cold wet harshness of the outer so that the cosy warmth of the inner was more vivid? Or was there something intrinsically pleasurable about cold wet fields cloaked by that misty stillness? Perhaps so. But nevertheless I could see that perverse tendency of creating dark/light polarities  in other areas of my life: I would sometimes virtually suffocate myself under the bed sheets for the pleasure of emerging into the sweet fresh air again, spluttering back to life.

Over the ridge of the valley nestled in a bushy ravine were a small collection of inexplicable ruins. I didn’t know what they were or how old they were, but I liked them. Rather like a cat changes its resting hole every couple of weeks, my latest perch became within the dry grey darkness of that little crumbling cabin of stone. It was made of flint which always intrigued me. It was so cold and smooth. I would even sink to the moss covered ground and let my cheek press against one of the shinier flints, imagining that in some way we were in communication. This caused me to notice what strange forces compelled me to communicate with phenomena rather than allow it to form part of the silent background in front of which important human activity prevailed. Perhaps in a sense I felt that I was in essence less human and more like a background element or even a type of space in which humanity happened. I was the silent observer like all these elements around me. But in this space the first curdles of pain arrived, those silent unsettling waves of loss, regret and absence. Lucia and whatever she represented was gone.

For a while the blue sky was filled with evenly sized clouds which seem to hover slowly above the farm before drifting away to the East. One day they lingered a little longer, casting a cool shadow over me as I sat on an upside down bucket staring out to the cloddy field which I had cultivated the previous week. I was deliciously tired, physically and mentally from my intense labour with The Union, which had developed into eight- hour stretches, and in that tiredness I found a heavy sense of peace. Often was the case that tiredness brought with it the idea that I was somehow newly innocent of the crimes of indolence and inefficiency, free then to indulge in all manner of mental whim, and a belly full of delicious food added to that sense of being licensed to lounge around. I glanced around to the house. It’s was now, perhaps because of the light, oddly primarily a chimney under which a house was attached. The chimney, despite being attached and integral to the house, seemed separate, as if a recent and ephemeral addition. I had detected such matters in people’s faces, where their nose or ears were somehow detached from the whole composition. The chimney was a plain, bricky affair, a rusty column with skyward ambitions, not, it told me, to be associated with the lethargic complacence of the rest of the house. For a time, I could see nothing but the chimney against a mild grey sky, in a slow chilling air. It seemed to me that it was attempting to yank itself away from the rest of the house and the house would not release its selfish grip. I disliked the discovery of this tension. Yet it may have explained some of the squeaks and creaking I heard coming from the roof. Surely an absurd idea- that these mysterious squeaks that houses produce is a tension between warring factions seeking their own territory or independence. Yet perhaps it is a metaphor of one of the habitant’s desire to yank himself from the cosy bosom.

The Union had grown from looking like a mess of scrap metal into something with an almost symmetrical form, at least in terms of the basic outline. We had also managed to place it on four tractor wheels and were thus able to pull it along as if it were a giant dog on a lead. It was a headless, limbless creature. However, Mark insisted on placing a smiling face on what might be considered its front quarters. From some angles it looked like a trapezium and from others a pentagon and from others still a triangle. Whilst there had been no ‘design’ as such we had to take into account some basic ideas of a self-supporting structure and to that end we had four corner towers that were constructed predominantly of some old lead piping that we believed had been used as scaffolding to build the barn and then inexplicably dumped in the long grass.

Since it had grown gradually out of the our collective mad thinking , it was impossible to grasp how it would instantly strike an observer. I could list in my mind the contents of each section and imagine that the daftness of the text would cause individual sniggers, but as for The Union in its entirety I was left ignorant. This I attempted to remedy by forgetting the existence of The Union, creeping round the back of the barn and setting my eyes upon him as if for the first time, but still the freshness of the form, his bold audacity, the shear absurdity of his nature was difficult to recreate in my mind. He had become such a familiar friend to all of us and perhaps true of all such creations, the creators were robbed of the first impression of his completed form.

He stood much higher than the barn and would be perhaps visible for up to 10 miles. Sometimes his size became less of a source of amusement and instead the cause of the mumbles of something approaching fear, perhaps awe. It is rare that a single human builds anything in the world that is as big as a building. Even such a creation with two others is an unlikely event. Perhaps in the past a man might build a house with the help of his community, but not a metal beast.

As I looked around to a now spartan farmyard and a distant autumnal land I was struck again by the sensation of being a mini god. I had brought this form to the Earth, something spectacularly absurd, something mightily apparent, undeniably equal to the status of a building or a field. True that the labour was shared. Yet I was the founder, the planter of the seed. The Union was my child which Mark and Eric had helped to rear.

In the cool evenings with the midnight blue sky of autumn I would spend a little time alone with The Union, sometimes stroking him- my hands brushing over rubber, metal, wood, glass or plastic- reading some of the immense text we had produced (written in orange paint- half poems and absurd phrases like….), taking care not to repeat too many for fear that the repetition would in my mind tarnish some of the glowing brilliance of those ideas.

One such night, under a flock of sparkling stars, I sat on the only bucket left on the farm and imagined myself to be in some deep communion with The Union. Although his smiling face had seemed a little cheesy somehow it displayed an avuncular presence, investing in me the sense that I was communicating with a friendly relative, albeit an oddly formed one. I squinted my eyes a little so as not to be distracted by any of the individual elements and held my gaze on his face some 10 metres above me. I remember the old religious icon paintings constructed in such a way that wherever you positioned yourself they seemed to be looking at you. I noticed or did I imagine the Luciae was true of The Union? There and then he became a living entity in my mind, a mysterious presence whose true nature and motivations remained unclear to me.  Silently I spoke to him and asked him where Lucia had gone. He said she had melted in the wind.

Mark wrote several letters to galleries and newspapers in the UK, Germany and America inviting their representatives to visit upon our unique creation. It took a while but responses began to trickle in. Those that were interested first wanted photos and a background summary of the artist, which Mark duly provided. One such photo was taken at night with a spotlight on The Union, the artists lay at his feet all pointing up to his smiling face and at the very moment of the shutter click, a shooting star lit up the background sky which together with his smile helped to cast The Union in the light of something that was magical and benevolent, the absurdity of his form being the result of nowt more than playfulness. In considering what journalist might ask about the concept and the message I found myself at a partial loss to answer. Who can really say what precise experiences and impulses set such a thing in motion? On the one hand, I remember it arising from a certain frustration the depth of which seemed endless. Yet it seemed disingenuous to pass the whole thing off as the playful endeavour of people with too much time on their hands. A folly. Yet as I explored my own laughs while I reviewed The Union in all his glory- the daft unions of shapes and materials, and the content of the written humour, I realised there was something in that very laugh that was not pure passing joy. In it was not only the joke , but the thought of how others would react. If they were puzzled, even slightly put out at a form that was twisted several degrees away from the reliable standard forms on offer to the eyes whilst they pass through their normal lives, this pleased me; the thought of their contorted faces, their baffled grimaces gave me a deeper victorious laugh, as if I had brought them face to face with all alternative ways of looking. It was a slap in the face to all those who said you must get a job with a local firm, marry a solid partner, get a mortgage and for god’s sake have children. To anyone who had ever scorned me for bucking the system, and by the system I didn’t necessarily mean the entire prescription that humans were expected to blindly follow. I also meant every little deviation from rational expectations. What came to mind most readily was an incident that I repeatedly played when considering this matter. It had happened several years before. I was working in a flour mill, sweeping a barn. It was one of those casual Friday afternoons when all the week’s work had been done and now a little clean-up was required to look busy. I was given the task of sweeping the barn. I swept away quite happily with no particular plan. Yes, there were more efficient ways of doing, more logical options that would make the whole task easy and quickly completed, but I felt absolutely fine about swishing around arbitrarily as my whims dictated. I liked the sound of the bristles and the elegant circles I made. I liked the perverse sense that my operation was disordered, wild and free. I found my own rhythm, my own timing. It was like a dance between man and broom. But the foreman insisted that there was a ‘better’ way of doing it, that I should start at one end of the barn and work in parallel lines. Further to that I should brush away from the breeze, otherwise I was just creating more work for myself. Of course he was right from a certain viewpoint, but his way bored me. It was unnatural. Yet it represented the intelligence of the normal, reasonable man and thus his entire society. I wanted a world of beautiful disorder and asymmetrical chaos and perhaps The Union single-handedly conveyed that.

One cold Friday when the mountain fog seemed stuck in the valley and the sheep were bleating their frozen breath in the meadow a few journalists turned up. I stared out the window. It was the cold silver of one of the cars that held my attention for a little too long. Not that I subscribed to any particular aesthetic principle but I was almost offended by how incongruent it looked. Against a background of grey barns or dull autumnal grass it simply did not belong. And there was something cheap, tinny and ungainly about the way it staggered into a parking position. I guess it threw me into a private and passing tapestry of the hapless visits of sales representatives to my father’s farm and of a time when I was myself the salesman’s role, selling textured wall coating, with a cheap car full of empty crisp packets and pork pie wrappers from roadside petrol stations. Those days filled me with virtual shame as I remember trying to affect the persona of such a type and in the end believing that I had truly transformed into a person who, whilst broadly difficult to define, had some clear traits like feeling like he was a smart guy, superior to the prospect, streetwise, worldly wise, a fast-talking patter merchant; life was about selling using all the psycho techniques available - In just the Luciae way that politics undergraduates tell you that everything is about politics, from the coffee you drink to the way you walk.  I repulsed at the delusions I must have been under then. That silver car caused that. And when I briefly paired the car with The Union in the Luciae frame of vision I was shocked by the ugliness of the contrast.

Miles Schaefer, a journalist for a British Arts magazine, spent a couple of hours taking photographs. Each time he pressed the shutter freezing a moment in time I too mentally pressed a shutter as if my inner camera were recording him. This was a type of childish revenge for his crime of exploitation of The Union. Once I reasoned myself away from such immaturity, I became aware that I was involved in a highly metallic tapestry, what with The Union, Schaeffer’s car and the camera. This fed into me images of studded bridges, cold corrugated sheets of metal shed roofs, the inauguration of new high speed trains in old train station, construction yards and pipes of scaffolding, oddly in some unknown Asian destination. Perhaps the hardness of these images returned me to imagining I was the ultra-pragmatic doer. Life was a series of physical challenges. Schafer would go, then others would need attending, cups of tea would need to be made, I would offer my story in factual easy-to-write ways, then in the afternoon I would make some sensible plans about my future.

However, the sun unexpectedly appeared, casting the whole farmyard plus The Union in a cool orange. The metal looked less energetic and forceful, the scene became one of quietened rusticity and I was oddly a farmer again, a proud man of the land. I looked forward to tilling and cultivating and drilling and harvesting. But then suddenly it struck me than none of that would now take place; for we were now a farm without implements, and at the moment Schaffer suddenly asked about how we intended to farm next year.

 

 

Schadenfreude

I noted some changes since the building of The Union. Mark was newly sensitive to nature, taking long walks out into the more distant mountain, sketching boulders or watching clouds, and from what I could perceive by intangible little micro-events his love-making with local girls had become more sensual and slower. For Eric’s part a certain vagueness in his character, which revealed itself with his every utterance, solidified as he stepped out of the shadows and became a driving force behind small, mundane projects, like cleaning the house, food shopping or pooling our money for weekly expenditures. And me? Well, I was for a while less into myself and more into the idea of dissolving myself into a group, a team. Somehow our fused energies had produced something marvelous and I realized that within that fusion I was liberated. However, I was also aware that my freedom was entirely conditional upon remaining in close cahoots with my colleagues. Any petty argument or inevitable discord, however slight, could have me clambering back into the safe chamber of my independent self.

We covered The Union with tarpaulin for the winter and largely forgot about him. Reminders came in the form of published articles about him, and requests to come and see him, which we mainly postponed until Spring. We were also waiting for a decision by a German gallery to buy him, the price and delivery method being rather difficult for any of us to fix. If the deal went ahead, it could result in the type of fame that had lately appealed to us all.

We all played the waiting game in our own sweet way, and a certain boredom seemed to create tension and before long we had retreated to our previous footings with one another. My lengthy wanderings into myself while among the pines or the ruins or the valley ridge resumed but were now without the contrast of labouring on the farm. The Union had brought many things but had robbed us of the implements to farm properly. Initially, we were unbothered but then it was as if a mist of guilt settled on the farmstead and we all felt unsettled and restless. With no daily labour to do our waking hours became disordered and on any given night one of us might be hyper alert under the ravages of insomnia and take to wandering about outside, playing on Mark’s drums or in my case speaking to the goats in the moonlight. I figured that if I never conquered much in the world I would have it known that for one rare period in my life I spoke to moonlit goats and that this was a noble and beautiful thing to do.

I wondered frequently about Lucia and found myself simply annoyed that the ghost of her still haunted me. It was an inconvenience like  recurring lumbago where the slightest change in posture can inadvertently bring about streams of pain, and you simply cannot be so hypervigilant so as preserve constant rigidity. Slips occur, during sunsets, during alcohol binges and at other times when the matter stares you in the face you amaze yourself with your nonchalant handling of it.

Eric and Mark were in a bar one night so I found myself in the house alone that night. The house in my imaginings had somehow grown another layer of intelligent life, which aroused my speculative juices. Over time do we confer more of our psychic energy on our houses? Certainly The Union had caused changes within us that in spiritual circles might be called ‘growth’. This particular house had never seemed like a sponge to me, rather it held an autonomous psyche, one whose spirit was free, self-determining, even imposing. It was palpably different and I had the unnerving feeling that somehow the more I was on to it, that it was on to me. I laughed at that. More wine, more laughter. The skirting board was funny, the way it failed to meet the floor junction flush in almost any part of the room. The tiny central light was funny. It did such a pathetic job of lighting the room. Even the fading grey border between the lit part of the ceiling and the shaded part became a source of triumphant laughter. I was on fire with merriment and endless absurdity. My own gathering drunken-ness another beacon of hilarity in hazily amusing world. I laughed at the casually strewn positioning of the chairs, the block-iness of the table and the kitchen sink especially amused me with its aesthetic awkwardness and lofted position. It was in form and location quite the most ridiculous of things.

I spent a good half an hour laughing at that house and enraptured I was by the colours and shapes of my laughter, large arching flames flecked with crimson and gold. I began to see my laughter as a tangible entity which I was pouring out into the world, washing the very walls of the house with it. Did it, I wonder, have a life of its own after I had set it free? Did it fill the molecules of the wall paint with my essence? I wondered if its form could be seen by a sensitive dog or whether it could be carried away by the breeze, flash into the crowns of faraway birches and bring them some joy, which of course would be reflected, not in the fragile twigs but in the barks of the trunks which would gain that yellow glow as if electrified by July sunshine. And in my wheezing recoveries between each burst I was struck by the sense that I was merely a vessel or better said a channel for a laughing entity up there beyond somewhere. It was my laugh. It was everybody’s laugh. Was the world the better for it? I was sure that the grass outside knew about it, certainly the young pines and The Union with whatever consciousness he may possess must have perceived its ripples. Laughter, I thought, may just be like an invisible liquid soap washing the world clean of negative vibes.

 

 

 

 

 

Big Reality

I drank a glass of cold Rioja staring at the floral green wall above the hissing fire and suddenly had the sense that I was closer than ever before to the fire. The armchair had not been moved, a fact I verified by observing the long-established carpet dents just under the feet of the chair. My eyes were hardly likely to have suddenly started magnifying things, so I was left with the troubling conclusion that the wall had moved slightly inwards. The house was closing in on me. I then looked at the kitchen area and that too seemed much nearer. The other vague idea that floated around me was that somehow reality was becoming nearer, sharper, bigger, but this was too hazy a notion to develop. Was all phenomena becoming larger? Was I becoming smaller? Was the housing reducing me to a pin prick? This final idea caused intense laughter, especially as I imagined a reduced version of Mark, Eric and myself, somehow explaining our plight to a confused and romantically disinterested Lucia. That aside, the matter puzzled even irritated me rather than producing anything approaching fear. It seemed to me that this was the sort of childish antics to which such an entity would resort, especially as a kind of retaliation for me spraying its walls with my laughter vomit. Besides which, a piece of news had seeped in to my understanding, so slowly that its importance whilst large had unconsciously become just a matter of fact to me. This was the idea that the house was my conscience. It was a judging, fearing part of me that had projected itself onto the walls that contained me. This now seemed obvious to me. Yet I was amazed at how relaxed I was with this strange state of affairs.

My bedroom seemed to arrive to me rather than I to it. The curtains, the moonlight window, the purple mattress were briefly entirely new to me, the belongings of another person. And in the mirror above the chest of drawers I looked upon myself as if meeting myself for the first time. There I saw an undefinable somebody whose character was perhaps detectable through the three shades of blue in his eyes. I couldn’t look for long for laughter turned to rising fear troubled and confused me. I was both my usual self plus the observer of him and yet fear seemed to arise in both entities. Then I wondered if I was only the image in the mirror while the person looking into the mirror was somebody else. Had I somehow transferred myself to my reflection? Was my true identity in my shadow rather than in the body that cast it? That seemed a reasonable deal as it implied far less responsibility than being the shadow caster. To be the consciousness of the shadow, to live in that cool graininess, forever a reflector rather than a protagonist might be my calling. I fell into a drunken sleep.

 

Later insomnia came a calling so in the dead of that night I left the house, clambered up the valley slopes with a torch in my hand and once among the first three pines immediately more earthy sensations arose. The stillness of the landscape, the endless climbs into the milky starlight sky, a hooting owl and a chill in the air all pulled me into the vibe of nature. My hands gripped a bendy bough of one of the pines and with a little scrambling around I managed to ladder my way up the close network of branches to a springy crown from where I perched myself, whispering into the night with my entire body. At the moment, I think I desired nothing more than to melt into the air. Happily, I would have become the night sky or the minor currents of air breathing on the branch tips. I would have become a lonesome black bear, all soul and instincts, devoid of thought and ambition. Yet there was another rising thought which swam its way through the waves of all others and that was to somehow answer an unknown question. For the first time I saw my inner disquiet was like the profound yearning for an answer to an unknown question, and then all around in that pale black air, in the jet black clumps of grass and the dark needled tips of the pines and in the very me that breathed I saw but two things in either awkward union or beautiful contrast, depending on how I chose to view them, and that was in everything there existed this polarity of question and answer, my only real disquiet being my failure to define and name these twin elements. I didn’t know the question and I didn’t know the answer and that caused a deep tension. However, I was sure that any such question was related to Lucia. It now seemed clear to me that I had undervalued her. I remembered Mark saying there was such chemistry between us, yet at the time I felt such a chemistry betrayed something base about me. I would have preferred to be chemically compatible on more intellectual terms.

Given the vibe of humour still simmering away inside me, I found myself immediately reflecting humorously on my discovery of question and answer, as though it were a laughable plight. I cast Mark as the protagonist in my little drama- a profound existential dilemma rather than a slip on a banana skin. There and then in that little baby pine I laughed out of myself what seemed like years of tension. I laughed like a terrier, a baboon, perhaps even like a whale, and that little pine waved and staggered under my violent contortions until finally a major supporting branch snapped, sending me bristling down the trunk to slap the flat damp earth.

The Field

The next day the sky was a light grey with darker charcoal mottles. If I kept my eyes entirely on the sky I could convince myself that I lived in a black and white photo, circa 1935. I was a baggy trousered farmer who knew very little about the world, a grafter though; I worked from dawn to dusk, heaving bags and animals around, my forearms tanned and bulbous. Such a fantasy was a marvelous escape from the complexity that I actually was, but it never gained momentum. Simplicity, attractive as it maybe, especially as an escape from complexity, is rarely sustainable. In the Luciae way that complexity is unsustainable if generated by a simplistic persona.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t only the black and white sky that simplified my thought; I had woken up feeling a few layers lighter, as if I had spent a few weeks locked into an intense chess game and now the only thing on my agenda was to play frisbee with a dog. I even toyed with the notion that actually I was just a simple chap, to whom life and too much idle time had made complicated. All my introspections could be seen as if in parenthesis, and that the real me was the person I was when last uncomplicated, let’s say 15 years previously, and this current version. Everything in between was a strange aberration of which I was a victim.

In only three days later I found I was far from simple again. I had spent the morning dragging a lattice of branches over a field in a truly pathetic attempt to harrow down the larger clods of earth.  An event in the morning had sent spun me into a mad daze. I had seen Lucia in the town which meant at least she was alive. She didn’t see me. She looked slimmer, older perhaps. While I refused to think about her I found myself driven into introspection.

 The sky was a frozen white, the air damp and cold. Crows littered the sky squawking uncontrollably adding a sour note to an otherwise still, harmonious scene. That sour note was all I could hear. It pulled me in and kept resonating in my ears. Nature speaks. Does it speak directly to the experiencer? Does it use metaphor? The outside is a reflection of the inside and all that so what sour note was in my stillness? What were the crows in my sky? I dropped my ‘harrow’ and once again became aware of that inner disquiet, this time however, it was labelled as the unknown question-answer riddle, less to do with me and more related to existence itself. This tidy label may have dampened some of its fervour, but It still played out in everything I did- time alone, especially so. Then there was the tapestry of that day which had started in the kitchen that morning; I had been more intensely aware of the house’s apparent shrinkage and with tables, chairs, windows and walls all seeming bigger and closer that I fell under the impression that a certain net was closing in on me. This made me wary of looking at anything for fear that I would see it nudge a milimetre closer to me. The entire outer world was slightly more hostile and thus I found myself in the centre of our largest field (using harrowing as an excuse) in an attempt to gain space. And in that space I was but a sedated little bug, crawling around in circles apparently lost in the magnitude of those acres which bordered a neighbouring farmer’s even greater lands. My eyes reveled in the distance now between me and any other standing items-the nearest tree was half a kilometre away. Once again the farmstead and the me of the recent past were belittled by distance and I could breathe more deeply than I recently had. I pulled in large lungfuls of cool field air and felt myself to hold some new vantage point whereby I could make sense of everything again. How had I got myself confused again? Need I really remind myself that there was only this unknown question-answer dilemma playing itself out under the subsoil of my character? Pulling that pathetic harrow, even pretending that I was an ox helped me a little, for I could give up some of my attention to this new confusion and allow for part of me to feel active and purposeful and thus these grew until I was a human-ox hybrid.

I remember once, while travelling on a train through the Cambridgshire Fens, a thought hit me, not I thought that I apparently generated myself, but rather one given to me, like an insight. It ran something like this:

Everybody has their own field somewhere. Not an area of study or a specialism but an actual field. All the components of that field are entirely tailor-made and you’ll just know at first sight. Often it’s a brief glimpse from a hurtling train. Something in the curves of the land or in the starkness, or the pastel shades of a young crop, or a certain winding path and your heart will know for certain that it is has found its own field. The soil chooses a loam to suit your individual tread and the plants that grow arrange themselves to mirror your soul. The wafts and scents ferment and whoosh, and attune with your own melodies- this partial rejigging ensues like a cat precisely bedding itself. All energies refine themselves as you reach the centre point; for that is the place you must begin your ‘fielding’. First in little whispers you utter your thoughts and as you gain confidence great oratory heights are reached. Out it all comes- the bitter regrets, the secret desires, the hopeless dreams, the yelps and sobs of broken love, the glory never lived, sinewy spittle droops to the earth and tears flick away in the wind and when the nerves settle down, you find the steely tone of truth and yet more truths that live beside each other. Then comes the irony of it all, that here alone in this great space I was only ever a voice within a body ha ha ha and you laugh until your voice is hoarse and your stomach numb.

You outstretch your arms and great roars of truthful simplicity crack the air, as you direct your words to god above and to the passing train. Then comes the urge to bare yourself. The clothes come off and the dance begins. Hops and twists and wind-milling arms. Then, as always happens, the energy is so great the only course of action left is to run to run hard and wild round your field shouting and screaming, to run and run and punch the air, till finally you come to rest in a pool of blissful naked nirvana. It is then time to return to your life but fielding will arise again and again, perhaps every week until finally you will disappear into the centre point vortex and never be spoken about again.

As I now stood in that field, the breeze ruffling the nape of my neck, the harrow cast aside, now looking like an abandoned bonfire, I knew it wasn’t my field albeit a very attractive one with its gentle sloping down to the river and a colourful mixture flowers and weeds. The rise at the north corner took the eyes above the tree line to a sparse horizon that seemed to suggest a land from another planet. Unlikely to cause me to strip off and run around. Yes, there was that plus I was hungry and the very land, the herby air instilled in me the sense of a meaty dish. In fact, strangely that horizon reminded me of Lucia as it was a compelling mixture of bland and pristine, dull yet flawless. How often Lucia appeared in nature. How often everything appeared in nature. I returned to the idea that it was not my field.

I looked again around the land to the cracked stones and hard pebbles of earth that I had unsuccessfully broken down with the harrow. In contrast, a fairly ugly scene and thanks to the tapestry of the day (the sense that things were closing in on me) finding my field seemed to be of immediate urgency. And that urgency expressed itself in the tension I could now see between the jagged stones, that had been formed by years of battery by farming machinery, and the much smoother little clods of dry earth. Not only did they aesthetically contrast but the scattering of stones was so unattractively distributed- there were dense constellations and then pure Earth and then maybe an odd number of stones asymmetrically placed, then perhaps the pulpy remains of a thistle stalk next to which a random green stalk of some bold new weed, which the pseudo harrow had missed. In my field I would hope to find a casual harmony of elements which would naturally please my eyes.

A scan around the farm showed cold wet corners, dry high lands, isolated sunny spots, meandering lanes with dancing shadows, a reddish earth that which offered a spicy smell to the westerly breeze. The young pines on the side of deep green valleys and a light brown spinney of mature chestnuts waved around and me as a young boy would have said that their movements caused the breeze. The farmstead contained the magnificence of The Union, several pleasingly dishevelled barns and the strangely discordant house whose true agenda remained a mystery. If I squinted my eyes and let everything be a blur I noticed how profoundly pleasing the whole diffusion was to my eyes. The colours and textures washed and the shards of images melted into a whole. I refocused and squinted again marvelling at my power to change the phenomena around me. Perhaps, I thought, the whole farm was my field. It held the eclectic energy that kept me interested and while my first introduction to the field had not inspired in me the desire to get naked and run madly around it had in respect stuck a chord in me. These chord strikes often seem more visible in retrospect as at the time more dominant voices are grandstanding- either I was suffering the toil of maintaining a polite conversation or I was famished from a long journey.

From the top of the ruins I had once caught a glimpse of a green golden meadow on a neighbouring farm which seem to hold a true spirit of promise. The type of grass was different from the local one. It had long soft blades of a rich green perhaps from an Irish land or of a fairy tale set in an enchanted forest where there were unicorns and pots of gold. Somewhere inside me, in a small pocket of vague consciousness a part of me yearned to be there where the grass was literally greener and where some sort of magic could happen. This meant technically trespassing, but farmers in that area were entirely unbothered by such things. Besides, there was only the slimmest chance of being seen, as this field was clearly not being farmed and therefore needed no attention. I had slithered through the densely planted birch spinney, each step rather more poignant as I approached this fine green rug of a field.

How deep is a field? After one metre down is it still a field? Of course there must be some cut off point but there was something about that green field that was especially cosmetic. It was indeed soft underfoot as I had imagined it to be and the grass held the golden hue even up close.  A furry little cloud sailed by the pale sky and then the first rays of what seemed like a very distant sun shone through the forest, glistening the tips of the grass. It was indeed beautiful, and I got the sense that rather as was said of many beautiful women, and she knows it. From afar I had suspected that she was rather full of herself and now I was upon her I could detect all sorts of flaws. The breeze, stifled by the birches, suddenly gained in pace when it reached little Miss Green. This caused a sudden gust to attack the grass and thus she seemed to be imperiously flicking her hair. To speak of a field as having a sense of humour is a stretch but I do remember a meadow in Wales that convinced me that it was laughing when the high winds ripped along the cliffs. Little Miss Green though had that awful tendency to use clichéd jokes which she had unconsciously absorbed from the culture around. That she was unconscious of this and that she was so second-hand repelled me. And annoyingly, in terms of looks, she was out of my league, far too pretty and ornate. I was to her a ruffian, an impertinent rube who should leave immediately. She was my intellectual equal and as pretty as a flower, yet she was rigid and constrained, besides which she wanted me out.  This suited me fine, for I had no time for such arrogance. So I stomped irreverently back to the border of the birches and through to our land and cursed her until I laughed.

Perhaps it was time to give considerations of romance and self altogether. I could leave the farm. New places, new faces; perhaps a trip to India. I’d heard India could really bring things into perspective for you.

I finished scanning the farm and playing with images and playfully trudged back to the homestead like my boots were made of concrete. My hands quickly froze, while I sat on a log, staring into the air. I was sure I could actually see the wind. It was a burnt orange to match any winter sunset, and in it I saw curly lines and what looked like broken music annotations. Around the stout oak trees near the homestead were glowing yellow auras, throbbing, blinking like starlight. Could I smell vinegar or creosote or white spirit? There was this sour scent I had first noticed some days previously. It was in the air, in the trees. Was it wafting over from the west? Was it the smell of a sunset? Yet, as I recalled the smell was in the house the other day when I had been with Mark, and so too was it in the young pines. In fact, it had been present almost everywhere I had lately been.  Little doubt could now prevail over the matter and any reasonable man would conclude the Luciae: It was it all coming from me.  I smelled of vinegar. It was the smell of my essence. Perhaps not my original essence but what I had become. It was the smell of a confused soul, a drifting troglodyte. Presumably Mark and Eric smelled the Luciae although I hadn’t noticed. I wondered if it was obvious to others and whether I had been subconsciously aware of it for years. Had it supplied me with just the slightest of upturn noses and the subtlest of cynical scowls? Actually, to say it was merely vinegar would be a crude simplification. If one had the interest, one could detect subtle notes of hops, ginger and perhaps slightly raw blackcurrants. Perhaps all of us have an array of fragrances that are unconsciously detected by others and perhaps that invisible x factor that would make you gravitate towards a character believing him to be charismatic or to be repelled by its antithesis was all happening at an olfactory level. As the orange wind bit into my fingers I let the shock of my discovery subside while I began to think of myself as a strange form of being- basically a fragrance, basically vinegar.

I noticed my movements changed. I was gliding along, wafting around, and when I went to bed I drifted under the duvet, then smiled to myself as I felt I had countered the house’s attack because however much it encroached upon me I could simply whoosh through its veins or mould myself around its shifting forms. I also saw little point in checking my appearance in the mirror for it would only show me a larger solid form which in no way encapsulated who I now believed myself to be. I was a spirit, better said, I was a gas, which could not be trapped. I was born to float freely and to dip my tentacles into several spaces at once, at my best while drifting like a thin silk sheet in the wind, or compressing myself into a small blue ball, intensifying, intensifying.

Somewhere in my dreams that night I dreamt of a world of fragrances in which Lucia smelled of freshly baked bread, cream and perhaps elderflower cordial, but on top of that and more dominantly placed was the strong sweetness of pure heather honey, the honey trickled in slowly and stuck to your pallete. No wonder she was so alluring to us all.

The next day the sky had the yellow of promise and the pale dusty blue of French postcards of the 60s, and in every respect it seemed that I was now living in another dimension of the Luciae farm. Once Lucia had left Mark’s bed we ate a breakfast together of wholemeal bread and plum jam and Eric’s fairly weak coffee. We spoke of The Union, of the state of the neglected farm, of Lucia’s pure brown body and we laughed a lot, as it seemed that we were all redundant in our own lives. What happened next depended on other people and other events. We could lounge around the farm and watch the weeds grow. They could grow right up to the eves of the farmstead and little would we care. That was one of our uniting traits; we didn’t care much about the Luciae things and any  superficial anarchy in our lives was the source of humour rather than despair. 

I noticed my conversation was more wafty and watery. One idea associated with a stream of ideas which all flowed out of me in a type of gaseous intonation. My aim wasn’t to say truthful things or rational things. It was just to flow outwards in lyrical verbiage. Let the vibe of my utterances be my truth. That’s not to say that I was speaking gibberish, merely that what I said, if presented on the page, would be littered with the teacher’s red ink. Yet, Eric and Mark, heard my truth. We understood one another in ways we didn’t understand.

I also noticed that behind the scenes as it were I had given up fear and interest in the house. It was as if a mini psychosis had left me (or a deeper one had begun) I was then entirely indifferent to the house. In fact, it seemed to me that since warmer weather was on its way, sleeping outside might be a fine idea. So with my new tapestry of being a wafty gas and everything appearing transitory and insubstantial I floated around the farm, seeking out a place to lay my head that night. The ruins somewhat tantalised me- I would be stepping back in time, connecting with the spirits of that place, but the old chicken shed which we used for storing hay bales seemed the most exciting. I found a shelf midway up the stack, covered it with tarpaulin and my duvet and by early afternoon settled into my new bedroom, viewing it as a kind of light, virtual home which would evaporate in short time.

Many things that I looked at that day seemed capable of that evaporation. Clouds faded in the sky and as I looked at the oak trees and the birch spinney I somehow expected them to do the same. Thoughts arose briefly blossomed then puffed out like snuffed out candles. My eyes looked for swirling translucence which I was sure I could see in the fiery February winds as they whipped through the valley with their pale orange capes. In the shear waftiness of my being I felt that the old inner disquiet had disappeared into a category in my head marked, irrelevant. I was newly born into the world with a blossoming sense of purpose which I had truly never quite had. Certainly, I had focused my energies into one area or another, but that had always felt like I was squeezing myself into a mould, the shape of which I far from resembled. Now I was suddenly all encompassing, the genuine and most elaborate expression of the free-spirit. I could picture myself being all over the farmstead with my consciousness spread into a multitude of simultaneously occurring events: alone in by bedroom; drunk and drooling with Mark and Eric; playing in the orchard with Lucia, her floral dress swirling around; among the young pines; on the valley ridge sucking up the melancholic darkness and in places and guises far beyond the farm. I was the witty bar fly, the lover in the sunset orchard, the innocent boy among the hazel coppice, startled at every sound, the worldly wise traveller aboard the ferry boat, the deep thinker ambling through a moody Prague, the street wise cynic on a new employment induction day in a three star London Hotel, the cold-hearted rational dealing with the uncaring job-for-life bureaucrat, the physically focused farm worker undoing rusty tractor screws wet with morning dew, the suited exec on a fast train, the non-dualist guru pouring forth an impromptu satsang on a spring flavoured mountain in Scotland. I was many things.

Sleeping In The Arms Of The One You Love

On colder nights I returned to the bedroom which now seemed to be firmly back in the possession of the house. There were no traces of my vinegar essence there, merely a woody dampness and the faintest whiff of old masonry. After spending more time outside and perhaps because of the apparent shrinkage of the house it seemed especially small. I couldn’t imagine why a house was ever an acceptable place to be. All around you is the reminder of your limits. The walls are the borders of what you could afford and thus your space in this entire universe is proportionately demarcated. And the builders never told you that the house once built becomes its own spirit, a form of artificial intelligence- designed and continuously influenced by you but capable of independent determination and that if you’re not on your guard it will take you over, for a house is in continuous psychic flux just like a human. I was better off outside under the stars, keeping the house at a distance. I also enjoyed having The Union in my vision and there was something supreme about the precise distance that existed between us. I never put myself within what I regard was his domain- the main tyre-worn yard around which bordered the barns. That distance had a warmth, a noble respect, the type that would keep us in a grand harmony forevermore. I sometimes looked up at his hastily drawn face and thought I saw a wink or an upturn in the lips, causing me to imagine that one day he might engage in motion and what next? Maybe conversation, and oh what things must exist in such an absurd entity!

One day cold crunchy-leaf day I saw a bicycle at the beginning of the farm track, probably a little boy, I thought. When they got nearer I could see the slower steadier control of a bike of an adult. Perhaps someone from the village wanting a picture of The Union. They reached the redundant old beware-of-the-dog sign. Now it seemed like it was a woman - long hair blew around. It could have been a man but there was a certain un-male-like silkiness to the hair. I reasoned that it might be one of Mark or Eric’s conquests arriving for an impromptu breakfast. I took my eyes off the girl and returned to my slumber on the hay bales. Shortly after a tap on the barn door. Strange. Eric and Mark never knocked. Perhaps the girl had lost her way. I arranged myself with a look if not tidy, then scruffy hip. I opened the door to the cold brightness of day and there she was.

 Lucia had spent 3 months volunteering in an orphanage and while she was away realised that her time with me was the finest she had known. She said she had always loved me and had only slept with Eric and Mark to gain a kind of bohemian credibility and now she felt so ashamed. This was what she had wanted to tell me before she went away. I was flabbergasted. But while she was ranting I realised that I felt a deeper union with her, something had changed in me and in her, I reckoned. She seemed more worldly, older. We spent a long time talking and then kissed, a new kind of kiss, a kiss of warm rightness, not lust. I didn’t know what it all meant. Maybe nothing. But I was glad she was back. Over the next few days I continued with a vibe of completion, closure, renewal, not desirous of much, at ease and ready for a new chapter. I wandered the valley and talked to the pines and the goats.

One night Lucia joined me in the ruins. We lit a fire and snuggled up in duvets. I fried some eggs and toasted some bread on sapling twigs. The fire spat fat sparks up into the dark blue sky. Lucia and I held hands silently, two silhouettes in loving union and we revelled in the purity of our blackness, the purity of our hollowed forms. Perhaps for moments we were merely empty vessels through which the great energy of the universe flowed, unmediated by our thoughts or desires. So when we emerged back into conversation we were lighter, cleaner versions of ourselves, chatting away as if meeting for the first time and suddenly finding so much in common. In that light she was no longer a golden goddess, rather she seemed simply a woman with a raging, beating heart and a soulfulness, perhaps previously lost on me. There was a lyricism in her sentences, a lilting up and down reflective of emotions and yet these were not the childish emotions of a histrionic teenager. These were the deep rhythmic movements of the soul in the direct light of reality, contracting, expanding, responding, connecting, flowing, reshaping, glowing then fading, glowing then fading. And all this was filtered through a simple minded being whose vocabulary and power of description and recourse to hackneyed ideas, borrowed from her immediate society, were poor channels for her vast soul. This tension I suddenly saw, perhaps in the premature wrinkle of her brow, perhaps even in the way her perfectly formed hands grasped one another tightly during such chats.

 The next day offered a rich blue sky and I saw the first white blossom on a thorn tree. I swear the young pines were whispering something to one another and I followed a cat who belonged to the neighbouring farmer and whose regular tendency was to hunt along the side of the birch spinney. I was mesmerised by his cat behaviour of stretching and yawning and suddenly friskily playing with invisible things. I wondered if he saw the orange in the wind or the musical annotations. In the late afternoon was on a jagged boulder which had a perfect shelf on which to sit. There was no wind today. All was calm. Lucia was at my side. I stared into the sunset with right into its heart and then zoomed out and let all the peaches and pinks and oranges lick my eyes. I imagined standing behind myself and seeing my own silhouette. What would I have imagined about that motionless man? Perhaps not a man but simply a silhouette. And as so often I absorbed my surrounding long enough to go through a now familiar process of first losing all sense of identity and then effectively assuming the identity of the observed object. Tonight I was becoming the sun, although somehow I never truly regarded sunsets as having anything to do with the sun. For me they were like the visible truth of everything writ large in the sky. In their centre I was born and after death I will return there, either to join the giant glow or to pass through to who knows where, onto a golden stairway and up into the cosmos. Such thoughts passed as I rested in my new awareness that I was a vast omnipresent gas of consciousness, which meant I was nothing particular, however alluring particularity might be. And Lucia and I was so fused that when I spoke about myself it was with the inclusion of her. In spirit we were one solitary a blue-gold union.

Before the sun fully dropped and the land gave way to the inky blue sky I saw the skinny frame of Mark waving his hands up and down, apparently attempting to beckon me. He broke into a run and I could hear the muffled sounds of his shouts. Unless an emergency had occurred like Eric had drowned in the bath or Lucia had announced a pregnancy I couldn’t imagine why Mark would bother tracking me down; we all gave each other so much space that such intrusions were unthinkable. Yet he stumbled along the bumpy land and then across the soft old pea field to my jagged rock. I barely moved as I was more or less paralyzed by my nature trance. Any movement was an effort bordering on pain.

Once he had reached my side, panting hard, bent over like a vomiting drunk he excitedly announced that he had just come off the phone to a renowned art collector who wanted to pay an extraordinary sum for The Union. It ran into several millions, enough to afford us a comfortable life anywhere on the planet, and Mark had unreservedly accepted the offer. The Union was to be born unto the world.

 


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