The Return Of The Outsider

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A wandering outsider clashes with hard-working farmer while exploring his vast inner world.

Submitted: September 07, 2016

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Submitted: September 07, 2016



A long day settles its end inside me. The farmer and son have made me sweat hard today. Muscles ache and a secret longing to escape my employment speaks its truth inside my belly. High in the sky there are cold lilac sheets and in front of me a shadowy melancholic land, the type that makes inner reflection inevitable. During the day I watch this hard land shifting. When I am only a farm worker focused on carting hay or on the straight lines of the plough, the land and sky are barely within my consciousness, yet when I m a casual rambler from afar others engaged in the same toil the land and sky are the highlights. They are the action, and then the activities of man seem like petty little scratchings within it and this is good because the tyranny of the farmer and son and the working world now seem insignificant.

My body is a little restless with an itchiness. Splendid cold streams of air force their way into my eyes. 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 lettuce 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.

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.

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 the farmer and his son. They are now miniatures, little ornaments in my landscape. Yet before they were imposing slave masters. In the spread of fifteen 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.

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. With my large hands dipped like paddles in the cold water of the stream, 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 practised labour at which I am competent, even masterful.

I remember that before we said goodnight the farmer vaguely outlined the work for tomorrow and from what I can picture it will involve an avenue of light, even enjoyable duties, intensify after lunch and culminate with a hot evening of muscle-tearing labour.

Never mind, tomorrow is far away.

Tapestry was my word for that collection of images, conversations and ideas all swimming around the psyche at any one moment. Sometimes such a collection produced a certain aesthetic theme and so beautiful they may become.  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 the farmer’s shotgun (This annoyed him). Then I deliberately walked along to an area of the farm 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. My dreams that night were almost entirely in sepia and the characters within them were less of flesh and more of wood.

With my inner work focused on feeding the tapestry I found myself grabbing for certain sensual components. It may be 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 over yonder, my body, even me itself were petty background considerations.

The next morning I awoke wrinkled-faced like a baby mole. 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  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 the farmer and his son’s voices, not their words, only noises that sound fresh and keen and I think of the golden coloured panels of the beehives.

The farmer was annoyed at my tardiness. While he told me off his son looked on disapprovingly in my direction.

The 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.

Later I was set down to the task of collecting honey. 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.

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, an imaginary conversation about pine furniture, the farmer’s beige neckerchief all contributed to a solid design. Using the fawn colour of a barn door was fine but this needed to be balanced with other forms, textures, smells and sounds, and could 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.

The farmer marched up to me, squelching his oversized boots. He was furious that it had taken me so long and accused me of spending most of my time in a dream world.

Next he gave me 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. I swung my sickle at the grass again and somehow missed my target. Blood poured from my ankle. Warm trickles formed a little metallic scarlet puddle. Suddenly I was too far into the fury of red.

The farmer’s pale cinnamon jumper, while he told me off again, helped me a little as it added a certain harmonizing layer to the confusing fragments. 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.

Later that day while we sat around the dinner table in a cold, catholic silence I looked at other images in the room. The farmer’s son’s birthday cards on the mantelpiece. I found myself wondering which of these images I would like to find myself in, assuming that these images were actually just little windows on real events. I 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.

The light of the morning was a little dimmer, still predominantly blue, but not the shiny blue of previous days. A 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 piqued 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.

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. The farmer yanked the door open, glared at me with cold wet eyes and then as if about to cry fired me. I scrutinised the way clenched one fists purple and slapped his other hand on the door to the rhythm of his list of complaints. I saw him as a lonely drummer on Suffolk beach at dawn under a black-eye sky. The whole thing was rather beautiful.


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