June 2, 2008

There, in the waning light

Encountering a particular space that once held the greatest intimacies and the most undefined forces: the landscape where one grew up; a landscape, in this case, where the landscape meant livelihoods and seasonal shifts and crop changes; where the openness meant encounters that were almost always mediated by the car and driving; where the sensibilities were unknowingly taking shape.

This time the car is a rental. It is appropriate. This return is as tourist. It is not just that the land belongs to others. It is that the landscape as possession has passed, so that passing through brings the concentrated hour, or two, of borrowing; taking up the land's light and shapes for the sake of remembering palely the old sense of connection, the time when the turns in the country roads were taken with unthinking reflex and intuitive ease, when habit made true memory unnecessary. And this work of memory that dictates the navigations -- around the old town plaza, to the house that ancestors built just after the Bear Flag revolt, along certain backroads that once led to the houses of girlfriends -- also makes the present details all the more present. For while in this kind of transit, a return and something absolutely present and new, those details are filled with the clarity that comes from stripping away habits of non-seeing, of not having to hunger and hold to that which remains, dying there, in the waning light.

"The identification of immediate with past experience, the recurrence of past action or reaction in the present, amounts to a participation between ideal and the real, imagination and direct apprehension, symbol and substance. Such participation frees the essential reality that is denied to the contemplative as to the active life. What is common to present and past is more is more essential than either taken separately."
--Samuel Beckett, Proust