Friday, July 19, 2013

Pastwalking, or a Stroll through Spacetime

On Wednesday I went on a very long walk. It took me back over ten years and five miles, and while it was not as poignant an experience as I suspected it might be, I did think things.

The trees along El Camino Real are labeled with small metal squares: CT and a number. California Tree Registry? I tried Google but I can find no official explanation for the tree labels. Whoever put them up, they’d be a good way to indicate a meeting place. Tree 108 was an elegant, long eucalyptus tree with its bark mostly peeled away.

I passed through a tunnel formed by bushy plants between sidewalk and street, tall fence between sidewalk and house, with trees hanging their branches overhead. Completely hidden, a tunnel of wood and leaf.

A bridge with metal struts and railings, but wooden planks, traversed a dry creek bed. Silver sharpie graffiti - or perhaps simple scratching through the rust? - seemed to say “Teucer”. I am almost certain I misread it.

One “local landmark” information stand was almost completely destroyed, the glass shattered and the paper water-stained. I was surprised not to see any graffiti within, and happy.

A massive building, a new hospital, with more than eight storeys, loomed up - an edifice of blue glass with a silver metal exoskeleton, towering over the idyllic single-family suburban houses. At the top of the building there seemed to be smokestacks, though I know they were something else.

I passed the house in which I grew up. I had forgotten that the street number sign was made of stained glass. The massive tree that stood in the front yard was taken down - I believe it was ill - and a new one grows in its place, still small enough to need a stake. I wish luck to the children who now live in that place.

My old middle school - man. I never really had closure with that place. Once I graduated I had nothing more to do with it. I was thinking of the future, of my brilliant (ha) high school career. I haven’t been back since I moved and it was strange walking those halls again.

The greatest wave of nostalgia came for the library. It is beautiful, like a ship’s prow breaking over the wide-open blacktop. I glimpsed the interior, the steps leading down to the central area, a ziggurat in reverse and just as holy. If I hadn’t had that library, I would have done something drastic. Middle school was an unhappy time...That library was home to me. I discovered many, many great books through it.

I ate half of my lunch on the steps of the outdoor assembly area - that is, the steps that surround the field. It has always reminded me of a Greek amphitheater. I stared out over the field - plastic turf now - and thought about how, in my long story “Mind Butcher”, it is on a field based on my memory of this one that Vin reaches the Threshold a second time.

Back to my elementary school now. All the schools in my town seem to be undergoing renovations. But the gate was unlocked so I trespassed. I went up to the first floor (I’m counting ground level as “floor 0”) of the new building and sat down, to survey all I could see. The place has changed so much from when I was there, whereas my middle school is the same. The old play structure is long gone; there’s this entire new building; I couldn’t get into the main wings to see what other changes have taken place, but I’m sure they have.

Could they at least paint over that salmon pink? It was dark green in my early years there. I preferred that.

The overhanging chain-link cage around the baseball diamond had a lock on the top, useless. Of course, being me, I wondered what might happen if you unlocked the lock. Would a portal to another world open? Such portals there were, in this place, a long time ago. I made them, and my friends made them. With our minds.

I made a pilgrimage to a place whose name I will not write here. It is a name that can only be transmitted by the breath and the mind. I have, in my GW world, deified entities associated with the place.

Too many people were in the park. I regretted that: how lovely it would have been to sit on the swings. In elementary school I imagined myself on an elephant, on my way to meet a dignitary. In middle school, walking to the same park for PE, I sat on the swings and imagined that I was a winged assassin.

I walked to a school I have never attended, a private Catholic school not far away, and trespassed. The door was open. The lights were on. No one was there to tell me to take my pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-Nietzsche atheist self out of the hallowed ground. I have no idea what I would have said if anyone had approached me.

I ate the second half of my lunch on the steps of the branch library. Once upon a time, this too was my haven.

From there I should have gone home, but instead I walked down my town’s “other” main street, then along until I found a place to cross the train tracks. On the steps leading down from the crossing platform, I sat for a long time. I imagined my ship was coming in. I looked over the wilds, the tall grasses and lonely trees flanking the tracks. Suburban fantasy was made for such places.

I thought arrogant thoughts about how I could have saved someone if only we’d been in the same class in sixth grade. I thought about my own arrogance. I thought about how very few of my stories have rivalries anymore, and how it would behoove me to change that.

The train passed by, its whistle urgent and sorrowing. The ground trembled beneath me. I wondered why it is that people choose to commit suicide by throwing themselves in front of a train. Though I understand how lovely it is to walk down the middle of a street, and sometimes, only if I’m alone, I pause in the middle of the tracks as I cross, and imagine.

If you know me in real life, stop worrying. I have too many things to do with my life to want to die so young.

I walked to another park and sat in the rose garden, and I thought about how much I loathe the sound of crying, screeching children. The most annoying sound…I cannot judge them too harshly. Still: loud people of any age immediately draw my hostility.

Yet there was beauty in the park as well. A great tree, its back arching graceful as a dancer’s, its branches reaching skywards. Another, like the prow of a ship cutting into the air.

I believe I was thinking much of ships on Wednesday, as I walked through space and my mind danced through time. I believe I miss the ocean. Before the summer ends for good, I should go. Journeys are good for the magician’s soul.



My first favorite song: "Papercut" by Linkin Park.

The sun goes down
I feel the light betray me
The sun...

1 comment:

  1. This makes me think I should go on this pilgrimage. I probably should