Far country falls

On that gray November day we settled into a small town on the west coast of Scotland. Most of the leaves were down and the colors resigned to brown, the red on the roadside you’d mistake for leaves was really the feathers of dead pheasants from China the Scots brought in to hunt but they’re not good around cars, so most you’ll see in ditches on the side of the road. I wanted to see what it felt like to be off the map, a Thanksgiving with just the four of us, a three-month road trip through the UK in a used German hatchback. The rental was called the chauffeur’s flat, adjoined to a Victorian-era castle with a long driveway lined with cypress trees. The clock outside our window in the courtyard was stuck on the wrong time: a time that was right until the moment it stopped working, the same feeling of timelessness I wanted, to see what would happen if I stopped working too.

On the last night the moon was full and though a storm kicked up and the winds were fierce I walked to the gardens by the loch to soak up what I could from the sound of the large swaying trees. And to be there beneath that foreign sky with the moon so cold, the flat so far away, I imagined my family inside and felt the distance between us, the need to give myself over to something I could not name or understand, a form of self-absorption so dense it allowed no light or perspective beyond itself. It led me into the dark under the guise of meaning but all it was was my reflection.

I was thinking my beard had retained its orange color despite the white but then I realized it was just dried egg yolk. A bit feebly I bent over the oven to steady the cooking rack like my dad did when he started getting old. Everyone was on their devices, the dog napping again. Blankets, the heater, a candle. Rain coming in. The sometimes roar of the oven like it was a living thing, the sound a deep gasp. Somehow the thought of time off is better than the act itself; anything’s possible before it starts. Without the routine of work I’d just fall into a different routine and wile away the time. Blow the leaves, take a bath, read, fix dinner, clean up, go to bed.

It’s the middle of November and the trees have lost most of their leaves, now resigned to brown with some red, though not much. I light a candle in the morning and walk to the lake, make sure the kids are up, fix breakfast. Refill the hummingbird feeders, that kind of thing. I take my time reading and will stop to watch a bird balance on a limb outside, or the pattern of the rain. I am out here again writing letters to myself and they take on the same singsong quality as the rain, another pattern. We operate under the ruse that time governs our lives but it’s how we spend our time more than time itself. And the same ruse, that our lives hold more meaning in the end. When we’re no different than any one of the leaves on the ground that lives its full season, and falls.

Image: Workshop of Giuseppe Arcimboldo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Categories: Memoir, travel, writing

Tags: , , , ,

18 replies

  1. A very handsome autumnal reflection. Maybe that’s the one symbol or symptom of our time, the all-consuming self-absorption, like that artist Kapoor, with his copyrighted blackest black, all the light being absorbed, or since you used “dense,” a black hole I guess. And you wove in a couple of deadpan touches I really enjoyed, the orange egg yolk, and the red leaves, that are actually remnants of imported pheasants, that never learned to dodge Scottish drivers. A place quiet enough to hear the oven coming on, or the rain, sounds very appealing right now.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Like Arcimboldo you deploy living things to present a portrait. Nice, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey good one Bruce! Just read that little piece you shared on neutral milk hotel and liked your comparison to Syd Barrett and early Wilco, good one…thanks for reading and for this nice comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Time’ll get ya thinking. Which makes sense, given it’s just a concept.

    I dig this: “A bit feebly I bent over the oven to steady the cooking rack like my dad did when he started getting old. Everyone was on their devices, the dog napping again. Blankets, the heater, a candle. Rain coming in. The sometimes roar of the oven like it was a living thing, the sound a deep gasp.” The image of the oven is especially nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah you and I could have fun with that time thing. And I’m super grateful to know you and for you being such an avid supporter of this blog for so long! Dude! You were there through all this…thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been meaning to respond to this for awhile. I did some research and it looks like I started “blogging” towards the end of 2013. If I remember correctly, your first visit was towards the end of 2014, on my post about capitalism, which was not at all representative of what I had been doing prior or would be doing after, and yet you hung around anyway. In my book, this qualifies you not only for being around from the beginning, but for some sort of award, for sure. Now, I haven’t done any research on on the other end of it, but I think your impression-of-Paul-Auster post might have been one of the first of yours that I read. And that would not have been reflective of any kind of time or date stamp since I believe you’d written it quite some time before and I’d only just clicked on it because it looked interesting. You nailed Auster’s voice in that one. And yes, good to know you too. Namaste, Duder

        Liked by 2 people

      • Well that’s interesting alright. 2013 you started? We had a good run together with that back and forth. Because I’m painfully sentimental I hope to do more of that, but it goes beyond sentiment to just wanting to read your writing too, always liked tuning in to whatever voice you were serving up yourself. That’s a nice insight you had about what’s reflective. I think it was just tuning in to something confident and strong, I liked in yours. And good to feel I’d been noticed by someone’s opinion I valued. Heck that’s why most of us do it probably. So nice to be associated here with you man.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. That Arcimboldo reminded me of an Hieronymous Boch painting that I sought out in Munich. It has the same kind of dense blackness that makes me shy away from retirement, even if it’s not all black. Thanks then for lighting your piece with just the right kind of colourful and provocative imagery.

    Now I had better steady myself for a trip to the stove to make breakfast. And a thought, maybe I’ll fix breakfast some time in retirement if lucky enough to be traveling in that other hemisphere.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey there DD thanks for visiting and offering such a lush comment here! Bruce is one of my favorite people and it’s nice to meet you by way of him. I could never grok Bosch (his characters make me unsettled!) but I’m not much of an art person in that aspect (more music). I do like that Arcimboldo though. And the way you likened it to retirement…I’ll have to track you down on the blogosphere here, grateful for the connection. Best, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I noticed you picked up the misssing s in Bosch and I guess that slipped through due to shigt dyslaxia, or something like that. Cheers Bill.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha ha, lovely…good eye David. Cheers to you and yours. Just got a new portable sub-woofer and I’m experimenting with it now to this “neo-psychedelic” band Thee Oh Sees. Kind of awesome. Actually it feels like a Friday night. Best, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • I like the thought that my kind of music sounds like it might have done 50 years ago but I’ve been tempted by sub woofers all the same. One even made it into the house this year but was returned when it did not work. I took this as an omen and asked for a cash refund.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah I’m not a “subwoofer guy” but lapsed into the manufactured need for one with the pandemic; reasons I can’t really defend. Retail therapy I guess. Enjoying it now with Robert Wyatt! Woo hoo! Clear the room on a Saturday night!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Woo hoo indeed.
    A double Woo hoo as Trump starts to see that the wind has been taken out of win, leaving only an excess ‘d’.
    PS our Republican supporting relatives visited last night and my Woo hoo’s were kept to a minimum for the sake of civil society. (Yes, it’s true. Even some Aussies think putting a Clown in charge of the Circus is a good idea).

    Liked by 3 people

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