This is the first of a series of word sketches I plan to throw out to the world. There is no particular theme – just a crop rotation from the songwriting. This first one is from last week when I took my 12 year old son and a friend night skiing on opening day at Poley Mountain. I noticed the rock face across the valley on the way to the hill and sat in the lodge and banged this out while the boys skied on the dark cold night.
So this has to start somewhere…let’s make it a scraped to the bone rock face high on a hill outside of the tiny town, 10000 years after the grinding ice of the glacier advanced and retreated leaving stumps and bones and some geologic memory in its place. The birds of prey used this perch as a carnivorous vista gazing steel eyed out on the flatland lidless looking for a weakness, an opportunity.
They came here to get away, as much as you can ever hope to do such a thing. He wandered north from a Frostian New England town of straight cedar pickets and antique shops where a flag of the brightest blue rosiest red virginal white blew languid lazy from the school in the square. To follow the compass was not to abandon bucolic but instead was to run from the devil in the details.
There were flags flying everywhere of course, whether in Flannery’s humid and heavy southern crossroads or Guthrie’s ornery Okemah or Steinbeck’s canneried Carmel – starred and striped. She jumped a thumb north on the 101 then east to the end of the land and the van broke down and died in distant view of the bald rock face. Off the road.
The years of love and longing and letting go can be broken down to a shard, something picked up off a hardwood floor and stared at as a piece of the more that will always surround it… the essence of time together compressed into the manageable but able to slice open a vein so fresh and sharp it remains. Mundanity to fill the phonebook with anything other than this coalesced moment of what was. It’s enough to fly over the museum of memories which is what he was attempting to do after it all went south as it were, high above the flags and truth and accusations and the knowing that she did carry the entropy to its obvious conclusion.
This was also a time when if you wanted something done you had to do it yourself – time machines still did not exist, so the only way out was up. It took some time to design the contraption, assembling canvas and wire and balsa wood by mail order and picking them up bit by contrary bit under general delivery at the store/post office Mrs Cunningham smiling quizzically with vaguely vacant blue eyes with the arrival of each over stamped box.
In July the sky is the blue of the forgotten flag, beckoning. A thousand feet to the top, twelve trips climbing with pieces strapped to his back hearing his heart beat harder and the lichen and moss orange and green under the nails that keep reaching. There is no instruction kit for assembling this sort of thing, wood wires cloth glue screws or this idea of love and leaving, want and loathing. It took him as much time as was necessary to be able to stand on the Cambrian outcrop and gaze out onto the antideluvian plane below. He could watch himself arrive cheeks flag rosy red running from himself. He could see the rusted out husk of a hopeful van grown over with nettles and wild roses and cacti. He could look over the entirety of his time, deciding what to cull. The sun so blazing, the blues all around, he told her out loud as he stepped off the edge – “it wasn’t me…it wasn’t me…it was us that made Icarus”.