Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

My Photo
Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Wingmen of Tyndall

Have you ever seen the wingmen of Tyndall? You haven’t then, I thought not. Very few get to see them, most have the opinion that they’re just a myth, a fairy tale, but I swear I’ve seen them on a summer’s evening flying westward as though chasing the setting sun. I was visiting my Ukranian cousins in Winnipeg, looking forward to Aunt Rita’s potato pieroghies and maybe a moment or two in private with sweet Debby. She was engaged to an orthopedic shoe salesman, but that didn’t stop us from a little organ practice in the choir loft of the Ukranian church after the Sunday service. I had driven my old Volvo west from Beauséjour, Dixieland jazz loud on the tape deck, when I noticed what I first took to be bats swooping in the golden light. Then I realized that they were the wrong shape for bats and farther away than I first reckoned. I kept driving west, glancing at them from time to time, still mystified when the light began to fade and I had to pay more attention to the road than the scenery.

I saw them again a couple of evenings later when Debby and I were examining some breastwork, having told Aunt Rita we were going out to play croquet, when I saw them again. This time there was no doubt in my mind that I was looking at people, people with wings, swooping and soaring like shore birds over the grassy prairie. Their carmine capes fluttered out behind them, making them look like avian supermen. Debby and I got comfortable on a hay bale and watched them untl they departed with the sun set. I still don’t know where they went.

When we got back to my Aunt’s, we didn’t know if we should mention our discovery or not. The shoe salesman’s car was in the driveway and we had a quick job of making sure there was no hay in our hair or clothing. Also, the fiancé was a bit of a pragmatist, and the situation wasn’t conducive to a discussion of winged westerners. Instead, we said nothing, planning that we would return to that spot on the morrow with a camera to document this irregular occurence.

Alas, it was not to be. It rained the next day and the next, and I was obliged to luxuriate in the lap of familial warmth. Debby’s fiancé thankfully did not appear during that time, and we were able to study synaptic responses to various stimuli. On the third day we packed a picnic lunch and headed out for a hike; and there, as we emerged from the trailhead facing west, we saw them, the wingmen of Tyndall, ebullient with the joy of flight, flashing red from their capes, glorious in the Manitoba sunset.

So you’ve never seen them, eh? Well, it’s a special thing all right. I never saw them again myself. Debby married her orthopedic shoe salesman and moved to Calgary. Aunt Rita sold her house and moved into a retirement home and stopped making pieroghies. There hasn’t been much call for me to drive out there recently, and my old Volvo finally gave up the ghost chugging through the Crow’s Nest Pass. But that’s another story, and if you’re ever back this way, I might tell it to you.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki, Op. 36

De profundis clamavit. From out of the depths I cry to thee, but though I walk in the valley, the mountains do not move closer of their own accord. Mohammed must go to the mountains and shout from their summits, “Let my people go!” For as I lay dying, I heard the strains of heavy machinery wailing in the distance and the sounds of silence wove a fortress about me. The crying in the wilderness did not deter my search for the engine of happiness, the joy of sex, nor the scarlet pimpernel. “I am a god,” said Claudius. “I fly and I fall earthward, but I soar aloft on angels’ wings, wings of lapis and azurite and turquoise, jewelled by Hopi who hope for more.”

There is no more, merely a descrescendo and descent back to the depths from whence cometh our lord, for thine is the kindom, the power and the glory, glory hallelujah! For mine eyes have lifted up to the hills from whence cometh the ice and snow, the glacier that flows and the arctic wind that blows. “I am invincible,” said Old Man Winter, as he clambered out of the depths, de profundis, crying out, O Lord, a mighty fortress; but the fog lifted and rose, wafting away in the sunshine, leaving the blue and green and yellow and all the colours as pink as a baby’s bottom, until one voice called out of the wilderness, “See me! Hear me! Touch me!” and we did. We saw, we heard, we touched, we were admonished, and we bowed down defeated.

But the angel said, “Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy,” and the sky filled with light and a multitude of the heavenly host had tea and crumpets and smiled benevolently on the shepherds shitting their pants from fear. For lo, the ground opened and out spilled a great light, the illumination of Gutenberg, the flowing outward of words, words, words, and Hamlet bowed his head to the outpouring and was humbled.

There are mountains and there are valleys and there are trolley cars that travel through city streets, filled with the dregs of humanity wending their way homeward, anxious for hearth and home, the pipe-bearing dog. Yea verily I say unto you, pack up your sorrows, for only the answer is blowing in the wind, the dust has cleared, the fallen masonry is gone, there is nothing left; only the barren sands stretch far away, there is no pedestal to stand upon, no soap box to preach from. We fall, we crawl, we return to the depths from whence we emerged, our voices silenced; there is nothing left to say, just starlight and gaslight. De profundis clamavit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Intruder alert!

In the early morning light Tabitha squinted at the invading photons inexorably undermining her continued attempts at sleep. Whose idea was it to have sheer lace curtains instead of sensible, heavy drapes? Oh, it was hers. She had said something about elegance versus utility to her mother, who had warned her that the summer sun would do just what it was presently doing. Tabitha had felt so independent, flaunting her mother’s advice. After all, her bedroom did face east. It was inevitable that sooner or later she would be exposed in the full light of day.

As Tabitha tried to bring her eyes gradually more open, the objects in the room took on more focus. The clothes hanging on her coat tree lost the appearance of the gardner whom she had inherited with the house and turned back onto her bathrobe and the fancy, feathered headdress she had tossed on top after Saturday’s costume party. The objects on her dresser gave up their masquerade as stalking predators and turned back into the various boxes, brushes and perfume bottles they were supposed to be.

One item in the room took longer than the others to resolve itself into an understandable shape. It was an antique milk can Tabitha had picked up at the local craft fair, painted black and then decorated with stylized leaves and flowers. It had two handles so it could presumably be strapped onto a horse or made fast in a wagon. Tabitha had fallen in love with it as soon as she set eyes on it, even though, or perhaps because, her mother had questioned the wisdom of purchasing such an outrageously-priced piece of junk, no matter how it was painted, and bringing it into a beautiful home such as Tabitha’s when it properly belonged in a barn. The younger woman was not to be deterred though, and the painted bucket was duly loaded into the trunk with the other “objets d’art” and set up in the corner of the bedroom as a receptacle for a long bouquet of pampas grasses.

Now, as Tabitha’s morning vision cleared, she could see the white awns swaying in the breeze from the open window like the beard on a grizzled dwarf. The dark flowered bucket, obscured still in shadow, looked like patterned trousers, or perhaps merely paint-splattered. Try as she might, this superimposed image would not fade, and Tabitha finally sat up in bed, rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and jammed her glasses on her face, grateful that the bearded dwarf had finally reverted to pampas grass once more.