With wandering spirits and wailing ghosts, coyote moons and cacti, Enchanted Rock, magical, a portal to other worlds, tempted and intrigued. According to legend, anyone who sleeps on top of this granite monadnock becomes invisible.
Part dare, part dream camping in Texas on Halloween? aw what the hell, yes please. Money where my mouth is. Mouth where my mind won’t leave.
I see things in things, not deliberately, faces in rocks and animals in boulders, conversation observation recognition bias till I think I’m going bonkers and the universe is a tease. Laughing at and with me. Serendipity, synchronicity, I don’t seek patterns, they find me, and I still contend I don’t believe in anything, or maybe just that things—things in things—they don’t happen for a reason.
But I still like them. They’re still amazing.
We see lizards and coots and vultures, a heron and a snake and a tower of turtles. Long shadows leaping off our tanning shoulders, we talk to dead trees as we trace their bodies and don’t get me started on stars. Arthur has the app that does the stars for you, cartoon constellations and pithy descriptions as we hold his phone against the night.
We don’t use it for long. In the olden days, the things in things were gods, and you could only see them with shared imagination, faith—if not in them, then that a great story’s coming—and your finger for the moon, pointing in the sky.
Stars are in space, not plotted on a plane, so in any other place, perspective would shift and all of the pictures would change. I found this unsettling when I was a child. Not so much that perception is reality but that truth has no authority, no real stability, objective agreement or balance—or at least that was the pressing possibility. Premises built over rabbitholes attached to wormholes lashed to trust you’ll feel better about all of this eventually. See and seek the wisdom of quicksand and weak knees.
Seven billion fingers for the moon, now, kid and the crazy thing is, we could rearrange the firmament, add or subtract, expand or collapse, and we’d still come up with comparable narrative—warriors and creatures and witches, songs and feasts for birth and death, how to march and how to dance, fear and love and play.
We would see the same thing in the thing. The Hero with a Thousand Rock Star Faces, again and again.
We worried we wouldn’t have much to say. What kind of people are we, anyway?
In nearby tourist-town Fredericksburg we buy some walking-around beer and marvel. Someone makes their living making objects out of animal parts, antler-handle cheese knives and canes crammed in rattlesnake skins. The animatronic garlic head will lure you in. The gag shop huckster, drive you away. The busty Hip Dingo, what can I say? I love local off-color.
Halloween night we hunt teenage trick-or-treaters in the van, pulling up close like we’ll pull them in, and just before they mess their half-assed costumes, I announce we have candy. They cheer like it’s a movie.
Jolly Ranchers for everyone! Murder for none!
We are so much fun.
Arthur did improv with deer. I mapped the whole landscape till he saw the polar bear. We had plenty to say, and pleasant silence too. Though hard to tell, we’re easy to listen to, spinning old stories and making up more and speculating, animated, whether the grizzled guitarist singing Hurt on the quaint restaurant patio, channeling more Cash than Reznor, would say crown of thorns or crown of shit. The man said shit and totally owned it.
We might have been the only ones to notice it—to realize there was something to look for in a moment, hopeful for surprise but careful to be open to propriety, sanctity, disappointment just-in-case.
We probably missed other things.
When I fetched a pad from the corpse of a prickly pear to better examine decay, I got stung.
You’re not supposed to pick them up. Look but don’t touch. Imagine, be curious, but don’t really reach out, you can dodge the big needles well enough. All of that obvious, dangerous sharp. But the rest is laced with tiny invisible teeth you won’t feel bite, you won’t even bleed, but they’ll find their way in. They’ll burn.
I think we turned invisible,
but I can’t be sure. What kinda notion or emotion, grand mal abstraction I want to ask for meaning then insist I’ve no interest in any such thing in a thing I can’t help but see and not see what’s right not in front of me.
I have a hard time relaxing. Every hour is structured, how else will life and death get done? and when the warm weather comes and wants my sweat, I kinda freak out. Fun is so much fun, but the sun, so unproductive.
Thanks, Sam, for inciting adventure. At 2 a.m. we sneak on a riverboat with a bindle of beer to cruise the Mississippi while jigging to a jug band and listening to a lecture on intellectual property and stories about riverfolk. The captain inquires over loudspeaker, Do teenagers even listen to Joy Division anymore? and announces that he’s a wedding officiant, so if anyone wants to get married—right—now—just let him know.
The banks of the river in darkest night are otherworldly, but that’s just an expression.
This is, in fact, the world that I live in.