“The following tone is a reference tone recorded at our operating level.” –Captain Beefheart
At various times throughout one’s life, we experience sudden powerful change in our understanding of the world around us. Our universe may be sent topsy-turvy in a moment’s instance and us along with it. We sometimes call these moments epiphany.
“Eureka!” screams a naked and soggy Archimedes as he runs through the streets of Syracuse. Such a burst of clarity might elicit euphoria, such as Archimedes experienced, or a more invective filled and dismayed response. Personally, I have experienced both.
Powers, Oregon. 2001. Coordinates 42°53′0″N 124°4′23″W. Subject Age: 11.
Seldom have I ever felt so free as when I had free reign of the Mountain. My father had an arrangement with Cold Iron Ranch to keep trespassers out and lock the gate at night. In return: a house to stay in. When we arrived it was filled to the rafters with garbage, dirty as an earthworm, and as frigid as the name of the ranch. It had no insulation.
By the end of our stay at Cold Iron’s, the house was hospitable, clean, and warm as long as you huddled next to the wood store. The junk that had littered the house, the yard, and dotted the rest of the 20,000-acre reserve around us, became my personal toy chest. I was envied. Railroad irons, old appliances, junked cars, rusty curtain rods, springs, coils, just about every thing you could imagine. My friends and I were in heaven. We build forts. We chased the cow herds through the valleys. We conquered the rolling hills around us. It was glorious.
There is a singular memory of my stay at the house on the ranch that sticks out in my mind. I’m alone. I walk down from my vista on top of the low rise behind me and approach the small pool of water next to a copse of young fir trees. My thick puffy blue jacket wards me from the cold wind that whips across the grass. I lie down into the pool backwards and feel the water’s pull on me. Tugging insistently. I let go of the shore.
…and I float. Lazily spinning on my back, the two sizes too big jacket buoying my 11 year old body.
When you’re surrounded by nothing, with not a care on one’s mind, one can’t help but let the knowledge of a vast cosmos rush into you. I could go anywhere. Attempt anything. I could explore the world for many lifetimes and never know the fullness of it.
I suppose that was an epiphany of my young life. It’s fitting it seems that both Archimedes and I ended up soggy. Saturated with a newfound perception and knowledge.
The funny thing about that is that knowledge IS like water; fluid, changing, powerful, sustaining, and able to shape the terrain around us. It can also evaporate, dry up, and leave us thirsting for it.
I lost that moment on the Mountain for a time. My cup was broken and hole ridden. That which it should have held safe was spilt. I forgot there was a wide world with infinite possibilities and I focused on the inconsequential trivia and trivial consequence, a shoegazer with worries aplenty. I let myself be distracted from my goals and dreams to pursue whim and fancy.
I realize that the good in life is not all earned on the turn on the moment, pulled down like fire from heavens. I would like to think that I know and own the mistakes I’ve made.
I have gained a much more slowly won understanding of the work that must be put in, as well as of the rewards that are inherent in such efforts. I can be both storm-watcher, waiting on the tornado that will change the landscape, as well as the patient gardener.
Perhaps I am onlying watching for the opportunity to till the soil. Whether one can grow a storm is yet to be seen.