In Such a Life

The air was made for them. The stooping peregrines were the only things in the world that could take that great shining gap and chase it into life. They could lean against it and tilt it. The moment, a billion years of change, of evolution and movement, all pressed into this: from a numinous line above the horizon it rolls effortlessly, and simply stops. Silence. There is nothing more to it. There is no magic or story. It raises itself slightly and the wings fold over that brown back and it slips forward, casually, without any hint of control. The origami of itself. It drops – but that is a lie, it does not drop, you never see it drop, for its untrespassed arc becomes the reference, and the gorge becomes a delirious blur spun into incomprehension by the fall of this bird, there, twisting even in the very rush of it, its mind making crankings and adjustments that cannot be believed, more fundamental and violent than a track flung out in a cloud chamber, dropping to something that has been singled out in the blue air below and will never know what has hit it, will never see its death and the sharp glory of its going. In such a life, in such a life lived in this way there is no regression, there is no slouching to the mean. Would that we could move too in vessels that in their movement would remake the world to fit them, and tremble the world until it shimmered and exploded with ecstasy.

kind of getting away: 15

It’s getting colder now. Around me trees dying into new life. Snow has appeared over the last week. I come across footprints over and over again. There are strangely moving, an extension of the thing that made them, but left unsupported, defenceless. They broaden with time and thin out.

The past day I have done nothing but rest. The sun is not yet gone. But it is close. As far as I remember the sun has been invisible the last few days, its whole being smeared out into greyness, greyness and rain for me here infinities below. My route is greased by wind.  It is a strange feeling. The basic lockstep of even that great star somehow thinning out into a scrawl of light spread out over acres of time. I cannot remember right now exactly when the sun was not obscured by cloud or rain. I don’t even feel it getting that cold anymore.

I am sitting in the mouth of my tent. The wind’s blue hands stuttering welcome. In the dark near and far creatures stop and continue. Their notice of me ends here.

There are Brown Hearn flying over the ridge now. Fluting the air with the dim vapour of their flight, as if the air needed elaboration. They don’t have a colour in this light but that does not make them out of place. Winter is almost here. Everything bleeding promissory colour. Everything remade. I don’t know much about Hearn but now it seems enough now for me to just watch. I’m at Ridge H-64. This is a place made without thought for cartographers. The horizon is always stiff and wrinkled with rain. Here coordinates vanish. There is something shocking, therefore, about seeing something inhabit the sky like this, so violently. They don’t alter space but reveal it. There is no leftover flying. Nothing collects in their wake. I will go to sleep and one of them will glides a lateral fathom, tailless afterthought in blue air dreams, back to its home, having given no thought to its actions.

Yesterday was my rest day. I was thinking of the EWFT and so went to the Teal, the only big river I will be encountering on this excursion.  Went down through the trees and it was there. Shocking and disdainful breadth. I splashed around in the shallows for a while, watched the Broach move in the water. Three days ago the temperature abruptly rose; the small streams everywhere seemed suddenly unstopped and the Teal filled like a heart. In any case I went down into the water. The Broach stayed away but then they came near my feet, asking. Quick and like silt. I had to learn how to see the slim bodies, things wedged dimensionless against the water.  Arrows saying west of here, west of here. Weeds held in wet slit mouths. Far enough into the sea rivers lose their names.  The ocean waiting to sting its thirst alive and hence accept everything offered riverwise. I moved once and the Broach flashed away. Things pre-empting the concept of weather.

How do they resolve the water, the flash of teeth?

I put my head in the water; it was cold. The Broach disappeared again, pulled the wet sky around their bodies and were gone. But I imagined. The sound of the locked double heart furrowed through kilometres of water.

When I came out the water the thing that I think had been following me was on the bank, looming over me. It happened in the past; it happens now. Fear detonates inside me. It is looking straight at me. It seems massive, something not part of this space, like something sketched in. A spadelike head larger than my chest. On the four feet talons. Cuspid aviiform, recites my head in response to that implied violence, a chant like a ward. I call for Helper but in my head there is silence. The thing comes closer, a single movement without assertion or timidity. Eyes like a haze of Magellanic water. They are large and I see myself in them. I do not look scared. I seem to it to be a reimagining of its vision, a dream cycled over and over again through the same process, a lock gate stuck half open, a changed thing not aware of the changing. It knows my name and providence. Then it does something that I cannot imagine; it cocks its head and pushes its head forward slightly, as if the snout is tasting the air. I think how different I am, body an animal apart. Its body is black, nearly unreflective. I think how dark my body is this moment, how unlike other living things, how light only comes in through the sudden wound.

It opens a vast black canopy above itself and the air beats down on me. Behind me water fragments over stone. Then leaps and it is in the air. I am bewildered that something this large is capable of vertical takeoff, of rising against its own weight, until I tell myself this is not my world. I might never have loved violent under this sky and woken up crawled on by stars. Everything must be alien and beloved. I turn to look at that dark spot as its goes high, higher, enters a strange world of facticity.

That was all yesterday. Helper does not know. My tent shivers a little now, a small thoughtful movement. The sun manages to throw a last light on the mountain for the first time in a long time so that the glaciers burn. This world is strange once again. If I stood and told the day, open, meaning it, what would happen? Is there a use in coercing an answer from the long mute flats of existence, of this sure-footed being-here-ness? Well, no. Let days come. Open.

Marginalia

[ … Alopias vulpinus Petrochelidon pyrrhonota Consider evil. Consider the way it springs up premisewise. Consider the voice that comes from the bones and the air, the skin panelled about the faces, white faces with masks and no holes to let the air through, no breath, no word, no heat, no sight, everything crowded out by the burning intensity of life. The thing about evil. The thing. It is patient, it is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast. It has no wrath or force. It is true. It cannot lie. It endures. It hopes against all things. It is flat and deep as water and as necessary. It seeks no hurt. It is complete. It does not stir except by virtue of its being the case, and it goes with or without saying, indeed despite it, that what is the case is outside its cause, a world strung out like flesh. Evil is not arrayed against the good, it is not arrayed against anything. The good will come, it comes. It is monstrous in is apathy, it points at destinations with mammoth intent, it is a paraclete that breeds no sound but its waking gibber, its morning and evening torments made worshippable only by renunciation, it acknowledges no fact, it sweeps up all experience before it to bring it finally thundering through the walls of this world like a ruthless word bent in bringing all of creation down its own beguttered gullet, down its own bespoke blackness. But evil carries Caspiomyzon wagneri Zonotrichia leucophrys Bitis atropos Morelia viridis Catharus ustulatus Trimeresurus monticola Gyps fulvus Rhodostethia rosea Aplysina archeri Nycticorax nycticorax Phodilus assimilis Pluvialis dominica Hysterophora maculosana Causus rhombeatus Gastrophysa viridula Archilochus colubris Arthrospira platensis Calypte anna Empis livida Anochetus rufus Acanthognathus teledectus Cathartes burrovianus Haloferax volcanii Anas acuta Melanerpes erythrocephalus Hexanchus griseus Elanoides forficatus Ancylis badiana Pandion haliaetus cristatus Polemaetus bellicosus Parkesia noveboracensis Carebara capreola Pyrococcus abyssi Halorhabdus tiamatea Tipula oleracea Lumbricus terrestris Thelotornis kirtlandii Synthliboramphus hypoleucus Chondestes grammacus Cirrothauma cirrothauma Acanthis flammea Proterospongia choanojuncta Plegadis chihi Gallinula galeata no such burden, it brings no airs. It is intimate. It is quiet. It hides and looks out under the great shadow at fulminations blind and holy and it cowers and hopes. When all is said and done it will emerge. It will call for you. It will take your hand. It will lead you. It has no need for loneliness. It has no need to ignore anything. It will take the fact even if it finds only one fact shining in the waste and it will hold it, hold it out against a newly electric earth. All this can be gathered and known but only by great thought. Centroscymnus coelolepis Methanococcus deltae Machaerhamphus alcinus Numenius phaeopus Cygnus olor Echinorhinus brucus Centroselachus crepidater Ictinia plumbea Cepphus Columba Clangula hyemalis Notechis scutatus Methanobrevibacter curvatus Etmopterus pycnolepis Centrophorus moluccensis Eisniella tetraedra Arianta arbustorum Buteogallus schistaceus Chen caerulescens Selasphorus rufus Seiurus aurocapilla Bucephala albeola Hydroprogne caspia Cepphus grille Strix albitarsis Coccothraustes vespertinus Hemachatus haemachatus Pipilo maculates Coragyps atratus Charadrius hiaticula Harpalus rufipes Somateria mollissima Sialia currucoides Pheucticus melanocephalus Phyllorhiza punctata Leucophaeus atricilla Oenanthe oenanthe Streptopelia decaocto Aquila audax Methanococcoides methylutens Aphodius rufipes Falco vespertinus Nanoarchaeum equitans Sympetrum striolatum Anthus rubescens Turdus migratorius Bombycilla cedrorum Echis carinatus Geotrupes stercorarius Haliaeetus pelagicus Squatina armata Geothlypis tolmiei Mnemiopsis leidyi Dytiscus marginalis Actitis macularius Chaetura pelagic Ignicoccus pacificus Fulmarus glacialis Gallinago delicate Crotalus enyo enyo Phratora vulgatissima Dolichonyx oryzivorus Coturnicops noveboracensis Accipiter castanilius Atractaspis congica Nasuia deltocephalinicola Icteria virens Palomena prasina Glyphis gangeticus Toxostoma rufum Brachymyrmex melensis Which beings know this? We do not know this. For us there is too much noise. But animals know this. With their minds they have no choice but to contemplate the universe. Their thoughts cannot be bent anywhere, they are not ordained or made sacred by any meaning. They have run themselves over and over again through the generations in ages unstoppable and in their running have come to this. Animals know this.  And they having nothing to write with on and so hold this entire, a whole unshakeable ponderance of it, in their heads. They have no laments for us, Micrurus frontalis Centroscyllium granulatum Philaenus spumarius Chroicocephalus ridibundus Riparia riparia Aeronautes saxatalis Icterus galbula Caenorhabditis elegans Chaetura vauxi Gavia stellata Salpinctes obsoletus Sphyrapicus varius Melanitta perspicillata Spizaetus ornatus Limnodromus scolopaceus Caprimulgus vociferous Strix aluco Milvus migrans Chlidonias niger Morphnus guianensis Methanobacterium formicum Ptilopsis granti Spizella arborea Chlamydoselachus anguineus Asphaltoglaux cecileae nothing to match our songs, they have no grief left in them for our insufficiently opposable thumbs. We do not dare speak of what they have achieved. Nothing has changed since they began. Natrix natrix Tyto tenebricosa Lanius ludovicianus Notorynchus cepedianus Chordeiles minor Megachasma pelagios Stercorarius skua Aeshna grandis Sturnella neglecta Calopteryx splendens Plexaurella nutans Cistothorus palustris Camponotus adami Rhizoprionodon porosus Ornimegalonxy oteroi Syritta pipiens Tachycineta bicolour Chiloscyllium indicum Haematopus palliates Sterna hirundo Egretta caerulea Calvia quattuordecimguttata Butorides virescens Acropyga keira Brachyramphus marmoratus Spinus pinus Carpilius convexus Zenaida macroura Nitrosopumilus maritimus Araneus diadematus Scolopax minor Orthonama vittata Nitrosopumilus maritimus Melospiza lincolnii Limosa haemastica Larus hyperboreus Anser albifrons Polydrusus sericeus Acidilobus saccharovorans Stephanoaetus coronatus Hirundo rustica Dispholidus typhus Bothrops nasutus Camponotus caffer Cerorhinca monocerata Idaea dimidiate Elanus caeruleus Parascyllium collare Calcarius pictus Scymnodalatias oligodon Calamospiza melanocorys Luscinia svecica Buteo buteo Eremophila alpestris Motacilla tschutschensis Euprotomicroides zantedeschia Pseudoginglymostoma brevicaudatum Grallistrix auceps Cardinalis cardinalis Aythya affinis Heteroscymnoides marleyi Baeolophus bicolour Hepialus humuli Hydrophis gracilis Apristurus ampliceps Elaps lacteus Pelamis platurus Contopus virens Picoides dorsalis Pagophila eburnean Myadestes townsendi Thryothorus ludovicianus Ardea alba Agelas clathrodes Adetomyrma clarivida Heterodontus galeatus Rallus elegans Vireo flavifrons Paracentrotus lividus Stellula calliope Ammodramus savannarum Carcharhinus acronotus Gallerucella lineola Lepteithis gigas Bungarus candidus Carcharias Taurus Rhincodon typus Pseudocerastes persicus Junco hyemalis Epiactis prolifera Carabus nemoralis Helmitheros vermivorum Haliastur sphenurus I have learnt all of this from them and this is a debt I cannot unhinge and leave off. I have sought consecration from things with no bones. I have slept on a bed of birds, feeling their uninspected bodies wince softly and come forth, coverts going pale like stiffening breath. I have let insects interpret my interior, a fire of legs and wisdom, eyes invisible and brilliant, bodies cracking. I have held reptiles for warmth. None of this was part of a ritual, none of this real. But Thermosphaera aggregans Regulus calendula Tubifex tubifex Rostrhamus sociabilis Tropidechis carinatus Dalatias licha Dryocopus pileatus Leptidea sinapsis Botaurus lentiginosus Isurus paucus Dolichonabis limbatus Vermivora cyanoptera Puffinus puffinus Heptranchias perlo Pterostichus niger Aphriza virgata Colias croceus Leptodon cayanensis Alopias pelagicus Sistrurus ravus Naja melanoleuca Aipysurus laevis Bartramia longicauda Cephaloscyllium pictum Poecile atricapillus Aspidites melanocephalus Uria aalge Periphylla periphylla Enhydrina schistose Hylocichla mustelina Pristiophorus cirratus Polioptila caerulea Cenarchaeum symbiosum Chelictinia riocourii Gypohierax angolensis Calidris acuminate Agkistrodon contortrix laticinctus Chondrohierax uncinatus Sagittarius serpentarius Protonotaria citrea Calonectris diomedea Anthrophila fabriciana Aeropyrum pernix Atta tardigrada I was told this finally by one which devoted its entire being to permit only a body, one that put its head to the ground because it had nothing to hold or walk with. It came through the grass up to me. Right there in the centre of my sight, in the centre of the scene. An unfalsifiable river green as creation itself. And yet the snake knew how to hold on its face a smile that while only barely there edged aside the rest of the world, a kindness unwarranted. Its eyes were dark and luminous and in them all the light of the world was contracted into a fleck, the universe eagled on its own afterbirth. A voice like ecdysis itself. All lustre and caring. It came up to me Haemadipsa zeylanica Oxynotus centrina Euplectella curvistellata Platynus dorsal Harpagus bidentatus Phalaropus fulicariusSitta pygmaea Tringa melanoleuca Vulcanisaeta moutnovskia Plectrophenax nivalis Staphylothermus marinus Laticauda colubrine Trichoplax adhaerens Trypanosoma brucei Helicolestes hamatus Nymphula nymphaeata Thermococcus hydrothermalis Ophion luteus Empidonax alnorum  Picrophilus torridus Aphaenogaster maculifrons Troglodytes hiemalis Ginglymostoma cirratum Contopus cooperi Python reticulates Antaresia maculosa Zygaena lonicera latomarginata Stercorarius maccormicki Vipera ursinii Sulfolobus acidocaldarius Fratercula arctica Cynthia cardui Podiceps auritus Deania hystricosa Silpha atrata Larus canus Coccyzus erythropthalmus Oreothlypis peregrine Halorubrum salsolis Phoebastria immutabilis Acanthophis Pyrrhus Riftia pachyptila Heterocentrotus mamillatus Pyrodictium abyssi Tyrannus tyrannus Cerastes cerastes Oceanites oceanicus Isistius plutodus Carpodacus cassinii Methanofollis liminatans Nemateleotris magnifica Eristalis pertinax Ixobrychus exilis Agonopterix conterminella Ixoreus naevius Eucrossorhinus dasypogon Aenictus raptor Pooecetes gramineus and behind its head the reticulate body sketched out a language in the grass. My body was a violation of the dust. It spoke and its eyes were vast with kindness, a caring with no cognate. Ravish me, I said, show me the whole story laid out. I could feel its skin against mine and its patterns held out from the living surface like maps for the reading. Loxia leucoptera Colaptes auratus Euglena sanguine Amphioctopus marginatus…]

Kind of getting away: 8

I killed something today.

Accident. Volkies are nearly invisible. It was going to happen sooner or later. Coming back from O.’s in the evening when suddenly there was something on the road improbably dark and tight against the beam. Small. It sensed the air moving, maybe it heard something, and then exploded blackly upward and for a moment it was harsh in the light. I remember the clutching feet, small clutching feet put out ahead of itself. Then there were only small motes dusting the edge of the beam and nothing else.

I got out and went to see what it was. There was blood matted into its feathers[1]. I didn’t know what it was. Its body was heavy and felt like it was coming apart. I turned it around and the colour got me. If you went and queried the undergrowths across the universe they would nominate this colour as the contraction of their being. The eyes were from another universe entirely. Small things like moths batted at me.

I should probably let the Volkie drive itself. At night, at least. It’s for my safety too.

[1] It’s the wrong word. But it’s the one we use.

Kind of getting away: 7

Usually I don’t pay too much attention to my inbox. But something interesting came in today. The people back at Anh. have compiled a picture book, essentially, of Tokata’s life. It’s called the Field Guide to Life on Tokata, but I think that name is meant to be ironic. The book is pretty well-made. You can find all the common large animals in it. There are Gossers and Greyshots and Labridines and Trammers, five or six species of each.

There is something wrong about pictures. I always tell people this. If you want to go out, certainly if you want to track, don’t look at pictures. The hardest thing to show is what is really there. Pictures are grotestque. The make the real seem small, dim, receding, shockingly bathetic. They stare out at you and they shine with an obscene excess of life. In the book they are always poised. They are aimed at some conclusion. In the wild they are never poised. In the book they are always moving such that all their features are apparent. They are whole. They become threadbare because they are trying to take you with them, they are waiting to be introduced. But in the wild they are only half-complete. They are either still so you don’t see anything or they go so fast that they are beyond the spaces of mere movement. Then they are noticed but not seen. The thing I tell people is that you must learn the shapes. Then you might see it from very far off and still be able to tell what it is. It will be nothing a smear crying out against the distance but that should be enough. This close, they are devoid of shape. They swell bigger than their natural space. They are all finesse and detail. What has been taken? Savage meaninglessness, violence devoid of intent or signal, that is the stuff which they live by and which represents what it means for them to be free, not free in the sense of some praiseworthy or admirable aspect, but just the fact of difference. There is a way of putting this that is not mystic, but it has never been found.

Or I’m just saying this because I’ve more or less forgotten to draw. I do great rough outlines, though. I really do.

Kind of getting away: 2

It’s November here. There’s no particular reason to call it November, but that’s what it’s called. I think it’s because of the trees here, always looking like it’s autumn. When we came we went with October straightaway, so now it’s November. It’s a good enough reason.

The sun has finally come out after about two days of cloud. At this moment right beside me there comes a surgical slit of light that illumes a soft fume of dust. I did not plan to do anything this morning so I went out and looked over the Wash. The idea grey is not at all simple and the Wash shows that. This morning it steamed like flat metal, like mercury. It really does go on and on. Not very far out there were two seahawks, nearly but not quite out of sight. I sat and watched them for some time. I watched them diving in the air. That’s not the right word, actually, diving. But that’s the problem. How do I convey this? This sense of movement. What I can say is that it gives me a sense in which this place, this entire place, is fundamentally unwreckable. It’s a strange, unjointed kind of movement. We’re just not used to thinking in three dimensions. We know of the three dimensions but we have never actually occupied them. That’s why it’s just not possible to look at that movement and understand it. The understanding comes a moment immediately after. But as I stood there looking at the seahawks actually move I didn’t understand it at all. Wings tremulously feeling out an element with whom the relationship does not quite rise to trust. A whiffle and then a dip, mirrored by the other. When one of them dipped it looked simply as if it was falling, until it uncurled itself suddenly in a sharp caustic spasm. The movement was erratic but urged towards some kind of obvious pattern. I did not know and do not know what bound the two seahawks together. Maybe they were a breeding pair or maybe they were simply hunting together. It was a celebration that held apart the air between them. This is how seahawks move. A whole forest of lines and chords taken in the air, a language that is completely spontaneous and therefore indecipherable.  I don’t think I’m really managing to get any of this across. But that’s natural, I suppose. It’s an alien thing, to see so much life contracted into points so small, folded this way, and wedged so furiously into the air.

Anyway, that’s the only really interesting thing I did today. I might take the Volkie to O.’s place to see how he’s getting on. W.r.t work – well, it’s not a huge amount I need to get done at this point, and Helper is often out.