|Photo credit: http://alisonwotton.tumblr.com/page/4 - Death Valley, desert wilderness|
When I was growing up my family traveled to California's back country, wilderness, as part of the research for my father's magazine articles. By the time my siblings and I grew accustomed to those silent journeys, I had long since detached from myself. Hours in the car, especially when we drove at night, only exaggerated the practice, at which I was becoming skilled, of living entirely in the fantasies in my head.
Now as I read even a few paragraphs of Lopez I interpret them as the work of a present mind. As one who has been absent, I feel myself yearning to make such graceful leaps, stumble-free transitions from one aspect of life as he finds it to another. I want to go back and gather, a twig and pebble at a time, what I wasn't able to absorb or even connect to then. I wonder if any child part escaped dissociation and does that part remember what those remote landscapes told me.
A journey of this magnitude, the ability to revisit vignettes of the past in an altered form, seems at least like an alchemical process, if not outright magic. Yet it feels possible, requiring all the precision of alchemy, the focus, the stillness, the knowing of all the ways in which this self differs from that. As the idea has only been with me a few days, there has been no time yet to test it. I believe that its appearance even as a faint notion, a whim or fancy, gives it some credibility. If we, as the beings into which we have evolved, contain all the parts and experiences of who and where we've been, why would it not be possible to return and know them differently? We are constantly given the opportunity, even an inner urging, to re-evaluate people and situations, see them in a new light, find what they added and forget what we thought they took away.
The spiritual aspects of this experiment seem to be its greatest purpose. The inner Stanley meets the inner Livingston; the self as explorer and the lost tribe it discovers. If I can find my way into these forgotten chambers, my next hope is to be able to write of them as they deserve. If I get there, I'll be back to tell you the story.
"I could then examine myself as though I were an empty abalone shell, held up in my own hands, held up to the wind to see what sort of noise I would make. I know the sound - the sound of fish dreaming, twilight in a still pool downstream. . . "
from RIVER NOTES by Barry Lopez