I wake to a warm wind blowing through a boxcar’s open door. Blur of golden summer grain in my eyes. Rhythmic thump and thud of train wheels reverberating like clockwork and sending little shockwaves through my body.
Over the early morning horizon hangs a crescent moon with a single star swinging beneath it like a pendulum, both retreating from the coming sun.
Occasionally the interiors of empty shacks gape back at me through broken windows. Invisible players fill the air with fiddle song. Buzz and whine of insects and the smell of honeycomb and mossy creek-rocks.
A young Jack Kerouac stirs at the far side of the car. This is long before he became a used-up drunk distrustful of hope.
“Where we going, chief?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I answer.
“Been there a time or two before.”
I Don’t Know’s the town we always end up back at. We may head out to visit Memory or Riddle or Sweet Home, but we always wind up back at I Don’t Know. We know we always will.
I see a long meadow leading down to some yellow trees. I bid Jack farewell.
“I’ll see you in I Don’t Know tomorrow,” I say and jump out the car and roll to my feet.
Jack hangs out the boxcar and laughs and bellows, “Or maybe the day after that!”
I spend the rest of the day roaming the woods, climbing rocks, swimming rivers, exerting my body to the breaking point for no reason other than doing so. There’s no record book here. There’s no race. There’s just the wide open stretch of Truth and the way we live within it.
I find new landscapes no eyes have ever seen. Hidden hollows. Dark glens cool with mysterious energy. Frog-croak and brook-burble. I hunt the red deer of the high passes and let them go unharmed. Hunt for the hunt and nothing more.
I get on my knees and pray in gratitude and joy. Asking for nothing. Only thanking. Only offering myself to the miracle of ecstatic wilderness around me.
Harold the Rag wanders by with a deck of cards and we play Four Jokes and Ten Aces, a game never played before in the annals of human history. He’s got the wine and I’ve got the beer and we’ve both hands got to pass them back and forth.
We play and drink and laugh overlooking a long, boulder-laden valley. There’s an old stone church at the other end of that valley. A story of men made of plants is written in its stained glass windows. A serpent wrapped around a tree becoming the spine of our ancestors.
Strange things in that place. All its windows face east. Step inside the door and you can hear the whispered exultations of supplicants lost and supplicants to come, their ghosts all tangled up in the halls.
No one steps inside there, though. Yet, we all feel its presence. Always. Neither welcoming or threatening, yet always there, the shadow over everything.
Dusk. Fireflies winking like eclectic eyes. A small campfire. Twisting and curling of flame. Mysteries writ in the curling ember lights and then forgotten forever. Ancient rites lost to ash. The gods of fire telling stories that no one can understand.
Soon enough they come out of the wood, as I knew they would. The merry band of wanderers. My kin.
There’s Harold the Rag again, of course, and Accordion Mary and Whipsaw Fred. Jack’s with them, too, just like I knew he would be. I Don’t Know awaits, but that man can never resist a night in the mountains.
Dozens of others. My wild one, too, of course. Firehaired. Laughing angel of mad heights. Her presence intoxicates in ways Harold’s wine never can. Her eyes green horizons unfolding into green horizons. Fearless smile. She gives all her joy to the world without restraint. She’s nobody’s fool. Been battered and bruised. Her innocence is the innocence of hard-fought wisdom not naivety. She understands the world but doesn’t care. It’s hard to see anything else except her when she’s beside me.
We all laugh and tell stories, some true and some partially true, and all of them false to some degree but false in the best way. Life! Who needs castles and red carpets and diamonds when there’s campfires and fiddles and friends? The high wild ecstasy of life beneath uncovered skies.
Terrible poetry is read. Songs badly reconstructed. Laughter. When it is done at dawn the friends shake hands or hug and dance off to their own private heavens. In this crew we know that to love we must leave alone, too.
Just me and my wild one making love with the rising sun. Unafraid. Indifferent to the eyes of passerby (and maybe if we are being honest enjoying them).
Does the perfect day end with the rising of a new sun if we never slept on that old one? Sure, but only in a purely technical sense. There are astronomical days and there are days of the soul.
Out there somewhere in the long, long expanse, invisible fiddlers play their tune and wait.
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