This One Time, 84

This one time the world was beautiful and filled with a constant buzz of wonder at all the inexplicable delight — or so I was told. I could waste an entire afternoon playing with two magnets and a magnifying glass. Or trying to fill a shoebox with grasshoppers — or, once dusk fell, a Mason jar with fireflies. I could read my books or hold a coast-to-coast rally with the tiny metal cars or build the final word in secret strongholds, complete with its army of defenders, from LEGO. All of these things could hold my attention for the duration, with varying degrees of grudgingness, but the only thing that really gave me that throttle-locked-wide-open thrill was flying around the neighborhood on my bicycle. Okay, that, and watching things burn.

Well, alright, the fireflies were cool too. Still are. But they aren’t a year-round thing.

There really are only a couple of things that bring that kind of joy for me. One thing that does it is somehow bringing that kind of joy to someone else, whatever way works. Another thing that brings a kind of joy is the creation or adoption of a tool that extends my capabilities in some way, ranging from a new pen for sketching to some consumer electronic gadget to more ordinary sorts of tools — as long as I can then demonstrate to myself that they weren’t a waste of money or effort.

But my absolute favorite is by creating something with the semblance of life — either a story that is so true to itself that it has a life of its own, or a drawing of someone that you can imagine, in the very next moment, will take a breath. A photograph, similarly pregnant. Or a sculpture, even an abstract twisted-up piece of paper, that exhibits an illusion of awareness or self-awareness or intent.

There have been other experiments, harder to explain or describe, that fall into that category as well. Software, ideas and mental images, philosophical experiments and conceits. And other stuff. Unclassifiable projects, most of which are waiting for the resources to become available to enable realization.

Thankfully words are cheap and in infinite supply, though spare time for assembling them is quite a bit more rare.

These are the moments it takes to recapture that fabled earlier time when everything was a brilliant new discovery, made of magic, and filled with animating spirits with unknown drive and purpose. In a hit-or-miss kind of way.

This one time, when my bedroom wall was warm and thrumming with the colony of honeybees that had moved into the space between the outer wall and the inner, I put aside my fear and leaned back against the wall, heedless of the thin trickles of honey coming down from the windowsill and leaking out around the electrical outlet. A single honeybee had also managed to leak into the room through some undiscovered crack, and while typically, at four years old, this would have sent me into hysterics and forced me to sound the alert and rally troops to smite the murderous invader, I simply watched it.

I was electrified by fear. I could feel it as it walked the window ledge above my head. I watched it explore the colored patches of cotton cloth on the quilt I used for a bedspread. I watched it hover in the sunbeam — now between me and the only exit from the room — stirring dustspecks into whirling maelstroms with its wings. Her wings.

I wondered even then how much of the dust was pollen, and whether she saw the particles as loose apples that she needed to catch and put in her basket, fighting against the frustrating downdrafts from her buzzing wings. Her buzzing was amplified by the wall I leaned against, a baritone roar modulated by wax and insulating fiberglass floss and pounds and pounds and pounds of honey and the heat of bees and a thin layer of painted gypsum board. The roar I felt through my back was its own separate creature. A creature of which the dainty golden thing floating in front of me was a tiny part.

Before I knew it I had extended a hand with a finger outstretched for her to land on. And she landed on it.


March 25, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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