Monday, June 15, 2009

Daily Life: The Soft Tangles of Memory

In a garden, overgrown and neglected, filled with the rich scents of blossoming flowers and decaying vegetation an old stone god stands, half shadowed by cypress trees, deep within the green vault of their lush embrace. His eyes are neatly incised with the illusion of pupils and that illusory gaze stares into the middle distance which lies somewhere at the edge of the encapsulating boughs.

There is a soft and terrible sorrow in his blindness, the sorrow that is born of not knowing. It is the sorrow of the father and mother of the prodigal son. It is the sorrow of a lover, lost, who cannot find thier way home and fears that, unlike the wandering Odysseus, there is no faithful Penelope waiting in Ithaca.

I make my way through the garden carefully and find a spot on an old stone bench, near the forgotten god. I open my day pack and pull out my lunch, a sandwich, a peach, a pair of butterscotch cookies, a bottle of water. I eat in silence, communing with this forgotten god, searching for an appropriate gift.

In the end, I rise up and place one of the butterscoth cookies in the space of stone beneath his feet and I tell him a story I once heard, that story faithfully relayed by Ovid who spoke of the youth Cyparissus who by the accident of chance killed a beautiful deer, a beloved pet of Apollo. So great was the boy's grief at the accident that Apollo could not console him, and in Ovid's words, the tale ends here:

"Praying in expiation of his crime
Thenceforth to mourn to all succeeding time.
And now, of blood exhausted, he appears
Drain'd by a torrent of continual tears.
The fleshy colour in his body fades,
A greenish tincture all his limbs invades.
From his fair head, where curling ringlets hung,
A tapering bush, with spiry branches, sprung,
Which, stiffening by degrees, its stem extends,
Till to the starry skies the spire ascends.
Apollo saw, and sadly sighing, cried,
'Be, then, for ever what thy prayer implied:
Bemoan'd by me, in others grief excite,
And still preside at every funeral rite.'"
-Metamorphoses, Ovid

I rise and shoulder my pack, brushing the earth and fallen vegetation from my pants. I stop by the statue and for a moment I reach up and rest my hand on that part of him within my span, his finely formed leg, the corded muscle of his calf, smooth and cool under my touch. I bow my head and with my hand upon the statue of this old god I pray to the God Who Is Mystery. It is a wordless prayer, a thanksgiving, for the soft tangles of memory and all of those beautiful phantoms that reside there in. For a moment my eyes find that middle distance he gazes at, somewhere in the green vault of the encircling cypress and I see there wonderful things, among them Penelope, waiting faithfully in Ithaca.

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