Thursday, December 20, 2012

POV of Fire

When you open the front gate leading to the garden where you live, you step into a square of moderate size, perhaps thirty or thirty five feet on all sides.  Directly to you left is a parking enclosure for two cars, which borders a single-dwelling home, belonging to your landlady.  On your right, the front gate of a rambling wood-frame house, a small, one-car garage, and directly beyond that, the yard and south wall of another house.

Approaching this square a week or so past, you saw two men, neither of whom you recognized.  Both were in their mid to late forties.  The taller of the two held at about breast level the yellow-on-one side, dusty rose-on-the-reverse cape used by the matador in the first two thirds of the bull fight, and at all times by the assistants.  He was demonstrating to a man with a large white table cloth a maneuver or pass known as a media or half Veronica.

Both men seemed ill at ease if not embarrassed to be caught out by a stranger.  Both nodded with reticence as you passed.

You could scarcely stop yourself from what happened next, which becomes one of two parallel lines that support these paragraphs.  "That posture will only work in Spain,"  you said in passing, "where the bulls are considerably larger than those in Mexico."

The mouth of the man with the actual cape drooped.  He wanted to say something, but nothing came forth.  "To deal with the Mexican bull, you want your own feet closer together, the left hand pulling the cape about your hip with a snap, leading the bull to attempt a turn in an arc shorter than his length."

The man with the table cloth said he couldn't fucking believe this.

The man with the cape still was unable to get out any words.

The man with the cape observed that such a conversation could only take place in California, but as you neared, then opened the gate to your garden area, you reminded him that it likely took place with some regularity through portions of Mexico.

The last you heard was the man with the table cloth, still unable to fucking believe the sudden spontaneity of the conversation, the unlikely potential for it happening.

Point of view, you told yourself as you traversed the twenty or thirty steps to your apartment.  Point of view is the way all of us have for describing the activities of Reality that go on about us. The historian, the archaeologist, the politician, the theologian, the artist, the writer--we all have an evolved point of view sufficient to describe our chosen discipline.

You've not seen nor heard from the two men with, respectively, a fighting cape and a table cloth, although you were reminded by the scene of another, perhaps six or seven miles away and twenty years earlier, beginning in the cocktail lounge of the now moribund Hotel Miramar, involving a man with a Miramar table cloth and another man, pretending to be a fighting bull, holding a dining chair, its legs extended, to simulate the bull's horns.

Both men were Caucasian Americans.  No telling how many bulls they'd actually fought.  Although both were by any standards drunk when you saw them thus, there was no surprise for you to see them playing at something they'd both done in sober seriousness.  Nor is there any telling how many actual bullfights you've witnessed.  The telling is in the fact of your point of view; you'd seen an understood some of the pageantry related to the bull ring.

Reality has that effect on us; it presents us with a swath of behavior of inexpressible complexity and variation, leaving us at its mercy as we attempt to explain, even describe, and dare you say it, teach some of its aspects.

True enough, most of the things you witness are inexplicable to you; you've more or less had to narrow down, to specialize, to limit your point of view and your vision.

Once, someone you very much loved and thought you wished to spend your life with told you, and this is an exact quotation, "You are not required to have an opinion on everything."  Not that you by any means did, but the prompt for her outburst was, in fact, an opinion you'd ventured.

During the Thanksgiving vacation while you were in Santa Fe, your nephew, an accomplished jazz flutist and saxophonist, took you to a restaurant where you were to hear some local players.  Before you could hear them, you had to suffer a punk rock group, whom you described to your nephew as having a scant range of harmonic tools, "Nothing more than the one, three, and five chords, repeated."  He nodded agreement, then flashed you a look.  "I didn't know you played,"  he said.  "All these years, and I didn't know,"  Because, you told him, you don't play.  You listen.  You may not get from listening what a player gets from playing, but you get something.  One of the reasons you listen is because of the considerable"something" you've got over the years of your listening.

Point of view again.  You look, or in this case listen, to a stratum of Reality, taking from it what you can.

Back in the day,before Jefferson appeared on nickels, when a nickel meant a buffalo, your material grandfather had a habit of extending two coins to you, a quarter and a nickel.  You always took the nickel, a fact that amused your grandfather to the point of his remarking about it to your uncle.  In fact, you cared more for the buffalo than the denomination, but in other fact, you had a stratum of smartass emerging.  "Once I took the quarter,"  you said, "the game would be over.  I'd be a smart kid, but there'd be no more game."

A former student of yours has published a novel to some acclaim, wining prizes with it, and also being prized for a poetry chapbook.  She's just published yet another chapbook, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting.   She's getting good response from that as well, and seems on her way.

But when you consider the vastness of Reality and the permutations for point of view, what you see is How Story Is a Fire, Waiting.  Story wants to burn, to turn things to ash or to mix them with oxygen or to create heat.  Story warms, colors, cooks, causes changes.

You live in a fire zone.  You've been ordered to evacuate three times.  On other occasions, you've seen fire leap over the highway to graze on the other side of the road.  There is danger, energy, and a rough, natural beauty where fire is.

This is the place where you hunker down, looking for the details to capture, to bring into your visions for unforgettable moments of warmth, where you can hear the truth of Reality, sizzling.

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