Wednesday, May 6, 2015

All the Haunted, to the Farthest Edges of the Earth

It's coming to me lately that, just as older friends say and writers write, it's enough to contact the dead inside myself, where the dead live on, even if nothing happens to the departed soul otherwise except disintegration. It's enough, to think and say that the dead live on because, intact, the character of the departed person lingers in the memory of the fond survivor (me,) and acts upon the survivor by force of my innermost thought. What I see from my folding chair in a wooded swamp, of a would-be limitless profusion of tree-tips, clouds I first remember seeing, sunlit yellow, in the presence of my mom, is enough movement by way of my sight to animate what is left of her in me, and so would be my sight of her hung portrait done in pencil by an unknown friend in her community, and so would be anything seen, heard or considered that sparks my memory of her. This is the commonest kind of experience, true as long as living memory retains the soul of someone who died.

The most defining traits of the dead person's character, whatever they were, could hardly help but shape that person's influence on us after death. The yearning fantasy that follows from this admission is: do those personality traits still cohere to act in one or another dimension, even right in our world which is, after all, a forest of membranes that may admit or obstruct an unknown variety of energies, whether packaged together or free-flowing? If personality, or emotion-driven force, operates in the world freed from persons who once were living, charismatic agents, do components of those personalities still, with divine or evil intent, work within the living organisms today, traveling via the sensory rigging? I trust that in a widespread manner they do.

All the currents and cross-currents of sensory recognition, deliberate and subconscious action and all that goes on below our senses, vestigial or vanguard, adds up to a haunted world, or, moreover, a haunted universe. All who have ever exerted personal will in the world and their successors, all the intentions united or at cross purposes with each other, all the birth and dying across the fan of living species have a role in the formation of what clutters the earth. How the living and the once-living impact the whole universe is a matter, of course, open for eternal speculation. In the wild, the tightly-interwoven forces of creation and destruction might be conceived of as parallels of good and evil in the realm of our own society where good and evil bring reward, enhancement, fertility, profusion or else downfall. Enough evil in the midst of our own affairs brings retribution and ultimately collapse of society. Plague, volcanic upheaval, flood, landslide, fire and typhoon or tornado are the parallels, results of imbalances, in nature. Where human evil, shaping up as excess, is imposed long enough on nature we can expect to see cataclysm, drawn out as likely as not through many human lifetimes.

If there are ghosts of our own dead undetectable for the most part to ourselves, it is easily conceived that they linger, through necessity or vast preference, outside the dimension of time and space that we the breathing occupy, any access back to our zone being freakish or exceptional. So our lives with regard to this post-experience are at best round after round of hopeful conjecture spun off of tidbits, clues from what we witness, read or hear of. If castles, old battlefields, farms, mansions, hotels and boarding houses, theaters and more of our own construction hold the ghosts of unfulfilled persons, so must forests and wetlands hold some of the same elements--even where no one is there to conceive a vision of them.

To my imagination some of our Minnesotan and Canadian peatlands, which proliferate in this largest of northern counties, look haunted by what used to live there during eons of a more abundant and diverse wilderness. What I'm seeing may be the same aspect that persuaded long-ago First Nations people that the Windigo and other spirits of the dead, not necessarily human dead, prowled those dank places. These were cannibal and misleading presences. Tumbles of wrecked trees, victim of storm winds and shallow frosty soil, subside into fantastic formations. A traveler today, playfully looking out, occasionally longing for whoever and whatever she or he may never see again can hardly help ascribing them character. The transition happens easily as you drive along the county roads.

This mixed media painting, nearing completion as we lose the grey and taupe of the winter landscape, is a vision of the far north where trees hesitate to grow, though a few have made their stand only to topple in the winds of the Arctic Ocean, the Bering and Beaufort Seas and parallel waters a-brim with ice. Soils are shallow and root systems are as a consequence flat like the feet of geese, ducks and the featured red-throated loons being flushed down a spate that suggests rapid melt from unaccustomed balmy winds. A lone wolf, like a sole survivor, peers backward in a remembered direction. Root clusters and hulks of once-living trees wield clawed arms and horns and prongs full of either menace or makeshift opportunity. The title is Spookage - the Liquefying North. As much as it is about anything, the work is about the amassed influences of all who have gone before us, features we fear and animation that we yearn to have again, plus the beckoning beyond that life is a tangled process of reaching into.