I’ve just turned 71. The reversal of the digits from 17 to 71 took 54 long years, 54 short years, 54 inscrutable years. There is no way to make a map of the way. So many people I’ve loved are dead and gone and yet alive and not gone in my mind. When I was 17 the outer population was greater than the inner population. At 71 it is exactly the reverse – the inner population is greater than the outer population.
I don’t have to spill blood libations to court them. They come in my dreams, looking exactly like themselves from long ago and faraway. My Great Uncle Manny wears the forty year old blue shoes back again in fashion. He loved them and loved the revolution that brought them back. I loved them because he loved them. That was enough.
We get swept up in the currents and eddies of other people’s lives. That is what love does, also what hate does. But how does the dream machine hold so much – shoes, faces, voices, the banks of the Seine, my father’s pipes and his Latakia tobacco? I appear sometimes as myself with and without a befuddled expression.
And women, too, starting with my mother and proceeding from there,
I have been listening and listening down the years and down the decades. I have heard voices from outside and voices from inside. I have heard the voices of some who lived and died before I was born, some long before. Ancients have been my contemporaries. I have tried to make a music of what I have heard – a weaving, a blending, a searching singing, always letting go and never holding on, changing colors, rhythm, timbre, above all, timbre, so hard to characterize.
It has all been lost, leaving behind only untraceable, influences on what came next as it too was and then was not. I have been a professional listener and well paid for it. I have been of more than a little use to more than a few people in search of themselves, in flight from themselves, in revolt against their fates, in accepting what they sensed was to be their fate. The fates are rarely kind and it is hard to be in their presence. I have always remembered that I, too, am subject to fate, my fate, indeterminate.
But the professional listening is only part of the wider, more difficult, more exhilarating. more exasperating, more inspiring listening . This listening was there for me in me long before the professional listening was even a tiny hum, not tinnitus, in my ear. I lost my way before I found my way, yet the way was with me, hidden within me, even as I was losing it. To listen and listen and listen and never be sure what I am hearing is both freedom and fascination.
As I write this, I am in Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. Not far from where I sit, a magnificent Guanacaste tree roots. It is much much older than I am,. It casts a wide canopy of shade., throwing dapple down, as the breeze off the Pacific stirs its branches. This same stiff breeze ruffles and threatens to seize the page as I write an old fashioned way, with a ball point pen.
Monkeys and parrots and iguanas. From tip to tail the nearest iguana is seven feet long. He stares with a fixed reptilian stare. His tail is ringed He is beautiful and still. I can hear the wind in the tress, trembling on the edge of wanting to speak. A bright pink flowering tree, one of the myriad oaks, is on the rim of the beach. I bring myself into existence and let myself go out of existence by writing. I am being the story I might seem to be telling.