I’ve so many stories to tell thus far of where I am, while still attempting to unravel mysteries wound-tight upon themselves from Eugene.
I’ve said before, and I shall say it again–there is so much magic in that place. Dark, brooding magic. Whimsical magic, but we should remember, the stories we have of the Fae, in all their playfulness and laughter, are often sorrow-soaked, sometimes mixed with blood.
One looks around in that place, standing before a chthonic well, and wonders how it is that those passing by don’t notice. Except–they do, on some pre-conscious level. There was a small grove near the bridge over the creek by the place I lived, a place where always the light seemed to filter in a peculiar way. Its entrance was littered with trash, the trees pressing against a chain-link fence. It was a non-space, really, too small to be developed, a buffer between an apartment complex and the marshy parkland along a bike path. Too soggy to be camped in by the wandering peasants displaced by late-Capitalism.
I first noticed it and thought, “huh. There’s probably something there.” But I didn’t go in, and anyway, I was busy with all the other magickal things one finds oneself doing there without even meaning to.
A friend came to visit, one not quite conscious of his sensitivity, uncontrolled in his native power. It amused me when we passed–his head turned, almost violently, noting the way the light turned a particular gold through the leaves of Birch, filtering through as sepia-tone. “Oh, pretty,” he said, and looked away, forgetting immediately what he’d seen.
Others came to visit, too. I watched their reactions to certain areas, looking for signs they noticed the same areas. This is a good way to confirm your suspicions about certain areas–watch their eyes, wait for sudden changes in expression, and look, particularly, for the moment of forgetting.
The Gate Out
I am car-less. I do not drive, nor do I intend ever to learn. I’ve never had a license, have sat behind a wheel a few times enduring friendly and helpful attempts to impart upon me such an important, modern skill. I forget what I’m told immediately, as I’ve never had any real desire to guide a very large piece of metal along asphalt at fast speeds. American cities, towns, much of the landscape itself is defined by our peculiar conflation of “freedom” and “petroleum,” and I prefer to have little to do with it.
I walked to work in Eugene, sometimes bussed, and after purchasing a quite-useful bicycle from a friend, I rode. I could follow the creek which runs through Eugene 80 per cent of the way between work and home, and if there’s anything to miss about my experience there, it’s that beautiful friend, laughing in the rain, host and mistress of more birds than I thought I’d ever see in one place, and with more colour.
To move from Eugene, I could perhaps have asked one of the few people I knew there to ferry me by auto. This made little sense to me, and anyway, I wanted to say farewell to the stream before I left.
I thought about taking a photo of precisely how I did this. But I’m not much for photos, and anyway, I’ve taken the injunction I’ve heard spoken often to children, “use your words,” a bit seriously.
So, a man wearing black motorcycle shorts, heavy boots, leather gauntlets on his arms (easier to wear than pack), a black t-shirt, mohawk and beard and braided goatee walked a path along a stream, guiding what, to his mind, seemed the closest to pack-mule he’d ever lead. It was a bike, from the 80’s, likely, painted neon-teal, held together in some places by duct tape and string. Atop the bike, he’d mounted a piano-bench, painted white and inscribed with epitaphs of Dionysos, tied by cord to the handlebars and frame. Atop that, he’d bound his massive rubberized canvas rucksack, stuffed tightly with all the barest essentials of his physical existence. In his pocket, peanuts, the last of his supply to feed the wheeling, dancing crows.
I walked that way for a little more than an hour, following the stream to the center of town where it parts, flowing as it does from further up one of the two rock-topped hills (I dislike the phonetic resonance of the american pronunciation of “butte”). From there, I turned towards the train station, guiding the bike and my affects through streets full of people already accustomed to such sights. Carrying belongings by bike is how the homeless exist in Eugene–indeed, it’s from them I got the idea in the first place–and I was, too, without home.
At the station, something happened.
I’ve spoken often of “gates.” I first started noticing this in Europe, while on pilgrimage. I’ll quote myself:
There are gates everywhere. Doors, if you will. Cracks in walls which open when you push, gaps between things into which your thoughts can fit, squeeze through, and enter.
Some gates are made of light. Sunlight filtered through trees hitting stone. Sunlight filtered through trees refracted on water. Light dancing, still, not what it was, not what it will be when you look away. Starlight through pines. Candlelight against leaf.
Some of darkness and shadow. The abyss between elder at night, the blackness of open cave, the un-seeing of closed eyes in sleep, the depths in the soul where the heart’s light does not always reach.
Most are outside, but they are also in….Doors within are there but overgrown, hidden, like ruins of ancient forts and temples covered in vine and fallen tree. Cleared, the keys found, they can be entered, and they lead not to more inside, but an Other outside.”
Those gates are similar to what one sees in that grove I mentioned, the otherworldly light filtering through the place, often begging your attention and then, just as quickly, rebuffing it.
At the station, though, I saw another gate, almost a gate…out. Sometimes the imaginal part of the brain fills in what you can sense, sometimes it doesn’t. Here it looked as a gate, a german Tor, there and gone like the glimpses of spirits who are merely trying to tell you they’re there and “hello” and nothing particularly more urgent than a playful greeting.
It is a surprisingly simple thing to load a bike, an altar, and a rucksack onto an American train. Simpler, actually, than a European one, but this has more to do with the assumption in America that you still don’t really understand how a train works and you’ll need help. It’s overly-coddling sometimes, but welcome when your covered in sweat from a hot day and are moving from one state to another by train rather than auto.
There, in the seat, I felt empty of thought, almost numb. I was leaving, but there were no emotions to it. Suspended in waiting for the moment to arrive, the shift from stationary to moving, and then it came.
And I forgot.
I’m not sure how to explain this. When I left Seattle for my pilgrimage, Seattle was still with me until I hit Iceland, fading, certainly, but still there. In Paris, there was some Iceland with me until I reached Rennes, at which point there was still some (but very little) Paris with me until I disembarked the train. Between each parting and each arrival, the places lingered and mixed in my consciousness.
I can recall fully what it was like to sleep in a tent in Quimper, waking in the middle of the night to the rustling of a boar. What is was like to sleep on the couch of my friend Duf in Strasbourg, in a loft in Berlin, in a room in my sister’s house.
But I actually had to do magic last night to recall what it was like in my bedroom in Eugene. I didn’t really mean to, actually. I was in that liminal place before sleep, and I thought on the matter, and realized I could…shift, I guess, and then I was there.
I know why I forgot. I know, too, why it seemed that almost everyone I met seemed dazed. I’ve mentioned Tennyson’s poem about the Lotos-Eaters, people who forget everything upon an island by eating of its fruit, eager not to know anything else. Why it’s near difficult to think about leaving, almost impossible to conceive of the passing of time. An old friend of mine lives there, and it was two months from the time I arrived ’till the time I finally saw him. And I said to him, “sorry it’s been so long,” and he said, “I know, huh? You’ve been here four months already” and I said, “no, it’s been almost 8,” and then I noticed what had happened.
You have to, there.
And I find myself wandering at what else we have to forget, what else we see and then, suddenly, don’t. Do we choose to forget, or do we simply not remember?
T.S. Eliot has a bird say, “mankind cannot bear very much reality,” and I do not think the bird was wrong.