Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

May 23rd, 2005

Pass Utterly

When the roar of the engine dies and the boat settles to her haunches, her nose coming to rest seconds later, silence becomes absolute.

There are such moments. Moments when everything is magical. They arrive without warning, unexpected. This was one of them, I knew as soon as the engine fell silent and the boat settled into a quiet drift. The last hour before dusk, and the setting sun turned everything golden, saturated the greens, browns, reds and blacks of the lake nearly to the point of exaggeration, unreal. There had been a slight breeze earlier, before I moved from one spot to this one, but now the wind was gone and the surface of the water was still as glass. Shad, fleeing a predator, undulated their backs under the shimmering plane of it, rings of rising fish expanded outward like the universe unfolding.

Damselflies swarmed, joined in mating, and they touched the water so slightly they left not even a swirl of their passing. They were so slight, so diminutive and their lives so brief they hardly seemed to exist at all, but there in the last hour of the day their paths aflight seemed to sparkle with starfire, tiny pinpricks against the green-black water. Frogs bellowed to each other, speaking across great distances, but the sudden screech of an owl startled them into silence.

One of those moments. I let the boat drift along the little canal's mouth unguided. Everything seemed made of gold: green-gold, brown-gold, red-gold, all shades of the rainbow augmented and uplifted by gold. Sunlight peeked over the cypresses, throwing lances of gossamer light, fanning. A large, black and hairy spider scurried around the back side of a tree, disturbed at the near passing of the boat. It, too, seemed to be fringed by gold, a halo of shipwrecked sunbeams. The whole lake seemed to immerse itself in those last few moments of the day, and I had the distinct and powerful conviction that I would behold some great moving of heaven and earth, some momentous revelation, if I only knew where to look.

These are the moments that sustain me. This, in all its golden glory and liquid majesty, is my cathedral, temple and choir. It has been said that before we are born we knew the secrets of all time, but an angel came along just at the moment of birth and touched his finger to our lip creating the small indention just under the nose and sealed that knowledge away from us forever. Out here, in these moments, all those secrets are like the words of a song just on the tip of the tongue but not quite remembered, like a name in the back of the mind not quite recalled. Struggle for it, try to conjure it up, coax it out, but it remains elusive and unreachable.

The boat drifts slowly upon a dark canal, canopied with trees. I have been here before, many times, and I know that spirits lurk in the darkness behind the bright glow of dusk. Yet I know not to fear them, that the spirits of my father's people no longer suffer the indignation of Western bias or cross-bearing zealotry. Just as I know that one day, when I take my last breath under a golden twilight, my spirit guide will come for me, to carry me to the last great undiscovered country. I have not lived my life under threat of damnation; rather, I have spent my years under promise of reunion.

These are the moments when it all makes sense to me. There is no concrete here, no cold steel, no drone of machinery or ringing of phones. Clouds drift in, for there is promise of rain tonight, and I almost look forward to it, the scent and sound and feel of it on my skin. The sunbeams are dappled now, piercing clouds and hiding behind them. A small circle opens in the billows, and the rays stream out brilliantly, and I wonder if I might see the Lorax lift himself by the seat of the pants through it. He understood, the Lorax did. That there is no erudition between concrete and steel, in mahogany halls or windowed towers.

Did you intend
that beauty and truth should pass utterly from the Earth?

It all makes sense to me in this place, these moments. How life is not nearly so important as living. How watching is not so necessary as seeing and hearing not so vital as listening. Away from this place, there's too much noise to hear, too much static to see. When I retreat from where I must spent most of my waking hours my eyes ache from powerful electromagnetic fields, cheerily planting tumors in my brain. My joints protest, stiff and sore, when I move away from the hours trapped by the ticking dictator on the wall. My shirttail is tucked neatly under my belt, hair combed, my shoe laces tied, but my heart is dry as old pecan branches, brittle as old window glass. The Lorax understood this. That beauty and truth cannot be allowed to pass utterly from the world. What would be left without damselflies touching the surface of lakewater invisibly, owls startling booming frogs into silence and, there at the back end of dark canals, voices whispering secrets thousands of years old?

Yet it is time. There is never enough of it for peace. The sun is sinking dangerously low, and my ride is far to home. I turn the key and the golden rays, damselflies, clouds, dark ends of canals, all shrink away, appalled at the roar of the engine.

The boat returns me to concrete, steel, noise and chaos. Down a tunnel, and the light at the end is fluorescent, the mouth of it brickwork. I don't know when I'll be able to steal away again to damselflies and gossamer twilight, but I am longing for it already.

(A debt to Theodor Seuss Geisel and to Stephen R. Donaldson for the verse is gratefully acknowledged.) ~ Roger

It's out! And available now! You can be one of the first to own a copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat

Order it now from www.iuniverse.com, Amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.com. Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin Board on that soon.


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