Surrealscape # 2

A giant wood. Deep inside, cat smiles floating above horizontal tree limbs, and strange birds with opalescent, pupil-less eyeballs floating above a doubling-up of mouths (beaks on top, buckteeth below). Deep inside, the trees will teach you about Time. The first, second and last lessons are these: circles are our little dancing gods. One old oak points with a knotty arm to the snails looping his base. Their innumerable slimy wakes will serve as metaphors. Since the gelatinous paths are barely visible in the underbrush, you’ll have to bend down for a closer look. But while you’re bent over, watch out – the nearest tree, a feisty beech, is bringing its branch down quick, and swaps you on the ass! You jump up screeching but the trees chorus, “SHHHH. Listen with your ears wide open. Do you hear the sounds?” Bald cypress, cassia, white poplar, toon, longan, sugar maple – all the specimens around you staring in expectation, waiting for you to calm and follow their instruction.

You close your eyes as a sign of good faith, and try to open your ears. You’ve never tried to unpeel this sense, to deliberately focus the inner ear pieces on subtle auditory stimuli. Life thus far – mostly unconscious absorption of external sensory events. And that, mainly visual. So concentration. Cochlea, vestibular system vibrate, and your bowels clog up with the effort. But suddenly you become aware of tiny noises. They grow in distinction and intensity the longer you stand still listening. Skittering of praying mantis over dead leaves; slithering of Northern Tree Snake across branches; trilling of Wandering Tattler, that bombastic bird. A rapid acceleration of descending notes in decreasing volume. Through the critter clamor slices histrionic moaning from windy currents. What a wondrous cacophony! And you are only privy to a thousandth of its richness. The trees, like owls, like whales, have a staggering aural range. What’s more, their range grows in proportion to the size and number of their trunk rings. The oldest among them hear the most. They speak.

“That is the music we want you to hear. Its texture is life. Its medium is Time. The music has existed behind and among and inside our consciousness since we were seedlings, so many thousands of years ago. It is always changing. But repetitions arise, segments of déjà-vu…for if one lives long enough (as we do), one hears that everything repeats. This is how it works: each sound is a thread, each thread a different thickness and colour. They all wind into enormous circles which roll through the air like speeding hoola-hoops. Hoola-hoop hues and densities vary constantly, but when, due to the probabilities inherent in Time-eternally-rolling, they align in a pattern of familiar synchronicity, we smile to ourselves.”

You start to ask a question, but the trees interrupt you once again.

“Just listen, your ears wide open. There is nothing so important as that.”

Then they stretch and breathe in deeply. The space around them shrinks inward, expands outward – a concave then convex bubble of reality confounding your eyes. Time follows space, warping; music follows Time, warping. The trees in this peculiar wood are curiously multicoloured. Take this longan for example. You go up to examine more closely. The vein bifurcating each leaf is also the dividing line between two brightly contrasting colours. You finger a pale yellow and plum blade. The longan looks down at you disapprovingly, as if to indicate that you’re still playing favourites with your senses, sight over sound, no good. But the longan doesn’t realize that you will learn the lesson through sight this time. Inspecting the leaf in your palm, you observe that the pale yellow half is not a homogenous hue; neither is the plum. Four thinner veins divide each half into sections of five, and each section is a tint of yellow, or a shade of plum. Such leafy rainbow monochromy is visually splendid, but ultimately pointless. The mathematicality, the sharp angles, the segmentation…these apply to trees and nature. But not to Time. An epiphany smacks you on the forehead: Time can melt, reverse, warp, wrinkle, explode – and mostly it loops. Our parceling is meaningless, our existence lived in the parcels nonsense.

Just then you spy a peacock, roaming the underbrush. You follow its waving eye-feathers drunkenly. (Your new realization is quite the intoxicant.) The bird leads you to more peacocks, and you follow them to where the wood thins. There are little girls everywhere now. They run shrieking through the brush, doing their damndest to pluck out the peacocks’ eye-feathers. They run so fast that they vanish into pink and yellow streaks of watercolor. Mischief is their second-highest divinity. Following their dashing little bodies, you come out of the wood onto a vast plain. There are no landmarks to impede the eye, so it goes freely, farly, to every point on the horizon. The plain is a chess board stretching on and on: black and white squares unto infinity.

Somewhere a bell tolls six o’clock. When it’s time for the girls to sleep, they crawl into their little doll beds, each one occupying a black or white square on the plain. The scene has been captured, in acrylics or oils, at least thrice by surrealist painters. In sleep the children dream of white balls of sugar, no chewing work to be done. As if their waking lives were full of troubles from which easy candy dreams provided the only respite. A fat falsity. These creatures live far more unrestrained and worry-free than you will ever be. They are mostly oblivious to the existence of Time. With Space, on the other hand, they zero in. The trees focus on music and Time. The girls only understand music and Space. They learned long ago how to breathe music from the trees, but Time never came. Their current metronomic intuition interacts solely with their perceptions of distance, height, volume. They love the music, but how they love this moorland! Sounds and trees and rocks and creatures – all in Space are more interesting to the girls because enhanced with the most precise (but also the most friendly) of markers. Numbers, to these youngsters, are tangible entities with unique personalities and colours, hanging at varying levels of air, marking out dimensions. “So wildly different” you think, “is this geometric, Euclidean yet synaesthetic understanding from our own egocentric, schematic conceptions.” And you are not wrong.

All of a sudden, you’re able to see the world through their eyes. You see how the blue and green and red numbers dance at different points over the trees. The chess-board plain becomes your bedroom and your world; its monotony is home, its rigidity pretty as a melting sunset. You’re able to hear the silent dream-chorus of the sleeping girls. They all sing thunderously in their slumber. At first listen, the music seems blindingly chaotic, but rooting about, clawing deeper, you perceive the extreme compositional order. Each girl’s bed, in its square, is at a distance of a perfect fifth from the next, and each girl’s mouth, exploding with silent dream spume, produces pitches in perfect fifths according to her proximity with the next. Mysteries abound. Which is cause and which effect? How do the sleep arrangements and musical abilities interrelate? Do they play nicely? From whence the perfection?

Now the girls are in the midst of a collective dream. You’re privy to everything. They’re confronting a peacock revolt. Furious peacocks swarm towards them, seeking revenge. They’re swarming, swarming, swarming…they’re going to peck out the little girls’ eyes! What’s worse, it will be their sleeping eyes, which are rounder and fuller than waking eyes. The violence begins. You’re helpless, stuck between worlds. The girls are helpless, stuck in sleep. Long before the bloodbath is finished, dreaming eyes flow into the wood from the plain, blanketing the underbrush in a globular sea. You find yourself in a delicate situation, searching for patches of ground as yet unbuttered by eyeball spread. Alas, there are none, so you squash squash squish as fast as you can, back into the heart of the forest. Heaving but momentarily safe, you slump into the gnarled root structure of a gigantic kapok. Your shoes and pant legs are covered in white slime, stringy blue veins. The ocular tides are still a ways off. The trees can see them coming though, and even they, who have lived forever, and will live for another forever, are somewhat repulsed. You’ve forgotten your lessons, bent on a more lasting escape. The trees forget, for a moment, circles, music, Time. They’re squeamish and also looking for a way out.

“If only we…

…these damn roots!”

The sea of orbs flows in. You’re up and running again, on your way home. The trees don’t have much choice.

“There is a first for everything” one says.

~ by kingzoko on June 28, 2010.

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