Sketches of Woodstock
Exfoliating the Deadening
I awoke the first time to the sound of falling river. The second time it was to the birdsong calling down the hillside. The falling rain on the cabin roof awoke my feet to floorboards.
As I write, she is still asleep. The delicious pleasure of sitting in contemplation, of being alone and listening before she awakes and remembers, recalls our temporary world, and makes her way downstairs can hardly be described. Perhaps it is rather like natality, an experience redolent of being born anew.
She and I go and dwell in the country in order to exfoliate the deadening, to unencrust our senses. It is not merely one straight leaf holding itself before the evening sun that does it for us nor is it one bone white tree growing thinly into tree pose. It is not solely the dijon-colored leaves or the polished rocks or the innards lling the chimney with sound.
It is--yes, of course it is--all these things but it is also much more and something other besides. It is the sense of learning to be in the world, the familiar having fallen away, yielding up the unfamiliar which, being all there is, is not for all that a cause of fright or a sign of terror but a welcoming of existence.
I have often wondered what it would be like if we could stay true to this permeable sense of openness, if our experience of nature were not only an end in itself but also an education of our sensibilities. How would that be, I have asked. How would it be if we could, as with morning eyes and waking words, turn ourselves toward each other and thereby turn ourselves into each other? I can only surmise that it would put us in mind of miracles.
A Gothic Afternoon
For two days, the morning fog has blanketed the hillside rising above the cabin. It is, she is right, a bony, smoky shade. We were standing at the lookout when she said the last. We had hiked up a red clay path on a Gothic afternoon--gray sky, abandoned ruins, blasted trees--only to stop at the edge of the cli to sit and look abroad and point.
The fog was fast moving. Rising from an unseen source, it billowed and furled and rolled across the scene. When we first arrived, it framed a Dutch village immediately before us yet far off, framed the village, that is, while also keeping it hidden from us. Soon, the sun had changed things, opening up the view, casting light on the blasted trees and verdant elds, revealing to us the welcoming clouds. All around us--behind, below, far off--the trees had grown up to face
the sun. They angled toward sunlight, grew into permanent bends, yearned for more.
Did we yearn for more? I do not think so.
A hiker came upon us with determined step. “Cloudy,” she said, looked around, and then proceeded to leave. I wondered what she came for.
The Wicca Hour
It is entirely possible that we have been hallucinating since we first arrived on Monday. We saw a bearded woman in a cart being pulled up a hill by a bearded man in a cloak. We nodded at a leery, shady man in a robe who was watching the bearded couple. We passed by an old man riding a bike uphill on the sidewalk; he swerved like jagged teeth, nearly knocking us over. We met a checkout clerk at the grocery store, a cherubic boy with reddish hair, who scanned items with a cracked voice. We met a checkout clerk at the grocery store, a young woman who told us that she lived with her mother and that her vision was failing. We saw a robed holy woman on the front lawn, a lawn ornament of sorts, who, as much in her attire as in her demeanor, resembled everyone else. We met a wineshop owner who tried to upsell us with a bottle of wine that was $5 more than the one prior. He later pointed to the sign saying that he never accepted promises for payments, then showed us his IOUs, then gave us a discount that largely nullified the $5 upsell.
It is entirely possible that we have been hallucinating, unheimlich-style, but it could also be a thing numinous. We have returned to the local grocery every day, twice last night. We have eaten food prepared by hand, looked at dandelions eye-dropped with rain, waded through wet grass in open fields, guessed at puzzling roofs and confusing light switches, mocked the birds with made-up dialogue. We have made things up as we’ve gone along.
We are learning to feel close. She is learning how to pump her own gas and uncork a bottle of wine and feel at home, learning more generally how to be self-reliant in and through another. We do not impose or oppose; we flow like the stream outside our cabin. And I am spending my days doing what I like where doing what I like–being for her, being with her–is entirely unlike however I thought my days would go. I cannot rule out the possibility that the philosophical life is a glorious, numinous vision.
Being in Love with Living
Over dinner last night she spoke of being in love with living. This morning there is no mist surrounding the hilltop, no rain falling on the opal rocks. The sun is neither out nor hiding and the trees are looking calm. There is a calmness to the morning, our final one here, a steadiness that has been with us throughout the week, even during the stranger moments and especially in the midst of the more revealing ones.
Yesterday afternoon we were hiking up the hill, now deep in the forest, when an older man came riding up to us. Five feet away, he turned off his tractor. His speech was blurry and his face was ruddy. This gnomic man offered us some orange drink. He spoke at length of boyhood, of scenery, of trips to New York City. He ate at the Waldorf Astoria once and took a leak in the Trump Towers. He laughed at this memory. We couldn’t follow his tears which came forward unexpectedly and yet were also held back. Twice he cried or almost cried, twice he struggled and revealed, and twice we couldn’t follow. We asked meekly and he couldn’t hear us. He called his 13 inch beagle, telling us not to fret about her. He invited us to his cabin. He told his rollicking beagle about his new friends. He drove off –a struggle, a kindness, a mystery–and we hugged each other again.
Soon we head back to New York City, feeling out of time. When I began this sketch, the sun had held itself back beyond the morning. Now, as I look past the thicket of trees, run my eyes up the hillside, and stare into the eastern horizon, I see a pale topaz sky and it reminds me of her.
Andrew Taggart is a practical philosopher and philosophical artist. Since 2012, he
has lived nomadically with his wife Alexandra, an artist.