Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A forgotten poem...

Where to now, Morgan Le Fey?
Have I become Parcifal lost on his Way?
Or have you exiled me from Avalon's shores?
When, then, Moonlit Queen, do I find it?
Or in the Chapel Perilous do I simply quit?
In the Halls of Annwn my madness breeds sweet release.

Written some years ago while woolgathering about myths and storms.

"The Wendigo is a mighty, powerful spirit. It can take on many forms-- part wind, part tree-- part man, part beast-- shapeshifting between them. It can fly at you like a sudden storm, without warning, from nowhere, and devour you, consume you with its ferocious appetite. The Wendigo is hungry, always hungry. And its hunger is never satisfied."
- Native American Myth

Last night, as I was driving home, I caught up with the tail of a storm busy unleashing its fury of fire and ice upon the unsuspecting land. Nickel sized hail fell in sheets, and the lightening was a little too close for comfort. On the radio, the local station was broadcasting a warning for my part of the county. Seek Shelter, they said. Tornado warning in effect. And where am I? Tailing the fury itself.  To think, people chase storms like this on purpose. It seemed like a good idea to pull over and wait it out.

Watching the howling spectacle before me, my mythic mind went into overtime. I imagined spirits raging in the night, hungry and angry. My mind wandered into the dreamy places we call memory, and the howling wind got me to thinking of the Wendigo - and to thinking about another uneasy night involving winds and woods, back when I was still a teenager in junior high.

My friends and I were walking to our older friend John’s house. We lived in a rural area, and the quickest way to his place from my place was through the woods.  The sky was dark with roiling clouds, and as the wind started to pick up, an uneasy feeling stole over us all. It was one of those dream like moments when you are convinced that something is there in the dark, born on the night air; something not right, something malevolent and foreboding. Maybe we were just spooked by the storm that was brewing, but we opted to go home anyway.  The adolescent mind still hasn’t quite gotten over the monster in the closet.

John died a few days later in a motorcycle accident. I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but he had been musing on death a lot. Nightmares, he said, in which he died. His parents had grown uneasy too, and later said on more than one occasion that they were overcome with a feeling of dread on the very same night of the storm.

For years I wondered what we had really felt. Were we experiencing a premonition? In the parts of the south I grew up in, some people still claimed to see ghostly black dogs before someone died. Maybe it was like that. Or maybe it was something else, something lurking in the history of the land, something that hunts with the wind like the wendigo.

Or maybe it was a young person’s brain retroactively connecting dots that were never there. Apophenia can be a cruel mistress. The mind makes sense of things how it will, and with poetic license always. Most of my friends were quick to put it out of their minds. I have never been able to do that completely. Liminal moments are hard to forget.

Since then, I have read many a dark folktale about wind spirits with ravenous appetites, flying like a hail-storm at you in the night. It’s tempting to wonder if there was something like a wendigo in the woods that night, or a black hound perhaps, come to reap the dead; that John was taken by a spirit. Then again, it’s easier to say his death was merely happenstance and coincidence. More rational, more realistic. Still..

The Poet in me might say there are no coincidences, but we must not try to understand him too quickly. The Poet was, after all, influenced by the thunder and howling night furies, and he was at an impressionable age.

"Nobody believes in the Spirits anymore. Doesn't mean they're not there."

The hail stopped. I started the car and tailed this storm, and when I dreamt that night, my dreams were filled with the faces of the long since dead, and in the woods the Wendigo walked on the wind.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What lies behind the Mask?

"Hark ye yet again— the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event— in the living act, the undoubted deed— there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?"

~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Behind My Mannikins...

"Under the skies, on the roads, in the towns, in the woods, in the hills, in the plains, by the shores, on the seas, behind my mannikins, I was not always sad, I wasted time, abjured my rights, suffered for nothing, forgot my lesson. Then a little hell after my own heart, not too cruel, with a few nice damned to foist my groans on, something sighing off and on and the distant gleams of pity’s fires biding their hour to promote us to ashes."

~ Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable