Michael EversonI stand here now, stand in a world diffuse with brightness. All around me is a stillness, a quietness, an immanent grey solitude which fills my heart with peace. Within, around, before, and behind that greyness is a shining multiverse of forms: of beings, alive with movement or stillness, with change or steadfastness, with vivid dynamic or quiet potential.
How came I here, to stand here and tell you this? The memory is distant yet immediate, present in all the things which I hear and see about me. Paradox and dichotomy meet together in singularity now, wherever I turn my thoughts or senses.
I remember my bicycle. It wasn’t a new bicycle, but I had always kept it in good repair and it returned that care in good stead. I remember it was morning, early, about nine o’clock. Everywhere you looked it was spring: still too soon in the year for the morning dew to be dried away yet by the sun, the crocuses glistened white and pink among the green, green grasses everywhere to be seen. The trees’ young leaves had uncurled like babies’ fists reaching for the sunlight: or perhaps babies’ fists could be said to unfurl like young spring leaves. Every breath was fresh and clean, and I smiled, high, drinking in breath after invigorating breath as I bicycled along on the old, worn road. It was an easy ride: the plain I was on was broad and mostly flat, low mountains far behind me in the distant north and west. The morning was hushed and still. The birds more or less silent, all that could be heard was the sound of the wind in the clouds and grass, and the sandy turn of my tyres against the road. I began to pedal faster, losing myself in the rhythm of pedalling, the quiet sounds, and the cool, vital air in my lungs and on my skin.
I don’t remember how long I cycled, for now it seems like it was both many hours, and but a few moments. It was one of those perfect and timeless times: I really don’t recall anything but the rhythm, the left-right, side-side of pedalling, the sound of my breath in my ears: in, out, full, empty. It was as though I wasn’t there, in a way, only what I was doing.
I guess that’s really the way it was, you see, because, and I don’t remember now, but suddenly I seemed to be off the road, pedalling through the grass. It was odd, because it was just as easy as it had been along the road, though of course it shouldn’t have been, I remember thinking. I looked back behind me and all I could see now was the grassy plain with the mountains behind, and the wake of my tyres snaking through the grass. There weren’t any trees to be seen. But it didn’t seem to matter, not being on the road, and to ride on forward was so easy, that I just did, on and on, and on. After a time I knew that I was near the shore, because the grass had become much more sparse, and dark rocks poked with increasing frequency up through the black yet sandy earth. I remember the electric contrast between the dark of the soil and the stones, and the bright green of the grass which grew in and among them. I remember too thinking about the stones and how they might be bad for my tyres, but since riding was still so easy, I guessed it was silly to worry about it. I just kept on riding, smoothly, in the rhythm I had set. And the day was still so beautiful, and the sun now so warm.
It seemed to me like I could go on riding forever, enjoying the day and sun and wind. And somehow -- it would have been hard to say just how -- I knew that I had been riding forever, and there wasn’t any way to stop, or any reason to want to.
And it was then that I heard singing. Almost in the back of my mind, at first, but then ahead, due east, far in the distance; yet all at the same time it was inside, in the centre of my own head, swooping down from above and passing out forward. It was a sweet and simple melody, but broken, incomplete and fragmentary. I seemed to pedal in time to it, or it kept its beat along with me. Maybe we were keeping time with each other. Softly, at first, then louder by degrees, came the words: If ye dare, now, o’er the water; if ye dare, now, o’er the sea. It was as though whoever was singing was very, very old, and yet a friend, someone whom I knew. Below, I saw that I was riding now through puddles, my tyres splashing water up and out in arcs across the stones and grass. If ye dare now . . I kept pedalling, through the water, because in spite of everything it all seemed perfectly normal, and I just kept listening to the voice and the fragments of its tune. To my right -- which I thought was to the north and east -- I saw an island, blue-green, dim in the mists over the water. The sky above was full now with clouds, large and billowing, white above with the light of the sun, and dark, heavy with water below. Here and there a shaft of light broke through, shining on the water or the rocks. If ye dare, now, o’er the water, if ye dare, now, o’er the sea came the song again, and I wasn’t sure whether I had heard it, or sung it myself.
I found suddenly that I had come to a stop and that I was straddling my bicycle atop a rock, about seven inches deep in water, which swelled now from my ankles to my knees. The only sound I could hear was that of the waves lapping, and of the wind whipping a wave-peak here and there into white froth. I looked behind me to see where I had come from, but there was nothing but an expanse of sea, the heavy clouds above, and the wind, cold now against my face. The shallow way that I had come was gone, submerged in the waves which swelled and surged everywhere around.
Suddenly once again I heard the voice: O’er the water, o’er the sea. The water was too deep, and too wild -- yet I knew that I must cross to the island that I had seen before. I closed my eyes, listened to the sound of the waves, swayed my body forward and back in rhythm with the waves and the singing, each counterpoint to the other -- and then I heaved myself backwards, thrusting my bicycle forward with my feet and falling into the swells. The cold was a shock. A tremendous chill shivered throughout my body and my being, and my limbs tensed and drew upward toward my body. A peculiar thought occurred to me: I knew that I should have been thinking that I would drown, but when I thought of this I knew that it was untrue: that I was not drowning, and that I could not drown. I felt very, very small, there in the midst of the water; but I felt, I saw, I knew with a certainty that I cannot explain, that I was, and am, protected and nurtured by the very things which once I might have feared. How, after all, should I come to fear myself?
There was no transition that I can recall. All at once I was walking here amidst the grey and quiet fullness. Standing among the bright forms, here on this island, alone in the midst of a vast sea, I saw that I was not alone: I felt the touch of many, and the approach of many more.
And that is how I found myself here, where I stand now, with you.
Tell me: how did you come to be here, yourself?
Los Angeles, 1989-02-09. From Enigma 1, 1989.
HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2002-09-09
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