Unreal Nature

March 20, 2015

The Night Snow

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… I am an anachronism, a child of the dying light.

This is from the essay ‘Man in the Autumn Light’ found in The Invisible Pyramid by Loren Eiseley (1970):

… In Brazilian rivers there exists a fish, one of the cyprinodonts, which sees with a two-lensed eye, a kind of bifocal adjustment that permits the creature to examine the upper world of sunlight and air, while with the lower half of the lens he can survey the watery depths in which he lives. In this quality the fish resembles Blake, the English poet who asserted that he saw with a double vision into a farther world than the natural. Now the fish, we might say, looks simultaneously into two worlds of reality, though what he makes of this divided knowledge we do not know. In the case of man, although there are degrees of seeing, we can observe that the individual has always possessed the ability to escape beyond naked reality into some other dimension, some place outside the realm of what might be called “facts.”

… It was the season of the golden light. I was younger then and a hardened foot traveler. But youth had little to do with what I felt. In that country time did not exist. There was only the sound of water hurrying over pebbles to an unknown destination — water that made a tumult drowning the sound of human voices.

… I had come upon what seemed to be a hidden fragment of the days before creation. Because I was mortal and not an omniscient creature, I lingered beside the stream with a growing restlessness. I had brought time in my perishable body into a place where, to all intents, it could not exist. I was moving in a realm outside of time and yet dragging time with me in an increasingly excruciating effort.

… I could, I suppose, have been safe there. I could have continued to hesitate among the stones and been forgotten, or, because one came to know it possible, I could simply have dissolved in the light that was of no season but eternity. In the end, I pursued my way downstream and out into the sagebrush of ordinary lands. Time reasserted its hold upon me but not quite in the usual way. Sometimes I could almost hear the thing for which I had waited in vain, or almost remember it.

… Like some few persons in the days of the final urban concentrations, I am an anachronism, a child of the dying light. By those destined to create the future, my voice may not, perhaps be trusted. I know only that I speak from the timeless country revisited, from the cold vast tundras and the original dispersals, not from the indrawings of man.

… On a planet where snow falls, the light changes, and when the light changes all is changed, including life. I am not speaking now of daytime things but of the first snows of winter that always leave an intimation in each drifting flake of a thousand-year turn toward a world in which summer may sometimes forget to come back. The world has known such episodes: it has not always been the world it is. Snow like a vast white amoeba has descended at intervals from the mountains and crept over the hills and valleys of the continents, ingesting forests and spewing forth boulders.

Something still touches me from that vanished world as remote from us in years as an earth rocket would be from Alpha Centauri. Certainly Cocteau spoke the truth: to add to all the cosmic prisons that surround us there is the prison of the golden light that changes in the head of man — the light that cries to memory out of vanished worlds, the leaf-fall light of the earth’s eternally changing theater. And then comes the night snow that in some late hour transports us into that other, that vanished but unvanquished world of the frost.

My most recent previous post from Eiseley’s book is here.

-Julie

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