The Hyperfine Structure: Part Two: One Morning's Odyssey
James awoke before six and decided that it was a good morning to take a picture of sunrise. He drove in to the lab, took the elevator to the roof and stood there in the pre-dawn dimness, not darkness, just dimness slightly before the light arrived. He thought of the prior evening, visiting his 84 year old mother down at his sister's house. Sister Ann and husband Steve took the day, Ann's 50th birthday, to go bike riding in the hills.
At supper, prepared by Ann for her mother and James. He took the macaroni from the refrigerator and microwaved it for both of them. Then they sat at the dining room table and talked. Mother was worried that "her mother" meaning her daughter Ann wouldn't have a good time, or might get hurt on the trip, and any one of a number of things that could go wrong.
James shrugged as he dug into his macaronis. "She'll be fine," he said, "don't worry." He was getting used to this new person, not the mother he'd grown up with but an old woman whose memories were fading away. At times she no longer recognized her grandchildren and she thought her great-grandchild was her grandchild.
Dawn was beginning to light up the edge of the eastern rim of the Middlesex Valley and so James unlimbered his camera and began shooting, trying to catch the first rays as they shot out over the edge. He looked down at the town, the river in the background, mist hanging over the river and many of the valleys across his field of vision. So many people down there, so many that I don't and never will know, most of them sleeping now, unaware that the machinery of the world is about to begin again.
Standing on the roof of the Science Tower he realized that almost every image he took had a small part of the University in it. Its been an interesting place, he thought, being part of this school, thirty-five years of it. I wonder if, after I retire next year, how soon will it begin to disappear from my mind. Will this world, one day, like Mom, fade out of existence, as if it never existed. Its odd that she thinks of her daughter as her mother, and I know when I call her each day that she thinks I'm her brother Mike, now dead for twenty years.
The first sun rays shot over the rim, bright laser lights, thin lines streaking to specific sites, illuminating individual parts of the world. At least that's the way it looked through his lens. He caught those rays, bottled them up on magnetic disk. Now the images were safe, the memories of the moment locked up and frozen as evidence that the day actually did begin. It was like the scene in "Black Orpheus" when the young boy, using the dead Orpheus's guitar strums up the sun from below the horizon, magic, pure magic, each and every day. Well, maybe not on cloudy or wintry days.
As the sun rose, more rays filtered into other places, bringing the whole world into focus. He imagined townfolks waking up, getting ready for work, then calling their kids who stumbled out of bed toward the bathroom, then breakfast. From this vantage point the world, down there, reminded him of a scene from the play "Our Town."
In photographing the town he realized that he was taking pictures of hundreds of individuals as they arose, as they dressed, ate, got ready for work and school. Yet, none of that would be visible from the images. Only the exterior of the buildings would be seen, a slight wisp of smoke from some chimneys, a car driving down the road, or a schoolbus moving toward its passengers.
From this angle it was all anonymous, the spoken words: "Get up, its late -- wash up -- here's your lunch!" could not be heard, or emotions felt, laughter was non existent. All he could see was that silent world that his mother was coming to, isolated from a landscape that was changing into strangers, just as she was moving toward her merger with the loved ones who existed for her on another plane, that plane, now a part of the land of the living.
We don't think of daytime having different lights, he thought. This light, this morning light, so feeble makes it feel like a fake day, but later, in a short while, when the angle is different the real day will begin. I'll go back down now, have some breakfast, and put on my work hat to start the day's chores. The machinery of the world, will begin. Sure, but not for Mom. She'll sit quietly in her chair, alone from the world, "happy in her misery," as Steve once said.
Looking down at the roof he was compelled to take pictures of the lightning rod holders. Moisture, clinging to metallic parts glistened in the sunlight. He took pictures of several of them, each slightly different. These are part of the world that nobody ever looks at, he thought, part of the "machinery of the universe" that holds it all together but that isn't considered. It's like our skeleton, we know its there but we don't think about it, just take it for granted; but each one is a work of art. That is, for those who take time to look . . .
Yet Mother doesn't see any of it she sits there in her living room, complaining of how bored she is and that nobody pays her any attention. How sad that she's missing the whole show, from dawn to sunset. I wish I could think of some way to help her to give her inspiration, not that it hasn't been tried. But I guess we really have to want to find our own way -- have to try, otherwise . . .
He finished off his filming, started to put the lens cover on and realized that there, in front of him, was the "machinery of the universe" staring him in the face. He clicked off the photo, then put the lens cover on and climbed back down, entered the hallways, still empty save for the cleaning people and they weren't even visible at the moment.
I've been on another journey this morning, he thought, before most of the land was even awake. I've seen the world seen them all, in a manner of speaking that is, though they don't know me, or I them. He found that already he was beginning to change mental gears, putting away the moments of his morning's odyssey and considering breakfast then the day's work schedule. So many layers, he thought, the dimensions we travel through from one moment to the next and the next and the next . . .
Glancing down at his watch James vaguely considering that he had an appointment someplace. "Jeez!" he said, suddenly remembering that he was supposed to do a tutorial across campus in about four minutes. Shouldering the camera he scooted down the hallway to merge with the work of the world . . .
- to be continued - This is a work that is in progress at the
moment. It's a companion piece to Odysseys at A Shop For
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