A long ride home, over an hour. Two lines and both with long delays because of trains stalled on the tracks ahead of them. It gives me time to listen to a podcast, the latest episode of Errthang, called How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. It’s a reading of a narrative about growing up Black in the South. Normally I listen to my home-bound podcasts with distractions: daydreaming, dozing, playing games, checking email. But today, from 5 minutes in, I am held by it. It begins:

I’ve had guns pulled on me by four people under Central Mississippi skies — once by a white undercover cop, once by a young brother trying to rob me for the leftovers of a weak work-study check, once by my mother and twice by myself. …


I was thinking today about the first times we met. About when I first saw you, a long-legged man wearing light summer pants and a cream cotton shirt with a Mandarin collar and a cowboy hat with a shock of black hair sticking out under it, sitting cross-legged in a chair in a Brooklyn garden. When we were strangers to each other — and I was aware of every inch of space between us and my whole body electrified the first time you placed your hand on my bare thigh. Our first kiss at the end of our first long beautiful day, how I stood on my tiptoes (do I still do that? …


We mark down dashes in a ring and call it time, and when it doesn’t fit our schedules we fast-forward or rewind. Sometimes I catch myself wondering which time is the real one, and then I remember the question is flawed — the writing does not belong on the wall at all.

Harken back to the days before “high noon,” back to the days when stories began: “many moons ago.” It was not so very long ago here, just a few hundred years. Time itself, like the land, was unbanded. Who would think to mark such things? …


I am thinking about Time. Or rather, I am feeling her — how capricious she is, how she slips from grasping fingers and skirts the shadows, smirking. She is magic and she is mischief: she gives the greatest gifts and then she takes them away. She is a sage guide and a cruel gaslighter. My, how she makes the heart swell, and the heart ache!

I read a piece yesterday, a short true story, about a brief bright flare of love a long while past. The story was somewhat of a dud, it ended abruptly and without satisfaction. …


Oh, do not tell me that this is the last hike of the season; I do not wish to hear it. I am only human, I want to make my own seasons. I want to stand in opposition to the year’s nightfall, I want to defy time. I will drag my cold bones out into that glittering winter; I will fill my lungs with that wakeful, stinging air. Let me deny the vulnerability of my body, let me summit the austere mountain. Time is impervious and I am not; but I can forget it in foolhardy defiance. And Mother Earth humors my illusions; she has been gentle with me, her impudent child. …


If you can listen to the susurrant trees, they will tell you of themselves. Their speech is uncomplicated by words, as existence is uncomplicated by ideas. This is Truth.

There is the belief that all language distorts reality — that in the mere act of perceiving, of naming, we skew the light of the thing perceived so that it comes out contorted, malformed, part of it lost amidst the hall of mirrors we passed it through. “What do you call the world?” asks a Buddhist koan. …


We hiked out when everyone else is returning or has long finished, as so often seems to happen. It was nearly sunset when we began the slow, gentle climb up the mountain. We weaved beside a creek, through thick woods and past clearings dotted with yellow wildflowers. And as the sun sank, we rose, shifting our horizon, so that the reward for our ascension was an extension of the day. At the terminus of our hike, we reached a high waterfall: snowmelt cascading from the spires of the earth, bound for one river and then another, destined ultimately for the artery of the Colorado River. The Rockies our heart, sending its lifeblood south to our cities and our farms, warming as it flows to the Gulf of Mexico. And across from this waterfall, here was our view: the valleys below shrouded in shadow, the sun around a bend, the high slopes gold-tipped. As always, you know it’s growing dark, you know you should hurry back, but sight after sight hold you captive. …


​Rode back to NYC today along those rural highways, the scenery a spread of simple but striking gifts. The shaded forests of Pennsylvania, carpeted in lush and shaggy ferns and draped in vines — the greens unreal after the rain, the bark so dark. Swaths of white and lavender dame’s rocket on the roadside, splashes of color adorning the strips and slopes where light falls. Waving pools of tufted grass, flaxen, glimmering in the sun. I spot a lone young deer exposed, standing alert in the wide empty avenue cut through the trees by train tracks. In the higher altitudes, we enter cloudland. We pass clearings sliced by a creek, its shallow green-grown banks cradling thick fog, mist hanging in wisps over the grass, a spare white birch like a bleached bone rising. Narrow fern-blanketed paths lead through the trees, enticing. The forest is a dream world, harboring fairies. …


​I awoke at 5:30 this morning, curled fully-clothed upon the bed. The world murmured with rain outside my window, thunder tumbled slowly in. It drew me out into the cradle of a still, warm night. The storm hung above the city, stalled in windless skies. Water poured down straight. I leaned beneath the doorway’s narrow edge, soothed by the rain’s whisper to thunder’s rolling rage. The heavens resounded then flashed, seconds apart, striking each minute like the recurrent waves of the sea.

the tumble of thunder, the pour of rain

An interesting question: who are we, devoid of context or of consciousness? My first impulse is to assert that you are still you, just half-shrouded in sleep or confusion, only half-slipped into your niche in the world. But then imagine the situation extended, that you hang in stasis. Long enough for your niche to change. Do you lose yourself in the dark? At what point? Is my selfhood delimited by time, does it have a half-life? If “I” am defined by my consciousness, for how long must my consciousness be transformed before the core of that “I” changes with it? What is my true nature: is it the vague outline of who I have been for the longest, of who I have been at my most aware, or simply of who I am now? If it is the latter, does my selfhood flicker like a flame in the wind? …

About

Anna Rasshivkina

All things language. Writer, translator, coder. www.thesewords.live

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