Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Autumn Tides

I am an empirical observer, in part. While other parts of me are magic-realist or metaphysical, there is part of me that sees and writes. And after the empiricist has seen and written, the thinker thinks. The last act is that of the bricoleur, the part of me that pieces the thought-fragments together into a narrative.

This is one such narrative. One of those stories which is like a folktale: sparsely true if at all, and truly sparse.


I was a reverse immigrant once. When I reached the old country, I saw hope and vision, and many young people who were willing to help build it into a new country. I worked hard and I was good and bright and creative, and so were they. And all of us were rewarded and we grew in our powers, and we made bridges and communities and towns upon the landscape.

And then the Blight came. It was not a very obvious blight, just rust and dust and a smut upon the leaves. My brothers and sisters, full of light and talent and raw mastery and great heart, they began to feel the shadow upon them. We encouraged each other of course, as siblings do. But one by one, the Blight marked us.

It is the way of all grand endeavours, that there are periods of great revival and of headlong descent. We were young and we did not see this. Eldest brother marked the time, but he had no answer, and no solution. He said, "If we are clever, we will survive. But we cannot be too clever." (Ah well, he still survives. One day they say he might be king.)

My eldest sisters were clever, and passionate, and did a lot of work. They made new houses and mills. And one day they were taken away. Eldest brother nodded wisely and said, "They were too clever. They will be made to do work elsewhere." And he stroked his beard.

My elder brothers were machines. They made great show of their powers, or they made great powers show, and they were idealistic and cynical and mighty in the land. But they grew tired at last, and their wives nagged them, and nagged them, and nagged them, and they went to other places too. And very quickly, there were few of us left.

There were only a few aunties and uncles of the old time, who had never left, and thus never returned. They kept things working, but not much else. They were good at cleaning up the mess, and making things work normally. But they were not so good at new things.

And suddenly, when I looked around, I saw my brothers and sisters had fallen. Some had become like the aunties and uncles, some looked wistfully at the other lands where our other brothers and sisters had gone. And I, who was once young and hopeful and bright and creative, was no longer so.

Now, I sit in the town square I helped to build. My hands are old; they shake, spilling coffee (what a waste!) on the dirty stones. I have some young cousins, from other lands, the Ausländer types. They will build new coffee shops and maybe mills and houses. But my time is done. Nobody knows me.

The children gather round to hear my stories sometimes. They never believe them. Because, of course, they are wise and my stories are not true.

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