Speaking of science fiction, there was a Piers Anthony novel, Orn, that I used to read. There were two stories that alternated chapters. In one a group of humans is stranded on a new planet. It was the second book in a series and I never really understood what they were escaping from or doing, but I paid them little attention. The other chapters concerned an ornithore or something, an intelligent dinosaur. Small as dinosaurs go, it was the ancestor of what would have become the thinking species had the dinosaurs lived. The key was that memory was passed genetically in its species, filtered somewhat, from generation to generation. Orn, the dinosaur, would look at a scene and see, in addition to the plain that was there, the mountains that had risen and fallen, the river that had grown and shrunk and changed course, thousands of years overlaid on the present.
Someone once said that no one in New England tells you where something is, only where something used to be.
A professor I had in grad school, now dead, said Joyce was a series of reflected mirrors. The goal is to make each reflection count. Just because it’s a story doesn’t give it meaning.
I was at a party last night with the young parents. Friends of my stepsons, one of them a programmer that I hire. I walked in and someone I didn’t recognize reminded me that his brother used to give me Grateful Dead concert tapes. They were some classic tapes–Fillmore East concerts from 1969/1970. Some that I’d been to and remembered. One, the Harpur College concert, that I missed because of girlfriend troubles I got to hear 20 years later, like a second chance. It’s a lie that if you remember the 60’s, you weren’t there. I remember many moments, some random, some quite specific, all of them meaningful now that the rest is in the mists.
I talked with another couple that runs Woodstar, a local coffee shop and bakery. I’ve “known” him and his brothers since they were in Junior High with with my stepsons, but this was the first time we’d talked as adults. I saw him overlaid on the street where he lived across from Sarah’s close friend, and we talked while he took a rib eye roast to perfect medium rare. And still another couple. I spent some time talking NYC with a guy who works in Springfield. He knew Jamaica where I grew up and I knew Oceanside where he did. Then, leaving, I discovered his wife grew up around the corner from where I lived on Inman Street in Cambridge. She knew the wisteria vine that used to scent the corner and the wino hotel that is now expensive condos and the apartments next to mine that she cut through to get to her house.
Sarah, who was tired and cranky and ready to leave, couldn’t understand why I found it so fascinating. Perhaps she is one of the humans, escaping from some unknown danger into another, strangers in a new land, no time to be interested in the past. Me, I’m looking at the landscape, seeing a dozen different years reflected on the present.