A picture is worth a thousand words . . . but first some context for my thoughts on that.
I went to Texas last week to visit my mother. It was, I now know, an encounter. More than a visit, much more than a touching of two with ties bound by blood, it was an encounter. Encounters always change us, and this one –for me– has brought change for the better, and better can bring about best given enough time. I brought back some things from Texas, among them the ashes of my dad, a notebook from my mother’s dad filled with locks of hair, and some air from Paris. The notebook is dated 1893, and the locks of hair are from unknown people in Granddad’s past, some of them with names, who lived in Indian Territory, even before he was born and into his childhood. I also opened an “empty” water bottle while there, and refilled it with air from Paris, Texas. I have it here in Portland, and at some point, and with thought and intention, I will release it into this air here. HERE is the air that I breathe; I love it here and I am loved here (and in Texas) and I am glad/happy/content to be back home. But on the way, on the plane in that plane, I wrote what I saw. I think it counts for something.
A picture is worth a thousand words . . .
Here’s a picture in three words: the full moon.
Two words, sort of: dust-filtered sunlight.
One word: loneliness . . .
Many words: many pictures.
Read these words; what do you see?
I’m on an airplane. Seat belt sign off. Feel free to move around the cabin.
I will, in my mind—move around the cabin. It is a mountain cabin, but almost seven miles above the tree line. I’m staying in my seat, but I travel to the tiny restroom with the stainless steel sink, a little button or knob to press for water when you wash your hands after flushing that expensive airport breakfast. Flushing on a plane really sucks.
Oh, here comes the attendant, backing down the aisle, pulling a cart. She’s here, to my right. Would you like a beverage? Yes, thanks, taking the little Biscoff package from her. Oo la la, it is “Europe’s favorite cookie” . . . and that could be true, I suppose. Yes, can I get bloody Mary mix, no ice? Thank you.
Long day ahead? Oh, not bad, she says. From Dallas we fly back to JFK and then stay the night . . .
She’s moving backwards down the aisle, but also traveling ahead at 900 kilometers per hour, as I am. But, she is in double motion, and Einstein and I agree that motion and time and words are relative. Relational to one another. If I could move fast enough, I could circle the globe and come up behind Janice, who is sitting to my left. I could tap her on the shoulder, and then reverse direction, quickly of course, and sit back down in my seat. Janice? She would only be aware of a tap, a brush, a tremor of time travel. Timothy plays Taps in Time . . .
The girl to my right, across the aisle. Oh my god, the tattoos! Every visible part of her body—left arm, left side of neck, her hands, her knee cap poking through the perfectly planned rip in her pants—has art on it. I can imagine a story behind every pore filled with ink. Nothing poor there, but a careful investment of time and effort by an unknown artist, who is known by those pictures pierced into flesh and filled with blackness.
Oh, here is another attendant and she takes my plastic cup, still full (the glass is always full), but now with air and the last inaccessible drops of what was, is still, very fine bloody Mary mix. And my mind feels for Mary, the blood that she shed for that drink, but she is ok. She keeps dripping into cups or garnished glasses all over the world, and most glasses have vodka and perhaps celery or horseradish. I’ve seen bacon, coated in her blood too, in a glass, as a brunch time buffer to a hang over. But, not my hang over. I don’t drink that way; I just sip the mix for the experience.
I handed the attendant my cup, reaching for the trash bag in her hand, but she takes the cup and places it into a second bag for recycling. I like that. Every action can make a difference, and any number of words can make a picture. Cup. Bag. Hand. Latex-covered hand. Taking a full cup of bloody air, not a cup of suffering, dropping it into the correct plastic bag.
Oh, tattoo girl is doubled up in her seat now, curled up, a coat-covered coil, sleep dreaming. On the coat is written Magic Cobra Tattoo Society, and now I am intrigued and I can see by wake dreaming and mind travel through space/time a group of living, breathing artists who are dedicated to an expression of self and beyond, using flesh as a canvas.
Smiling, I am closing my eyes now . . . but I can’t type very well like that, so now they are opened again and hmmm, not bad, only that one extra space after “type”, like an empty ellipsis with no dots, just the spaces which merge into one continuous space . . . What really is in those spaces, separated by those dots? It’s space/time in a non-word. Space, and three dots of Time, points measured by a clock perhaps, or measured by a memory, or missing for lack of any experience within those points, separated by the emptiness of space.
But there is no emptiness, even in space. Dark matter looms there, beyond sight or current perception. Black like tattoos across the flesh of the galaxy, the body of the universe. So, even that glass is full.
And just now I actually went to that tiny restroom, and the sink was there just as the words told me it was, and I flushed, and it really sucked, that final flush. But seeing the word picture briefly was worth watching it all go down the drain.
I am quite relieved to be sitting back in my seat with no sense of urgency now, although there is some turbulence. Outside the plane. There is a disturbance out there at 35,000 feet above the level of all seas on Earth that is affecting us in this one plane. Perhaps there are other planes filled, not empty, with other words, or ink covered dreamers, or carts in relative motion, or tiny toilets, that likewise flush.
And I am thinking of another plane or planes, spiritual and earthly, and how a stirring or longing or suffering or joy or sacrifice creates turbulence that can cross from one plane into another. It’s a picture that we can only glimpse, and not fully see yet, but it is no less real. It is, I know, more real. Not at all empty, but full. Full to overflowing . . .
So, how many pictures up there? Count them if you must. If you are anal, and require a sense of order, count the paragraphs too. But, I know how many words there are here. There are precisely one thousand.