Autumn pervades the forested hilltops, draining the colors of youth from the crown of foliage. The aging textures and colors change and branches are left withered and fragile. It is hard not to look westward into the sunset, fearing that this day, like all of time, might be left unfulfilled. And time marches on, an undefeatable foe.
But instead I yearn to look east toward the days of my youth, contemplating the errors of my ways and thinking how if blessed with another opportunity, I would not repeat those tragic mistakes. The western skies are a stark reminder of so many past seasons spent in futile attempts to cultivate the intangibles that never existed, yielding only a semi-developed orchard of fruitless trees.
Poets write and troubadours sing of the blissful folly of melting hearts, the lilting myth of unending love where two can be one, but one cannot be at all without the other. You would have never received such affirmation from me. No, I lived the life I am now deserting not believing in that fabulous myth, denying faith in the improbable concept that Adam, whose rib was taken to create Eve, could not ever be made whole without Eve to complete him. Like Gabriel’s revelation in the Madonna silhouette of his wife, Gretta with her grace and mystery, standing on the stair, obscured in shadow, eyes cast upward, listening to the angelic music, The Lass of Aughrim, I, too, questioned the lost chances at such mythical love. As Joyce so masterfully put it:
“Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.”
It was late in life that I revisited the great myth; I met someone who seemed to fill that void in me. Although the fit was not perfect, I held on desperately, vowing to never let go of that fleeting moment, but corrosives invaded through the misshaped cracks and eroded the weakened bonds; the rib that I mistook as my own left me and I was once again unfulfilled. I was as certain as Gabriel that “[t]he time had come … to set out on [my] journey westward,” alone among the living and the dead.
The darkness of my unused life persisted for months and into years. I heard voices, and song, and laughter, and joy, everywhere except on my path into the sunset. I hid within a false persona, spying on a world I could not share, frightened and hopeless with neither the will to live nor the desire to die. In my grief, I buried all that was important of me, interred in sacred scrolls carefully exhumed and ceremoniously transplanted with each computer generation. These were my relics, the only evidence of what could have been, my immortality not yet written.
But then, alone in my lightless existence a thought called out to me; a thought like none I had ever thought; a thought more powerful than I could imagine. That thought is now my beacon, lighting my path back into the solid world, back to my roots, back to the prospect of finding my long lost rib. I have a map now, a goal, and a destination, whether it is ultimately the right destination, only the journey can prove. My beacon disentombed my former self and carried the rotting corpse on her rays to a place of resurrection and rebirth. I am alive again and grateful.
I am facing east once more, into the bright sun. There is optimism in my soul, albeit tempered by dark memories of the past. No, I will not repeat the mistakes of my previous travels. I have been granted a new opportunity. It may be the only one I will ever need, or it may be the first of many. Only time can tell, but time is no longer my enemy.