Saturday, July 11, 2009

lost in gothic woods

By "lost," I mean in a state of intense reverie, as in a poetic haze. Wordsworth spoke of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility." Pretty close for my purpose here but still not exactly right. Those words "emotions recollected" won't quite fit.

What I'm a-gettin' 'round to discussing has to do with some old woods in my head. And these woods are teeming with gothic spirits. But the "emotions recollected" are the vicarious feelings I project on those spirits, are the emotional product of my imagination (Wordsworth and Coleridge put an emphasis on the spiritual power of Imagination, by the way).

All right! Here goes. A while back, I came across some genealogy research my cousin had done. 'Bout folks on my mother's side of the equation. Who would've thunk it? Southeast of El Dorado, Arkansas, out the old Strong Hwy., then off a side road windin' back into the nethers, there lies the scattered bones and tissues of the old family homestead. And that's about it. Amid the overgrowth, very little remains to mark off a previous human dwelling place. This is odd, because as I hear told, those forebears of mine were a hardy, successful tribe down in them parts -- 'round Hillsboro Town, which has also gone the way of dust and ghosts.

'Bout the only stark reminder is the old cemetery, with its worn tombstones. Dagnabbit, as if death weren't enough obliteration, old man Wind and old woman Rain ain't a-gonna be satisfied until they've erased even inscriptive memory. But try as they may, those two hoary forces are powerless against the strange traces slinking through those woods at night. Traces I'll call "ghosts" for simplicity and some melodrama.

Yep. Some hauntin' goin' on 'round that dessicated, near-Hillsboro homestead. Hear tell it, some of my ancestors had come from Georgia via the scenic N'Orleans route – then up north agin to Union County, Arkansas. And those determined folks had brung some slaves with 'em. Wish I could take the way-back machine long enough to try and slap some sense into those misguided or just downright wicked relations. Hmm..."misguided" won't really do. Just like I despise every mob ever congregated, I detest any human being, dead or alive, who would misuse another. Mister John Brown had it right – anyone deeming it their god-given right to own a human being deserves nothing short of mini-ball ventilation. I'm against capital punishment, but with slavery...yore pushin' it.

When I wuz a sprout, my folks took me into those ruined backwoods. All I recall now is that we wandered deep off a forest path and found a clearing scattered with pieces of petrified wood. Didn't then and still don't know much about that rock-wood. Just remember at the time being pleasantly startled by the uncanny workings of Nature.

"Uncanny." That's a good, allusive word to describe what my imagination tells me about those haunted woods. I mean, come on! You can't just erase a teeming hub of cultural and economic activity, which was the general Hillsboro area. Got to be traces vibrating in the peculiar air. The dictionary defines little-g "gothic" as having to do with "desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents. " I'll go with that first part -- "desolate or remote." But...since I'm also blatherin' 'bout haints, I'll toss in a dash of "macabre" for good measure.

I ain't over-saturated with religion, but I do have intimations that hit me, time to time. Call 'em spiritual hunches. And the prime setting for such events is when I'm either thinking about or am actually at those quiet, whispering locales. When there in mind or body, it's as if the very air is charged with significance, an uncertain meaning that lies beyond the meanings to be gleaned from mere facts.

Seems like there's a world interwoven with this prosaic one. And that nether-world contains all our dead, all our unrequited loves, and all of our weeping angels and vague gods. One small zone of that otherworld lies southeast of El Dorado, down Hillsboro way.

Well, you can take this haunted-woods business of mine metaphorically, if you like. But in my dubious psyche, I tend to think there's some misty traces, occasionally forming into human shapes, drifting through the woods right now in broad daylight. Their "eyes" are focused on familial or social concerns. Their "limbs" rock in rhythm doing chores or walkin' the now-blasted path, headed for Hillsboro on a Saturday afternoon's convivial outing. Their "souls", unawares of having been zapped by sprung mortal coils, still sigh or whisper between that lonesome pair of old magnolias. Those dark-green demigods, with their poignant blossom-scent, once shaded the fumbling advances and shy evasions of carnal beings.

All right, that's enough word ramblin' and gothic rumination.