“A pathway into autumn… I like this. It’s how I envision the fall.” She turns and flashes me this image. It is one in a series of autumn shots around Kamyk nad Vltavou in Czechia, taken on my last hike in October.
She leans back into the pillow, continues to flip through the photos, and stops when she comes to a poem I had written in the spring but tossed away. She reads it out loud:
The sorrow of her tears – rains of nourishment
The tease of her smile – flowers in bloom
The softness of her breath – causes me to catch mine
Unrequited love, it’s the rejection of Spring
Hurts like hell but shouts to my soul: I’m alive
I cringe. Not only do I suck at poetry, but I don’t get it for the most part. Still, I can’t help trying. Sometimes I hear a set of lyrics or a poem and dream of writing something as beautiful just once.
Her laughter breaks my thought. “In the spring, these words could have brought tears to my eyes. Now, they make me laugh uncontrollably.”
I join in her laughter. There’s no hiding her honesty.
As with my fool’s errand of writing poetry, 2022 has been a year where I’ve felt the edge more than ever. From the beautiful chaos of Czechia, returning to nature in the States, and now in Hong Kong, preparing for my journey behind the Great Firewall of China and its shroud of quarantine.
This edge is a dichotomous path. Either I fall into a deep abyss with no retreat or, with a touch of hope, fall into another realm of a brilliant universe.
“You are looking forward to China, aren’t you?” She asks, knowing the answer. She understands the stress and the friction of contrasting thoughts.
Is the world moving too quickly, or am I moving too slowly? I feel the friction grow.
“Friction is what life is all about, and I can help you understand this. It’s within the power of a muse.” She winks, “We can bend time and alter perception – it makes life more interesting. All I ask is for you to take me to the edge… to see the realm of possibilities.”
“Cheers to your genius. Teach me to bend time and perception, and I’m yours. By the way, why have you shown up now? I’ve so much to do?” Surprised by the tension in my voice.
Peering at me, she says, “You fascinate me. I’ve bounced around, mused for women as well, but working with men is so much easier… and this is my true feminist nature speaking.”
“I agree, men are superior,” trying to finish my packing, I look up with humor,“…and this is my feminist side speaking.”
“I miss the springtime you.” She wryly adds, “you were nicer back then.”
“Ah, yes. The spring me. The spring is an idealistic, crazy, and happy time,” I retort. “Autumn suits my cynical older age.”
A flush of images sweeps past, each taking me away to a different time and feeling. The photos reflect an autumn to remember in Kamyk nad Vltavou. Magic all around, everywhere in this beautiful land.
The season has been kind to me. A time when I usually exhale and begin to wind down for winter. This year, it’s the freshness that surprises me. I envision a fascinating new world in front of me, cloaked in fog – an invitation to a new adventure.
Her words break my spell. “I’m fascinated because we walk the same trails and view the same countryside… but you photograph a world I don’t see.” Her eyes want to say more but stop at a simple question. “Why is that?”
I ponder this, twirling her words around the universe I hold inside my head, blown away at how infinitely more complex and intriguing the universe she hides in hers.
Everywhere… we walk, bumping into strangers who hold insights within their universe but we are too caught up in ours to notice. We all seek our edge, curious about its potential but fearful of going one step too far.
The scene of Hong Kong glistens from my window. This is where life diverged for me – I jumped in head first, leaving one life behind. Maybe this is why I see the world differently.
Rhetorically she asks, “Since you are not answering, I’ll ask a different question. Do you know what makes you special?”
I can feel myself tighten up and ask, “What’s that?” Expecting another quip.
“You make my heart beat sideways…” She swings her legs down, zips up the last bag I have packed, and walks to the door.
In a typical state of confusion with her, I ask, “Sideways?!?”
That delicious laugh of hers. “Well, the first time it happened, I thought it was indigestion, but then I realized you bring out something special. A spice that makes the world a bit better even with the tragedy you call poetry.”
She runs her hands straight through me. “This mythical edge, it’s where the heart beats sideways… the sense of being alive.” Time stops, my perceptions change, and she teases, “This is what fascinates me.”
This edge I wrote about earlier in the Czechia spring, this edge of hope, of fear… the edge of something spectacular.
“How to describe?” I look and her, trying to verbalize being seduced by the edge, this ultimate point of friction. Action is required: retreat and survive or pursue and risk it all – rare moments to wake up the soul.
I try to recite the appropriate Hunter S. Thompson quote from the past but fail. “It’s the greatest mystery out there.” I muse, “Those who understand the edge have gone over it, never to return, so no one knows. It’ll always be a mystery.”
“You may think I’ve seen the edge, but no. When I feel it, I can’t run away fast enough.” The disappointment in her eyes makes me chuckle.
This is the beauty of friction. It protects us from going over the edge; it connects us – it slows us down. Creates heat. Creates life. Our bonds become stronger over time, and the increased friction slows us so we can make better decisions.
My worry? The physics of friction will inevitably grind me to a halt.
She recovers from her disappointment to ask, “Who is happier? A soul who dives into the chaos of life and lives through a series of adventures, or takes the same seat every day, watches the world pass, and simply exists?” She lightly taunts me.
My immediate thought is to choose the adventurer, but a stoic also realizes it takes all types of courage to face the unknown regardless of risk. Whether it’s a stereotypical life of an accountant, which society paints as safe and secure, or an adrenaline junkie’s fix to risk body and soul. Both hold the courage of life to be proud.
“It depends if I’ve had my coffee or not…” I linger. “We have courage in different measures based on our circumstances. The beauty of all those different universes floating in the minds of those we bump into daily hold pieces of the answer.”
“The edge, the edge, the edge…” She pouts. “Take me there!” laughter again erupting.
“This mythical edge, I have no idea if I’ll ever see it, and I like the idea of it being just out of reach.” I sing along with Nick Cave as I grab my bag and head for the door, the lyrics from my
demon muse churning in my mind.
One foot out the door, and these are the goodbyes that make leaving Hong Kong difficult. I feel myself blush as she closes the door. In doing so, as intended, she has opened another.
I am off, my soul plowing through quicksand as the world moves further ahead.
What’s this? My heart… it’s beating sideways. I smile at the idea that this may be indigestion.