We have these stories about the perfect place. That first Biblical story of the land of love and fruit created in the image of the fruit-maker, the lover of all things sensory, all things finite and mortal. Potential blossomed on the vines trailing across the garden paths.
Paradise in the stories where people go to find the lost world of hope and opportunity, where the streets glisten with welcome and the seasons adopt the human to nurture through change.
Utopias of paraphrase and para all things: living alongside the words that create that living’s form, living alongside the lives of others. The days have the routine of purpose that blocks the routine based on having to. The fire in the hearth is lit every morning in one way or another.
Here I wanted to create a world in my own image. Not vanity. Not pride. Not a longing for adoration. I have done all that I can do in creating that image. It is my life, this world, and I wake to it and sleep to it. I have chosen to build this world by choosing to live in this world in a certain way.
Imagine the world in your own image. I whisper this to the dream child leaving sleep. My words linger in the persimmon-scented air when he wakes. The things he sees in his mind’s eye are a desolate castle, the stones crumbling, and a scorned girl, her face turned away in abandonment.
Is it a conscious choice? To see the images of despair and let them make your world. What if we let everything pick away at us, fragments splintering inside the body causing the damage we feel we cannot undo?
Some might say, well, it is easy for you in your little make-believe, fantastical, beautiful woodsy land of imagination. Yet even here, even everywhere, the world strains the image, distorts it, tests it, punctures it, remakes it into the thing that isn’t me. And I start over. I will not live in a world I cannot recognize. Or that will not recognize me.
When you were a child, you had a set of wooden blocks lovingly crafted for you. They were made of alder and carefully shaped without rough corners, the pattern of the wood swirling in the direction of the hand that moved the knife. You kept them in the corner of the playroom in the winter months and under the kitchen portico in the warm season, when you created intricate worlds out of them and people from acorns and twigs.
In your world of blocks, no one was far from anyone else. The houses abutted, the fences became one, the center of the village was the same distance from every house. The forest surrounded the village, and the trees were the same distance from every house no matter where the house was. And trees grew in the town center and in front of the houses or behind them, next to the town walls, and at the entrance gates.
The world of your imagining was your own self. You grew strong like the trees and formed those bonds with your family that couldn’t be erased by a dog running through your town and upsetting a line of the blocks. And you forget this. You forget how you created the world in your own image. How you did this as an adult without the toys.
And it doesn’t occur to you to do it again. Or to believe in the possibility of it happening, not only for those who have no recollections of a world they were allowed to design, but also for yourself, a man the same as the boy. Yes, the same. Transformation and dislocation are not absolute. You will always carry a part of the forgotten architect within you. He is always building. Or at least planning . . the perfect place.
The perfect place. It is not audacious to build a world in one’s own image. It is necessary. It is natural. It is all we can do that is of value. We were all born with the perfect place inside of us. We dreamed of it while spinning. We could hear its sounds in the muffled waves. Squalling into the light, we defied those who showed us a different one. And then we began building and dreaming again.
We go out and find the sacred spring, the place where the river ran down to the sunless sea, the plain perfect for building, the hollow that wants to know our names and feel our lives pressing in on it. You left your home and explored the world, and you returned, and you have left again, exploring a different world. In caves measureless to man, you’ll build in darkness lit by the torch you carry. No one is holding you back.
This world I walk in is my creation. And it is yours, too. It belongs to me in the space and time that I inhabit it with the openness of my spirit. I, too, built worlds as a child. The moss under an oak was the royal carpet, and spider webs adorned the walls between the trunk and a splattering of spindly bushes. Skinks left trails through Main Street. A carriage made from a walnut shell held a blackberry bloom as tiny as Thumbelina.
Fights broke out. Yes, it was inevitable. The queen mediated the aftermath. She was a moth’s wings found under a window. In time, she turned to bits that became nothing. The next queen was a pebble tied to a twig. Ants paraded around her castle, some bringing offerings. In the morning, the carpet was wet, the road unrecognizable.
I mourned no loss. Each day was a chance to perfect perfection. As I grew, so did the dream. As I grew, so did I back away from that place beneath the tree. But only physically. I never backed away in my imagination. I continued to build the world that could know me, the world that I could know, and I continued to merge it with the worlds of others.
Who am I? you ask. Look around you. I am the place on the other side of the rose bushes where familiarity and intoxication face off. I am the drop of mud on the rock beside the creek, the careless mark sliding from the foot of someone who swam there. I am the confusion of creeper circling the south side of that ravine. I am the indignation of a scarlet milkweed.
Deep in the earth, I am the initiator of the root sprung from the seed urged on by the rain released by the cloud. This world is open. At arms’ reach, I am the Rose of Sharon in a crooked line that runs between houses you cannot see though the smell of gingerbread competes with the perfume of the bright pink flowers. This world is open.
I am a pebble tied to a twig standing on a carpet of moss.
Who are you?
Look around you. Look without opening your eyes.