#Poetry #Landscape #painting#spirituality #literarysuspense
An Alexander Wainwright Cyberspace adventure
Poets: I woke inside a dream. Thick fog had settled over everything blurring bright colours behind it. Such hazy beauty usually signaled the arrival of a CyberSpace adventure. The fog reluctantly drifted off to reveal a stunning sunset created by a masterful artist.
Before me lay a lake which was quite still. I shivered. It looked as frigid as some distant, arctic waters. Where could I be?
Although I had gone to bed around midnight in my Kensington flat in London, I was alert and now definitely somewhere else.
I shook my head and rubbed my eyes. The vision of the lake was gone and I sensed more than saw an elderly man gazing at me in a rather accusatory fashion.
As I approached him, I realized that his look was of intense curiosity rather than hostility. I seemed to be in a residential area of a small town or village but not in England. Given the man’s dress and the appearance of the houses, I thought I had travelled back in time at least a century.
I do not know if you have ever accompanied me on a CyberSpace adventure. If not, let me assure you I have never experienced any danger. In fact, I have met many fascinating personages and been intrigued by many questions raised by them.
“Hello, sir.” I said as I came toward his porch. I was surprised to see that on closer inspection his hat had changed and his beard was cut in a different style. I hoped I saw the beginning of a twinkle in his eye but his expression remained dour.
“Could you tell me where I am please?”
Suddenly he stepped off the porch and gave a heary laugh. To my utter shock, he embraced me. “Alexander! How wonderful to see you. I didn’t recognize you at first. Why have you been so slow to visit?”
I was so overcone, I could scarcely speak. In all my adventures, no one I’ve met has known me. If I am travelling back in time, how on earth can a person who lived a hundred years ago possibly know me?
Excitedly, he pumped both my hands at once. Then stepping back, he cried out, “Let me look at you, my dear friend! Has the painting been going well?”
“How do you know my name, sir? Have we met before?”
He looked at me with grave concern. “My boy! Surely you jest?”
To disguise my astonishment, I put on a nonsensical grin. “Of course. I was just being foolish.”
“Are you up to a walk?” he asked. “I have so much to tell you.” He grasped my arm and we set out down the street past rows of modest houses. I assumed we were headed for the centre of town. Despite many questions in mind, I decided to simply listen and find out what I could. He must have been well into his seventies. By his clothing, I judged we were somewhere in the late 1880’s.
He linked his arm in mine and we set off at a leisurely pace. After several moments, he spoke in a gentle, lilting tone.
“Calm and glorious roll the hours here the whole twenty-four. A perfect day! Everything is growing well, especially the perennials.” He tossed out his arm to take in the entire village. “Never have I seen verdure grass and trees and bushery to greater advantage.”
The man stopped in his tracks on the sidewalk and grinned at me impishly. I must admit I was greatly surprised but definitely captivated by the rhythm of his flowery speech. Again, he grasped my arm.
“Just last week, I took the train from London to Sarnia—sixty miles in all—to see a bit of Canada. Such a fine country, many good farms, plenty of open land, the finest strips of woods clean of underbrush. Birds, thrushes, robins singing. The profuse blossoms of the tiger-lily mottling the lawns and gardens everywhere with their glowing orange-red. Roses everywhere, too.
I admit I was delighted by his speech which was some sort of “free verse.” His syllables danced in my head. From his words, I concluded that we were somewhere in Canada, probably not too far from the border with the United States. It is rare to find someone who creates such vivid images in the mind with words alone. I was entranced by the beautiful cadences. He must be a part-time poet—I reflected.
He stood on the street corner waggling his fingers in the air pointing out that which was visible to him alone.
“See, steamers steaming through my poems.”
“See the maize-leaf, the rude fence, and the backwoods village and a woman stranded in seas of corn… forever seduced by the sweet fragrance of the leaves of grass. But left longing for the distant golden castle.”
“See telegraph poles stretching across the continent for miles upon miles of men and women and children bonded together in our brotherhood of humanity.”
I was lulled by the sweetness of his tone. Some might have thought the man was raving. But his soft voice held all the sounds of the greatest poetry I’ve ever heard.
He sat down on a bench only to begin again.
“See in my poems countless herds of buffalo feeding on short curly grass. See, the strong and quick locomotive as it departs, panting, blowing its steam-whistle,”
I was amazed. This man must be a fine poet. Words tumbled from his mouth in beautifully lyrical patterns like a song to haunt one forever.
But why does he know me and I not him? I said, “You describe everything is such delightfully vivid detail. Pictures dance in my head.” He didn’t sound like Tennyson or Wordsworth. His poetry was new and alive like wind crossing far western plains.
His eyes twinkled as he said, “My friend! I’ve been working very hard on my writing ever since the occurrence of certain miraculous events. That is, since we last spoke.”
“Really? What has happened?” I tried not to reveal my ignorance of our apparently shared past. I admit his saying my name had rattled me.
“I want to tell you of my vision, Alex, because you are the only one who will understand and not think my brain is addled. Last time you said the cosmic egg had appeared before you.” He looked as if he might explode with excitement. “I have seen it too! Its beauty is incomparable. But there is much more to my story!”
I stood stock still and gasped for breath. How could this man possibly know that last year I had seen such a vision? Against the tall windows of my studio, blackened in the night, a golden egg had risen up, shimmering with beautiful gems—diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds which sparkled like the purest sunlight. It throbbed with life as if it contained all the energy in the world [That story is found in Night Crossing, the third in The Trilogy of Remembrance.]
“Alex?” He frowned deeply in concern. “Are you all right?”
I took several deep breaths and said, “Yes…of course, I am. Please tell me what you saw.”
He shook his head slowly as if trying to recollect. “The cosmic egg appeared first. Then it disappeared to be replaced with just a feeling or sense rather than anything visible.”
He almost danced ahead of me and then turned back. “Yes—it was as if my whole self had merged with all creation but I was only a tiny part of it. I was that tree over there and that lake down there. I believe Emerson calls it a transcendental experience. Ever since, the words have just sprung into my mind and happily onto the page.”
Was that a clue—the name Ralph Waldo Emerson? It came to me as we now stood at the water’s edge. Could I be in the company of perhaps America’s finest poet, Walt Whitman?
A sly look overcame him. “Alex! All right. I shall play along with you. But why do you pretend not to know me?”
“Please. I don’t understand what has happened. I cannot understand how you know me. I was born in 1965 and you lived in the 1800’s. Where have we met before?”
“Alex you worry me greatly. Have you had an accident of the mind? Has your memory deserted you?” He reached out and gently touched my forehead. “Do you have a fever?”
I shook my head impatiently. “Just tell me! Are you Walt Whitman the great poet?”
He nodded slowly. “I don’t know about great.”
“Don’t worry. You poetry will be loved forever. But how do you know of my vision?”
My last clear impression of him was his look of deep concern. But then my perception of him began to fade. Soon a very young boy appeared before me and began to speak.
Then the stunning sunset appeared again. This time it was much more dramatic. Then I was alone.
The adventure was over and soon I would be back in my London flat. Do not ask me how Walt Whitman knew me or how I even came upon him. I am a landscape artist almost fifty years old. I live in London and at the start of this journey, the year was 2016. Please make what you will of my tale.
NOTES: The words of Whitman above in italics are from his diaries written while travelling in the south western part of Ontario, Canada near Sarnia. Those notes were used in writing his epic poem, Leaves of Grass.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing.
If you enjoyed this short story, I’m sure you will like The Trilogy of Remembrance in which ALexander Wainwright finds his humanity in the shadows of his muse. The novels are on the carousel but can be perchased anywhere on line.
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