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Aeolus

I often imagine a lifetime's trove of writings from all of my various travels. Sifting through them would be like going through a heap of magically three-dimensional photographs, granting me access not just to the sights, but to the sounds, the smells, the tastes, and the thoughts of every richly textured moment portrayed. Dazzling, fascinating: a feast for the senses. There is no such trove. Much writing has been thrown away, in some transitional purge or other. Much was never written in the first place.

Durrell's Pursewarden insisted that the artist "must catch every scrap of wind." I had no trouble taking this to heart, as it was already in residence there. What has always baffled me...what Pursewarden never bothered to explain...is how to produce some art without letting some scraps of wind go by uncaught. Most often, I've elected to make my art the ephemeral one, the wheeling and lunging, the catching at wind. But where do I hold it once I've got it? I am long since filled to capacity and overflowing. Still I wheel and lunge.

Settled in one place for a spell and the wind takes on recognizable patterns, easier to catch. Snatches of time and space open up between moves. If I train my attention just right, I can just manage to get in a word or two, whole sentences in the lapse of a gathering minute. The present holding steady with the future coming on fast: two long-planned weeks in easternmost Maine and a dozen other foreseen eventualities beforehand: a multitude of gusts and then a sustained blast. And all the while the Doppler past howling down into the tunnel, spinning and howling there, not quite disappearing.

Aeolus, I reach into the gusty bag and pull out a picture, a memory, a continuity. What is adventure? What comes to mind? What defines the preciousness of a mere scrap that it must be retained against the universe's howling forces of dispersal? The hard and sudden rain scuppering down from the medieval rooftops in Atienza, dashing for the shelter of the restaurant at the mid-afternoon dinner hour: chuletas and vino tinto, the impossibly affordable bill scribbled on torn butcher paper from the tabletop. Hiking up to the ruined castle in sunshine as hard and sudden with my friend and guide. Knowing then (1984) that these were scraps to retain, every one of them. Having only retained these and a sodden feeling of loss: the name of the restaurant? the flavor and texture of the food in my mouth? I see Pepe's beard across the table, the ceramic carafe, my practiced brain creates the rushing and pounding of heavy summer rain on the cobblestones outside...all the rest, caught and held and cherished in its quick passage, now gone away again, irrecoverable. What are the rules for this longer retention?