Sunday, June 19, 2011
Charles Frazier, "Thirteen Moons"
"These days, Bear's old question - 'If you're to die tomorrow, do you spend the time praising Creation or cursing God?' - seems much less theoretical than it did back in the winter house. In the old days within Featherstone's recollection, before the arrival of the Spaniards and their metal hats, living long was different. Little changed during your span of time, birth to death. Individual people, of course, came and went, but that's the unfortunate transitory nature of people. The physical world surrounding you, though, remained about the same from start to finish. Short of utter apocalypse, the landscape was what it was throughout one's brief life. Animals all the same. No unexpected pigs or elephants erupting confusingly into the world. Food was food. Clothes were clothes. Meaningless innovations to hat styles had not yet occurred. All that you had learned in childhood remained largely in effect lifelong. When you got old and approached death, it was not an unrecognizable world you left, for we had not yet learned how to break it apart. Back then, about all that changed during your time on earth was that a few big trees had fallen and many new trees had grown in their places. Trunk diameter, really, was all that was in question. Whether you measured the span with your thumb and forefinger or your outstretched arms.
All of which may or may not reduce your sadness at leaving the world. Does overwhelming change, the annihilation of all you know, create an intensity that would not have existed otherwise? When all you know is lost and gone forever, does it become sweeter in the mind? Does it make you want to let go or hold on even tighter?
All I can say is that we are mistaken to gouge such a deep rift in history that the things old men and old women know have become so useless as to be not worth passing on to grandchildren.
Time transforms all the pieces of your life - joy and sorrow, youth and age, love and hate, terror and bliss - from fire into smoke, rising up the air and disappearing on a breeze.
We all, when we're young, think we'll live forever. Then at some point you settle for living a great long while. But after that final distinction is achieved, survival at best becomes uncomfortable. Everyone and everything you love goes away. And yet it is your fortune to remain. You find yourself exiled in a transformed world populated by strangers. Lost in places you've known as intimately as the back of your hand. Eternal river courses and ridge lines become your only friends. That is the point when living any farther either becomes ridiculous and amusing or else you fall away and follow all creation through the gates of death to the Nightland.
You're left with nothing but your moods and your memory. Pitiful and powerful tools."
- Charles Frazier, "Thirteen Moons"