… and moving on the feeling in the air
When Rebecca Anne Kellogg first came to Florida at 16, in early-March of 2008, the snow in Ann Arbor was still two-feet deep along the snowplow banks that lined Chestnut Lane. As she got out of her parents’ car in Palm Coast that Sunday morning, it was 75 and sunny. The St. Augustine grass was green, and the dried fronds and seed pods of the cabbage palms rustled in the sea breeze coming off the blue Atlantic.
Becs smiled at her mother. Olivia Arnold Kellogg was leaning on the open driver’s door, her arms folded and resting on the open-window door top, as she gazed at the ocean and people on the beach.
Her father, Edgar Charles Kellogg, was still sleeping in the Buick wagon’s back, the suitcases, duffel bags and cooler piled up on one side, Edgar stretched out on the other. He’d driven through the night while Olivia and Becs slept, leaned against the passenger door or lying in the back. As Doris, their 15-year-old chariot from Detroit with the beginning of a serious case of rustosis flakyoffum, hummed on down the Interstate.
“It’s so amazing,” Becs wrote in her notebook as they passed the horse fields of Ocala, “that in just 30 hours you can be transported to somewhere so completely different. With palm trees!!!” This being the usual, bobble-headed tourist’s first response to Florida, as snowbirds from the frozen north with pivot heads, would blankly stare at scenes from another world.
“They’re not really trees,” Edgar had said a year earlier when they’d first talked about going south to Florida “next spring break.”
“Why not?” Becs replied.
“Because they’re more like giant grasses.”
“He’s right,” Olivia added. “The trunks have no tree rings, formed by a center of dead wood that holds a record of it each year’s former, outer-ring of living tissue. All the tissue inside the trunks of palm trees is living. Like stately, leaves of grass.”
Becs took the info in and stored it in her “central processing unit” for future reference. She liked to think of her head, and the life that was going on inside it, as operating like a computer with an intelligence that was the opposite of artificial.
“Will we see swallow-tailed kites?” she asked.
“Nope,” Olivia answered. “There’s a wildlife preserve just 10 miles away that’s a common, summer breeding place for them.”
“But they’ll still be on their way back to Florida, from winter in Brazil,” Edgar added.
“Brazil! Wow, that’s a long way. Too bad. They look
so graceful on videos on the web. Built to fly. Like we are built to fly — inside our heads,” she added, smiling at her dad.
“So how’s that work?” Edgar asked a few months later. “A personal, CPU with an intelligence that’s not artificial?” They were lying on the hood of Doris last summer, parked across from the Dairy Queen on Farley Road, each eating a double chocolate-softie, heads resting on the windshield between the pulled-upright wiper blades, both looking upward at the evening stars.
“It’s like the difference between giant-grass palm trees, and regular trees,” she answered through ice cream licks.
“You’re talking about dead wood?”
“Yes. Live wood, dead wood, and wood that isn’t really wood, but more like plastic with a woody attitude. Which is actually deader than dead, because it has no life history, at all, for what it claims to be.”
“And that’s the opposite of what?”
“The opposite of the grace in graceful. Like with kites, where graceful is a natural thing, the opposite of manufactured, and something we can naturally connect with, feel, or understand, from our own experience of what it’s like to move, through gravity, in space and time.”
“Which isn’t anthropomorphizing another animal’s experience, because … ?”
“Because the anthro-po-mo thing is a carryover, from a time when we did not consider ourselves as being animals. We were more like gods, or one god, or the son of one god — Benji, and his son Benji Junior — more like that, than like the other plants and animals on a planet we had no idea ‘was’ a planet. So we interpreted everything in terms of how we saw ourselves — by looking out, at the world, from inside the sacred vestibule of our totally hot and god-some, sense of self.”
“And today we look, how?”
“We see ourselves, the world and universe around us, from outside ourselves. We’d imagined that somehow, someday, we could actually transcend our sordid, flesh-bound lives, and become like gods ourselves. Then the transcendence thing finally happened, only it turned out that what we ended up transcending was just our need for being gods-in-waiting.”
Edgar breath laughed. “Nice insight.”
They were both silent for a few minutes, eating their ice cream cones and looking at the sky.
“Hey! A shooting star!” Becs shouted.
“I see it. Cool.”
“Yes. Cool from a distance. Up close, though, probably more like ‘pret-ty freak-ing toas-ty.'”
They were quiet again for a few minutes. “So how would you, at this moment, connect swallow-tailed kites, meteorites, and two humans lying on a rusting Buick, and talking?” she finally asked.
“More than just the story of a rusty chariot from Detroit, it would be a story about things that move through space and time. Which includes the story of us, in space and time, seen from a point of view that’s now outside ourselves, as we channel the will to find.”
He smiled at her, then looked back at the sky. “Also known as flying in our heads, so I’ve heard.”
20180709 12:01 Mon (975 words)
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