Thursday, May 13, 2010

the little telescope

The woman I have lived with for thirty five years (and is also my wife) has a shiny little telescope that lives in her mind, one that comes and goes as it pleases, occasionally leaving behind a puzzle or an image for her to ponder.

Once it was a snapshot of a scene that involved Peter Haley, an old friend now, but just a photographer at the time, and one whose name I recognized solely by his reputation alone - we'd never met, not even close.

The picture in the little telescope was of Peter (we'd seen his face next a prize photo he'd taken in a magazine), as he approached me during a party of some kind or another, and of us talking and carrying on as if we were the best of friends. From the telescopes narrow point-of-view, it looked to be that we were at some kind of party or another. Blurting out the image a moment or two after it had just occurred to her, completely out of the blue, she stated at the time that "You and him obviously knew each other quite well - you were laughing and talking, clearly very familiar with one other." And then: "You two will become very good friends someday."

A couple of years later Peter and I would briefly cross paths - for the first time - at a sporting event we were shooting for our respective newspapers. There were no magic moments, no bolts or jolts of instant recognition either way, and for a while I thought nothing more of it, mysterious prediction or not. Months later, however, we were both interviewed, and subsequently hired, as part the new photo team for the News Tribune, a paper which had recently come under new ownership in Tacoma. And, what do you know, a few months later we'd be sharing that exact little moment that Linda had spied a few years earlier, through her little telescope.

Such things do occur, it's only for us to decide under what category we file them in our lives. Precognition, or predictable situation? Your guess is as valid as the next, although I personally opt for the "mystical" interpretation, as I have long ago discovered that any life stripped of the mystical is hardly one worth living.

The spyglass begs some additional explanation: She may occasionally peer out into her own life, and into the lives of those in her close orbit, to witness a random hug or stray giggle, a kiss, a warm embrace. But there is also a cautionary note here: because the little telescope is simply that, and does not possess a soul - not to mention a heart - of its own, it may also reveal events or circumstances that are frightening to consider, even painful to know.

The moment of her own death, for instance.

Without elaborating, she says she has witnessed it all, through the tiny lens, and is not afraid, just the opposite, in fact. It was/is a simple moment, she tells me. Perhaps to soften the blow, she tells me that that my face is the last thing on this earth she will see. Without the benefit buffer of a mystic glow, it is perhaps harder to listen to this than it is to have seen it, and no part of this message arrives as the least bit of comfort, at least to me.

The little telescope can be a mischievous one, it seems. Perhaps as time goes on and on, and the nearer to the end it moves, it is simply just running out of new snapshots to share, glimpses to glimpse. Could that be it?

It doesn't speak, although I sense a smile.

Only recently a picture postcard of myself arrived, taken from down on the death promenade. It was an old moment of me, very, very old (or at least, that's what I'm told). My exact age was not in sharp focus, but I was looked to be in my late 70's, maybe a bit older. In the spyglass I was seen walking, alone, along a dusty road. I stopped and slowly bent over to pick up a small branch I encounter in my path. There is a pause and "Pop!" - a little blood vessel bursts in my head. And I drop down into the road, dead as a door nail. As I'm laying there, a small group of children approach me to see what it is the matter. But I am long gone.

What my old friend and the little telescope couldn't have known was that I had already previewed that exact scene myself, almost a whole lifetime ago, when I was still barely a boy. Thirteen.

My visit came in a dream in which I drifted, a dream that is still as clear and real as raindrops: I'm walking alone along a quiet road (just as she says, I am very old), when I stop to pause. From her own vantage, it appeared that I was stopping to pick up a small branch, but that is only how it would appear from a distance, out of speaking distance. In fact, it is not a twig that catches my eye, but a voice that catches my ear. It is a familiar voice, and startles me as being so, yet one I am unable to instantly place it.

I turn my head around to see - is it perhaps someone who has stolen up quietly beside me? Then I see him. And I remember. Everything. Remember that "he" is me, and that this is my last dream and that now, also at last, my time is finally all up. And in that same moment I both vanish, awaken, and reappear. Somewhere entirely else.

I'm still working on the part up to that.

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