Jefferson and Hood / by laurel

There is something about those mountains, Jefferson and Hood. They’re usually associated with each other, the two big mountains in Oregon, almost legends. But somehow seeing them from 30,000 feet lent an indelible reality to their craggy faces, facing each other, staring blankly. Two identical mountains, occurring at the hazy, fractal end of the horizon. Staring blankly at each other, at the Boeing 747, at the sun, at the end of the earth.

The airplane seemed to hover over the dividing line of my present state; the Jefferson of my past and the Hood of my future. Here in this strange altitude, breathing the recycled air, it seemed all that separated me from everything—my life, the altitude, the atmosphere; the entire world—was a 2-inch piece of plexi-glass. I was disengaged from the present life, and I watched it with empty eyes, a patchwork of daily events and meandering hours. I was a hummingbird from far away, floating fast against the perils of stillness, wings beating against the inevitable loneliness of change and transition.

The sun was passed from one end of the horizon to the other, a tennis ball served low and slow over the net, love all. At twilight, I was on the ground, but only as a physical presence, a shell engaged in the stuff of life; living, breathing, eating, sleeping. But my mind was in the sky, in the single star lodged in the blue-green oblivion. The trees had long since become silhouettes, forging their identity into the flatness of a single picture plane. That lone star with its lone star state of mind stood fast in the ever-changing moment. The sky was too light for stars, too dark for the sun. The colors, instead, were unreal: figments of the transient state of light and dark meeting, shaking hands, and handing over the keys of day to the night.

And so I floated in my ephemeral world, a world of “afters” and “befores:” A world where time is measured in terms of its passing from a previous event or its preceding a new event. Time, then, is also an illusion. It is able to be inflated or dissolved depending upon the distance between two points; time flies, but also drags. To a hummingbird, the only thing that matters are beats per minute, flapping wings against stagnancy. To that tiny star, time is signified by color—shallow green, sprawling blue.

So I tumble from horizon to twilight, hell-bent toward nightfall where at least there are seven hours of certainty.

Advice. It doesn’t help, anyway. A knowing smile, exhaling rapidly, smug air escaping.

“Welcome to the real world.” How is that helpful, I ask.

“It isn’t.” Then what does it mean?

“It doesn’t.”

So in the deepest urban canyons, I toss an inquiry toward the sky where lights flash and planes pass, and a vague echo filters back down.

“You just never know. You never, never know.”