I'm still in Alabama.
Last night, after my complaints about the suffocating silence, Spooky and I went for a walk with my mother. It was a fine spring night, only a slight chill in the air. Above me was a sky I've almost forgotten, all those stars, planets, constellations I once knew the names of but have now mostly forgotten. And out there the silence was relieved by the sounds from the woods — insects, frogs, barking dogs, wind. Not the silence imposed by insulating walls. And I remembered, quite suddenly, how much time, long ago, I spent outside at night. Whether just walking about after dark or off in the wilderness on some dig or another. I'd forgotten how much I used to love the night. Which made me sad, that I'd let myself lose the Night Beyond the Cities, but, at the same time, finding it again was joyous. The air smelled of moist earth and growing things.
Spooky and I went out this morning and took photographs of houses in Leeds where I lived as a child. We walked through downtown, mostly a ghost town now that Leeds has been swallowed by Wal-Mart culture. But all the old buildings were still there, even though many of them were empty and in poor shape. They were the same sidewalks from my childhood, sidewalks I'd not walked in at least fifteen years. And there's this phenomenen, which I have felt many times before, but today it was with me almost constantly. I'm not sure how to decsribe it. There is the past, and there is the "present" — that moment that is either an illusion or the truest perception of time, pressed between the past and the future. Anyway, there is the past, and there is the present, and there should be the sense of all the time in-between. But all those intervening years fall away, creating a sort of mental tesseract, so that that moment from all those years ago touches directly opon this supposedly present moment. I find it a most disconcerting and yet utterly wonderous sensation. I spent much of today in that state of mind. I saw the old houses, my high school and elementary school, a creek I used to catch snakes and crayfish in, a forest I used to pretend was Pellucidar or Caspak or some other lost world. I showed all these things to Spooky.
And I realized the very frelling obvious — this town is where so many of my stories flow from. This it where it started.
The first house we looked at, one near the cement plant in Leeds, for example, was the model for Spyder Baxter's house in Silk. Sure, I moved it to Birmingham, to Red Mountain, to Cullom Street, and gave it a spooky yard and a wide front porch, but this is the house. I took the floorplan of this house, consciously, for Spyder's house. That's just one of a thousand examples. Anyway, here are a few pix, behind the cut, for those who might be interested in obscure autobiography:
The house where I lived from March 1973 until sometime in 1974.
1975-1979 — This was the inspiration for Spyder's house. It's in much better shape now than when we lived there. And someone cut down the big trees that once lined the sidewalk and shaded the house.
Have these two days away from home done me any good, in terms of getting past or under or over The Wall? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see when I get back home tomorrow, when I go back to work on Friday. I had a conversation with my mother this afternoon about my books, about all my various frustrations, the wish for a wider readership, the frustrations caused by readers who are incapable of sympathizing with characters who are not Just Like Them. It was weird. I've never once had this sort of converstaion about my writing with my mother, even though she's a retired editor. I helped her set up her own LJ. She gave me a garnet ring that was my Grandmother Ramey's and also an old hardback copy The Portable James Joyce. My sister came by, and my Aunt Pat (my mother's younger sister). I think mostly, this visit has served to remind me of all the things I actually love about Alabama and of all the reasons I could probably never live here again. More on that later. In fact, more on all this later...