Polyphony

C.R. Dudley author Orchid's Lantern blog

Creative folk bounce in and out of one another’s lives: sometimes collaborating, sometimes revelling in symbiosis, and sometimes breaking one another’s hearts to discover new building materials.

And so, when Claude left Nancy, there came to be a trail of red paint on the carpet from the kitchen to the front porch, all the way out to where his beat-up hatchback had once stayed. Artists don’t like to walk around the outside of houses. Given the option of using a path or pulling waves through the floorboards to walk upon, they’ll go for impact every time. Luckily Nancy, being a musician, decided she quite liked the sound of the stain once it had soaked in. When she put her ear to it, it sung in mysterious tones; like sunlight hitting the moon. All through the winter she hummed along, accompanied by the new rhythm of her aching heart.

She was still humming it when she met Terence by the pond the following March. He was photographing the surface of the water: not the water itself, he stressed, just the surface. He was endlessly fascinated by surfaces of all natures, and fancied if their essences could only be isolated then our understanding of beauty would improve threefold.

Terence moved in with Nancy the very next week, and he covered her walls with home-developed photographs in black and white. Images of pavements overlapped with images of skin overlapped with images of the sea; all of them, he claimed, depicted something identical. He stuck them over, under and around the curly letters Stephanie had written a year before, making a brand new dancing visual poetry of the house. Nancy had a different tune then, and she hummed it with her fingers upon ivory keys. It still had remnants of the dried red paint, but this time against a quickened heartbeat, and with a distinctive smattering of surface qualia.

*****

Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is available now in paperback and ebook! Visit my books page to find out how to get your copy.

Staring at the Sun

On days like this I begin to feel that even those who I considered to be my kin are set against me. I look into their eyes and I see snakes coiled up and ready to bite. I have no choice in this case but to retract into myself, to find solace on my own beach of calm. I must soothe myself, heal the wounds imagined and real, and rebuild my tower of strength from within.

He is here, on the beach, as the waves lap gently at the sand. He is crafting a crown for me, smoothing out its imperfections and dents. There is no doubt in his mind that I should wear it, that I am worthy. In fact, he sees no other possibility.

“You can rule,” he says, “or you can lay down on the ground and turn to ash.”

I sit down on a lone deck chair beside him, closing my eyes momentarily and taking in a deep breath of cool sea air.

“When all seems misaligned,” he goes on, “it is madness to expect the rhythm of all that is beyond you to change. That is like swimming against the current and you will drown for sure. Better to take stock of your own beat. Take back control of your own frequency.”

He wears spectacles today, and clothes akin to rags. I wriggle my feet in the sand, watching as he polishes the metal and jewels on my headpiece.

Remember the periphery, I think to myself. I have been storming ahead with my focus, I have been bullish. But there is another landscape on the edge of consciousness that never ceases to exist; that opens up a whole universe of possibilities and versions of this. I just have to relax into it.

He looks up and smiles kindly, sensing my realisation.

“It is no use staring at the sun, you see. Not only will you risk becoming blind but you will surely miss the beauty in the shadows.”

He stands and stretches out his arms to admire his handiwork before passing it to me. “Here, try this.”

Searching for the Self: Somewhere

The beach. Where water meets earth. It is damp, flat, open here. There are steep, grassy cliffs leading back up to civilization. I think I’m supposed to feel something in this place: happiness, excitement, or humbleness towards our great planet. I think creativity is supposed to bloom here, born of a new found appreciation of the small things and just being. Of smelling the ocean air, of feeling the sand between my toes. But the truth is, I don’t feel any of that. Instead of beauty I think of soliloquies, Stephen Dedalus and sulking. I feel uncomfortable; my mind awash with greyness and a longing to be Somewhere Else.

I look along the coast to the bustling amusement arcades and eateries. That isn’t the Somewhere either. I’m starting to think the Somewhere doesn’t actually exist.

Children play happily on the beach. They don’t mind the cold wind that tangles their hair into impossible knots or the stony sand that clings to them head and toe. They don’t mind the long walk back to comfort that lies ahead of them, or the grains of earth in their sandwiches that they grip with their seawater-soaked hands. Is childhood the Somewhere? The mind of the child has experiences without the multi-layered analysis we all apply years later. It is a home no one can return to.

Run. Breathe. Centre.

A walk across the rocks. Find the balancing point, make a stack. All the colours, all the textures, all natural. Then the water comes forth; aggressive, ready to swallow up the manmade designs into its chaos. No more sandcastles, no more stone stacks. Keep it random, the sea says. Entropy will always trump empathy.

Eldritch

image

Do you ever feel as though you are looking directly at something, but it is just beyond your perception? An eldritch presence that you can sense through intuition and the hairs on your arms…

That is how I felt at the location of this photograph.

When I looked at it later, I saw a face in the bark of the tree left of centre. Then I saw two more in the same tree. Then I saw the outline of a figure by the tree on the far right hand side that looked ghostly or made of rock. Then I saw two or three shadows of people in the centre peering between the two trees. Each figure I saw felt more creepy than the last, because it had remained hidden for longer and therefore presented itself to me as more tricky and sinister.

This is the Pareidolia effect, which interests me so much I made a whole series of paintings to explore it.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the man in the moon, the moon rabbit, and hidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or at high- or lower-than normal speeds

It is the brain searching for something familiar in the obscure. In this case, probably searching for something remotely sensible to which I could ascribe this feeling of oddness and otherworld. Eerie the thought that there are not only things that are unknown to us, but also things that are unknowable.

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Hanging on the edge
Of contact with the
Unknowable
It is the strangeness
That pulls you in
Not the phenomenon itself
But the eldritch aura it emits
It reels you in
The more you stare
The more it reels

To shake it off
Simply reaffirm
Your deep-seated belief
Of what is possible

To open unto it
Is to witness a thing
That will change you
Forever
Though
You may forget it

Instantly
(of course)
Due to its
Inherent oddity
That has no place
In a human mind

Allow yourself

To treasure

The peculiar

But

Allow yourself
To become fearful
And it will

Consume you

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