the m john harrison blog

Category: lost & found

the step-aside

N tells us he is able to step aside from the world.

“It’s a trick I learned early,” he says. He learned by exploiting various childhood states. “Being ill, for instance. Or having your parents die: anything that gives you special privileges in terms of not taking part. Later, as an adult, it’s someone else being ill, but you don’t have to look after them. You don’t have the bore of that, you just have to turn up at the hospital with flowers. Births, marriages and deaths. If you learn to distance yourself from other people’s funerals, you’ll eventually learn how to step aside from your own.”

He believes that anything which reduces guilt or responsibility, the anxiety of having to fit in, can be turned into the ability to step aside.

“I don’t fade, I don’t lose anything. It’s not a question of purchase on things. There doesn’t seem to be a down side.” He smiles ruefully. “On the other hand, it isn’t much good for anything but itself.”

What is the step-aside experience like?

There’s a poverty of interpretation, N believes. “We have the traditional guidelines,” but these allow us to imagine only two possibilities: “a world of your own” in which the detached “you” has agency but which contains no possibility of contact with others; or a world in which everyone else is seen as if through a window, by an individual who has no agency. “It’s as if people can’t think up any other possible way of being. Both states emphasise loss of ‘true’ purpose, human purpose.”

As he speaks we hear his voice fade, as if he’s walking away down a corridor. “But I don’t find it like that at all.”

The Web, December 12, 2012–

Deep cold air. Triangular spiderweb, curved like a sail, attached at two points to the house & at the third to an old dry poppy head in a pot on the balcony. Most of it invisible, but the edges & all the rigging picked out with frost. One patch of frost, about three inches in from the leading edge, minutely cross-hatched in the shape of a section through an ammonite. I can’t see if the spider’s part of that little structure. The effect is of a journey in a different regime to ours. Whatever medium is inflating the sail–whatever medium, conversely, is rushing past it–is not a property of our universe & cannot be defined by our way of relating to things. That’s why we have a duty of care to the spider. She’s sailing into an idea of winter we can’t have. Her perception, acted out as this structure, is a valuable resource. I’ve watched her mother & grandmother make webs there, and their mothers and grandmothers, right back into the historical times. They all built ships but none of them built quite like this.

still as pretty as ever

Today I woke the Marin from its deep protective dream in the corner of the shed. Advanced psychic engineering & a thick layer of cobwebs appear to have kept it functioning.

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Now if only I can remember what it’s for.

the way we live now

Stories of lost property. Stories of property lost then found. Stories of property found then lost. Stories of self storage of property. Self storage as self storyage. Stories about property stored by people who are now dead & unable to claim it. Stories of property sold sight-unseen from the self storage bins & units of the recently dead. Stories about people who have inadvertently self stored themselves. Stories of mutilated but curiously unbloodied bodies found in self storage bins & units, the flesh is recorded as being “translucent, whitish” “weighty & substantial” and “falling heavily apart along strong clean cutlines”. Stories of mutilated unbloodied bodies found in self-storage bins & units but without the head. The head is missing. The owner of the head is now dead & unable to reclaim it, but it can’t be sold. Limbs flung into rivers. Self storage in other countries.

28.09.2008–

…nostalgia is part of your life come back to burn your fingers, so you piss on not just this fire but the whole idea of fire, as quick as you can.

I stood a long time watching the raindrops strike the brickwork in absolute silence then fade in the warmth and the wind.

nant ffrancon

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google maps, 2am

A half-built estate. I remember kneeling over frozen puddles from which all the water seemed to have evaporated, leaving only ice on top of air. Later in the year a stile; a narrow pathway between hedges. I used to have a dream about walking on the flat green water of a canal. I remember looking down from a bridge. The water on the left, narrow lawns with trees on the right. Sunshine and shade. Ecstatic happiness. In the dream the water’s right at the level of the path, they form a single continuous surface. By the time I was twenty I’d forgotten all this except as flashes, glimpses, nothing that could even be labeled as a memory. I’ve been looking for the childhood source of the images for almost fifty years. I also have an image of playing with wooden building blocks, faded grainy blue, orange and brown. And from the same period, I think, nightmares featuring a train with a coloured dragon coming out of its chimney instead of smoke. With some of these dreams I associate the distant sound of shunting engines and the leaden buzzing noise–apprehended as both a taste and and a smell–I used as an index of the uncanny in some stories. But those images may be from later, when we had moved somewhere else.

you left the door open

Your hands & feet are cold. There’s a certain amount of rain. The dogs are howling in the next garden. Someone in the street says, “Almost everything can be interesting,” & then, “August the first is too late.” You read:

“A few days later Lanny tried the crystal ball again, and there came something new. Blue water, sparkling in sunshine–everything was always bright in that globe, like a technicolour film.”

This leads you to wonder if Upton Sinclair–surfacing from the deep trench of your early teens to bob around 50 years later in a backwater bookshop in Much Wenlock–is, in fact, some sort of forgotten “influence”. Better read on, now you’ve got him home. But perhaps first close the door & find some socks.

i seen things in wales

The hair of the Dead Boys of Bangor beneath the surface of Lynn Ogwen, as they stream east towards the Siabod Cafe for a late breakfast of sausage & eggs.

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