Friday, March 11, 2011

It Takes Time To Bake

The lore will be awakened in the strangest crannies. In the texture of a historical novel with real grit and panache, in a book of odd poems picked up in a thrift store, in the tale the old man at the bus station tells you about his home back in the bayous. Go afield, go afield, friend. Find your leaven for the flat page and yeast it with your breath like fog, the feet tramping on foreign lanes. Bake your bread in the hollow of an old cooked-clay heart/h. Let words of peasants and sailors temper and flavor your understanding. Let their dialects pass through you, and tell the tales from one idiom to another, until they take on the grooves and grain of your own bones, for tales can only be retold from there. Become fibrous and sinewed and fleshy through wide immersion in the nooks and niches of the world, where spice and hue is coveyed away. There, entangled in the strange spell of the local, your home-Gods will begin to whisper to you in unfamiliar dialects, but you will know it is them, and their presence in protean drag will convince you that they are not fossils, but very much alive, and that the keys to unlocking the dead letters imprisoned on the page lie in foreign ports, where they were scattered long ago, and lore is like a treasure map. Go afield, go afield, friend. On the tongues of eccentrics, in the gnarled hands of old characters, in the breath of someone who has dared to de-homogenize (or never knew it at all) and really let a place or places seep into the riverpaths of his or her blood, you will hear the guiding echoes, like sonar, like the blip that lets you triangulate against the blind spot in your own knowledge. Let the peculiar, and those bold enough to become particular, so the vagaries of situation twist and live through their innards and hard-earned quirks, teach you. The folk, only the folk, hold the keys to the lore, and they are a motley crüe indeed. Drink at the spring where Whitman and Sandburg found their voice. The people, the odd fellows, own the lore ; whether they know it or not, it lives implicit in them, across them. It's in their landscapes. It's in the mountaineer and the old rural guy from Maine. It's in the eight-wheeler at the desert truck stop and the sassy waitress off the 10. It's in the archive photos in the basement of a local history museum, and the scratchy old ragtime record. It's in tales of ex-slaves on yellowed paper, and hocked broadsheet-style crib notes of other cultures' myths. It's in the prairie grass beside that lone tree about 200 yards off the side of the road. It's in the coyote that crosses your path. It's in the reverie after a nap. Strange memories awaken, glimpses, little flashes in a kaleidoscope that arrange themselves in your dreams with their own peculiar logic. And then, like a bee, you've got to regurgitate and reconsume many times before you get honey ; at first what you find so amazing is just spit and a little pollen. You'll have to test your findings in many halls, experience that crestfallen feeling of being rejected for fresh insight, crust over a little, resent the critique you get, admit some of it but not all of it was right, first grudgingly then more gratefully and humbly, modify, tumble, retell, refit, stick to your guns, throw it all away, put it aside, wonder why at all, rediscover your pith, trust your instincts, and take the fully cooked bread out of the oven, no longer doughy but not burnt : browned and warm with just the right amount of softness : just right. And it takes time to bake.


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