Mack Williams: Evening silhouette reverie
Just the other night, I arrived at the home of my son for a visit, but they had stepped out to the store and would be back shortly. As I didn’t have a key, I waited in my car for their arrival, and it being just past sunset, through my car’s “picture window” (windshield), I got a rare chance to just sit and gradually observe the sky change from deep blue, to gray, to black, something I hadn’t had a chance to just leisurely sit and do since I was a little boy on my front porch on the Old Concord Road.
This “lack of a door key,” was, itself, a “key” to an earlier, slower-paced time in my childhood.
From my vantage point, as the twilight began to fade, objects in 3-D seemed to lose a dimension to become flat silhouettes against the sky, as flat as those “classical” ones of “George” and “Martha” at Mount Vernon, but some a bit “wildly romantic” like those of conductor-composer Gustav Mahler, with his shock of unwieldy hair, and wielded baton.
Just then, I dodged the flying silhouette of an early Spring mosquito passing just in front of my nose. Unlike other silhouettes, this was a “silhouette with a sting,” no matter how beautifully gracile its black, winged form (I thought back to tiny images of distant birds I had seen flying in silhouette across the face of the moon when observing with my telescope).
The silhouettes of nearby tree branches looked like giant, random, rhyme-less spider webs, seemingly constructed by some monstrous variety of spider with no knowledge of Euclid. Nodular pine needle clumps in silhouette looked like huge motionless spiders, making me think of those long dead arachnids I had seen in outbuildings, and especially within the old granite garage of my boyhood home back on the Old Concord Road. Following death, those spiders lasted in their webs for years, tucked away from the elements in that “granite tomb,” their eight-legged “husks” still whole enough in death to frighten me.
That “spidery” look also brought back other childhood memories of my old back yard, a shadowy place suitable for fungi (but not as “poetic” a variety as that of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Fungi from Yuggoth”(1943)). In that subdued daylight grew “star fungus” here and there on the ground; but their eight petals made them look more like spiders than stars to me. When stepped on, their puffballs exploded, emitting a musty-smelling black “smoke,” looking like breathable pestilence, making me hold my breath and quickly move on. These fungal “creatures” were already in a natural, daytime, botanically dark “silhouette” color, without any tricks of light and shadow caused by the setting sun.
Gosh, it just now occurs to me that I’ve managed to include Gustav Mahler and H.P. Lovecraft in the same column. This could he hazardous!
Those silhouetted branches also made me think of x-ray pictures of clogged arteries to be opened up with an angioplasty probe; but unlike those decades-old blood-filled passages of ours, these “botanical arteries” have a complete Winter rest in which they do absolutely nothing, becoming a little “like new” again in the Spring.
And some minutes before my son and daughter-in-law arrived back home, those myriad silhouettes of “spiders,” “webs,” “arteries,” and the sky spaces between them had joined together to become the whole, “uncut” silhouette of night.