THE LAYOUT OF AN IMAGINARY TOWN
So why would a man who knew he was dying buy an old faux village out West built to rent out as a movie set? First of all, it was cheap. Second, why not? It was a fantasy. So?
And why would his wife go along with it, even though he sold their home to raise money? Because she knew he was dying and without him, she felt there was no home at all.
All the legal paperwork was done before he died, but he didn’t live long enough to move in. It was his wife who drove up a UHaul in front of the saloon and unloaded a minimum of furniture into the saloon and on up to the rooms upstairs. A specialized delivery service brought her grand piano and carried it through the batwing doors to the middle of the main hall. Now what?
A village that was all presentation but no depth behind the storefronts, only a few with rooms and furnishing, was not that much different from the city where they had lived before. The couple had known few people, both of them doing work at home and, truthfully, being so absorbed in each other and what they did — he painting and she playing the piano — that they barely even spoke to the clerks and servers in the neighborhood except to be cheerful and generous. They had money somehow, but through agents rather than directly.
This is meant to go into the book. The level of explanation reassures those who are concrete, requiring everything in a story to be true or untrue, but the real purpose of writing this story is to explore the other levels: memories, theories, premises. The books I am reading include Tim Ingold, Gaston Bachelard, Yi-Fu Tuan. The last two date back to seminary where I was steered away from phenomenology (which became something like embodiment or sentient architecture) but Ingold is a new discovery, buttressed by amazing neuroscience.
Several premises are half-proven and barely explored a bit.
1) A creature is defined as able to separate from the environment because of a skin that allows the penetration of electromagnetic code and interprets it into what to do.
2) The earliest sense is that of space in six directions, because the first one-celled animals lived in water and needed to know which way to go to find food and evade danger.
3) Even now that we have added some consciousness of what we are doing and hundreds of ways of “feeling” the codes of perception, space (habitation and exploration) remain basic.
4) Emotion is physiological and transmissible, connected between brain and nerves by the polyvagal system that valorizes the “portrait” section of the body: face, mouth and throat, breath and heartbeat, which allows the empathy that extends one human mind to another.
5) This is the beginning of art and language, especially those arts of the written language that extend our minds even farther and across time.
In the bedroom she claimed (shall we call her Clara?) hung a popular set of prints. One was a wolf at night looking at the lights of a village from a snowy hill. The other was a collie guarding a newborn lamb. They were chosen to indicate a period when the danger of wilderness and the fragility of life were sentimentally shared with canids, a Victorian time when the middle-class developed so people could buy prints sentimentality developed to attach people to certain points of view. Sociological icons.
Something nudged open the door and in came a dog, a blue heeler, of course, the most intelligent and capable of dogs. Sitting in front of Clara, he studied her face while she looked back. She had never had a dog. At some point there was a transaction and the two minds bonded with each other. He barked sharply, making her laugh. Now she was aware that there were barn swallows swooping around the building, creating their own habitations under the eaves from mud they found somewhere. Must be water in this set-up. She and the dog went to look for it.
When they came to the livery barn with a watering trough in front, they saw that it overflowed, making mud, and went through the building to investigate, they discovered out back a small spring, also muddying the ground, so the imprints of deer and small mammals were clear. No bears nor cougars had left marks. From this point on Clara knew she was not alone, but part of a complex of lives.
This can be connected to the fact that Westerns are connected to arid lands so that life must struggle. No one herds cattle through forests and trees need water, so that streams and the climate cycles shape the story.
One way to find out what happens in a story is to start writing. I hadn’t intended the dog, the swallows, the spring and the footprints, but they support the idea of a human habitation always being in the middle of the larger ecosystem and now the story is open to the interactions of the larger world. Shall I make it rain now? Or a big wind? Light and dark become important forces.
Shall I suggest that one night she and the dog go into the livery haymow where they’re safe and unseen so they can watch the wild animals come to drink like a waterhole in Africa? As she and the dog (name?) sit in the high space, a cat comes to sit with them. This has been her home all along.
To some people reading this, the picture in their mind will become real and stay there so I can use it later. Their memories come in part from experience and partly from other stories and could move in potential from something tragic (snake, fire, fall?) or to something funny or sexy, good ways to get hay stuck in your hair. A good story always raises lots of potentials to keep the reader wondering.
The books I referenced earlier are philosophy but not in the usual terms, yet they are international and must sometimes be read in translation. Yi-Fu Tuan is a pseudonym, a “fake” name to those limited people who insist on their own reality. He is an emeritus professor of geography at the U of Minnesota. The book jacket of “Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience,” explains this kind of thought as “all the modes by which a person knows and constructs reality, and examples are taken with equal ease from non-literate cultures, from ancient and modern oriental and western civilizations, from novels, poetry, anthropology, psychology and theology.” (Canadian Geographer)
“Yi-Fu Tuan (Traditional Chinese: 段義孚, born December 5, 1930) is a Chinese-American geographer. He is one of the key figures in human geography and arguably the most important originator of humanistic geography.” (Wikipedia)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaston_Bachelard (1884–1916) Instead of being influenced by the major deconstruction thinkers like Foucault, he influenced THEM. He is the artesian spring behind the livery stable.