I was on vacation a couple of years ago and we spent the day in Avila Beach on the Central Coast of California. I remember the town well. I lived nearby in Arroyo Grande for 13 years. It was always warm in Avila even though most of the Five Cities area (Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano, Shell Beach and Pismo Beach) was fogged in much of the time. Avila featured the warmest weather and a classic beach walk almost from a movie set. It’s still a nice town, but different today. Decades of leaking oil from Unocal’s tank farm on a hill above the town poisoned most of the boardwalk area and three blocks of my memories were torn down during the decontamination efforts and rebuilt. I digress…
While we were there we visited my brother and his family at the vacation condo he was staying in. He and his wife have two daughters and my wife and I have a son. I went out on the veranda and looked over to a patio on the next property and saw what’s in the picture. I immediately saw way more than a branch and was very excited about it! I had my wife and son come out and give it a look. They both saw a branch and laughed at me. I had one of my nieces come out and she saw…a branch.
Then I got it! I had my other niece came out. She is the poetic one, sometimes haunted by dreams – always expressive in the most beautiful ways! She works for months almost every year at a Renaissance Faire in the Los Angeles area. We’ve had great conversations about life’s poetry.
She saw as much as I saw immediately and I was relieved! I told her about what everyone else had seen and she gave me that incredulous, quizzical look that I’ve grown to love. I told her I felt the same way. How could our other family members just see a branch?
That’s how it is you know. Some people see more than others. I think that’s what makes me a good card reader. Otherwise I’d just see random, flat images. They wouldn’t mean anything to me because they’d just be uninspired images on cardboard, nothing more. Good readers see with more than their eyes. I guess I’m used to it. I don’t remember ever being different. Although it must be nice to look at the ocean and just see the water and not the water and say a scene from a thousand years ago. Honestly, I can’t imagine that, but sometimes I wonder if that would be a relief!
Life is so full of so many layers of meaning and inspiration! I’ll leave you with a poem that reminds me of this subject by one of my favorite authors – Jorge Luis Borges.
The Other Tiger – Jorge Luis Borges
Translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid
“And the craft createth a semblance.”
—Morris, Sigurd the Volsung (1876)
I think of a tiger. The fading light enhances
the vast complexities of the Library
and seems to set the bookshelves at a distance;
powerful, innocent, bloodstained, and new-made,
it will prowl through its jungle and its morning
and leave its footprint on the muddy edge
of a river with a name unknown to it
(in its world, there are no names, nor past, nor future,
only the sureness of the present moment)
and it will cross the wilderness of distance
and sniff out in the woven labyrinth
of smells the smell peculiar to morning
and the scent on the air of deer, delectable.
Behind the lattice of bamboo, I notice
its stripes, and I sense its skeleton
under the magnificence of the quivering skin.
In vain the convex oceans and the deserts
spread themselves across the earth between us;
from this one house in a far-off seaport
in South America, I dream you, follow you,
oh tiger on the fringes of the Ganges.
Evening spreads in my spirit and I keep thinking
that the tiger I am calling up in my poem
is a tiger made of symbols and of shadows,
a set of literary images,
scraps remembered from encyclopedias,
and not the deadly tiger, the fateful jewel
that in the sun or the deceptive moonlight
follows its paths, in Bengal or Sumatra,
of love, of indolence, of dying.
Against the tiger of symbols I have set
the real one, the hot-blooded one
that savages a herd of buffalo,
and today the third of August, ’59,
its patient shadow moves across the plain,
but yet, the act of naming it, of guessing
what is its nature and its circumstance
creates a fiction, not a living creature,
not one of those that prowl on the earth.
Let us look for a third tiger. This one
will be a form in my dream like all the others,
a system, an arrangement of human language
and not the flesh-and-bone tiger
that, out of reach of all mythologies,
paces the earth. I know all this; yet something
drives me to this ancient, perverse adventure,
foolish and vague, yet still I keep on looking
throughout the evening for the other tiger,
the other tiger, the one not in this poem.