“Yes I have a pair of eyes … and that’s just it. If they was a pair o’ patent double million magnifyin’ gas microscopes of hextra power, p’raps I might be able to see through a flight o’ stairs and a deal door; but bein’ only eyes, you see, my wision’s limited.”
The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
That’s how I feel. Like Dickens’ Sam Weller out of context. So does The Seer, oddly. But he says it’s best that way…
I met The Seer early one morning in Monterey when I was out on the beach off Cannery Row between Prescott and Hoffman. He was sitting on a rock out in the water, facing east and eating a bagged breakfast, the ocean ebbing and flowing around him. He was decked out in homeless attire, wild salt and pepper hair flying out from under his baseball cap. He had a small circular horn tied with twine and swung round his neck, resting on his back.
He saw me coming down the beach pondering life, and he motioned to me. I waved, thinking he was just being friendly that way, but he kept on. When I was almost adjacent to him, he climbed down from his rock and hopped from rock to rock and onto the sand and stood in front of me. He looked in his mid fifties, his face a parchment pirates’ map. As if he was quite used to being too much for the mainstream to take, he smiled benignly and offered me a bread roll from his bag.
I took it despite the What-ifs. He patted my shoulder and said, “Folks call me ‘The Seer’…I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ve become used to it.”
“I’ve heard of you,” is all I could say. I forgot my white-bread manners and didn’t tell him my name, but he didn’t seem to notice. Heck, he probably already knew, being The Seer and all. I smiled at the thought.
“The atmosphere’s dripping wet,” he reported good-naturedly, “The breeze is practically visible it’s so thick with the possibility of rain. It’s so sticky I can’t see either way.”
How absurd, I thought, as if he considers humidity an oddity on the coast. Stranger, though, was his statement about stickiness affecting his vision, so I asked, “Sticky? See either way? What do you mean?”
“Wision disconnect,” he said. “It’s like wearing a wetsuit. There’s condensation between my horn keys and my fingertips. My feet feel clammy. There’s dampness between me and my clothes, between me and everything, including my vision and my wisdom. Like electronics and moisture. Bad combination, bad contact. Produces static.”
He squinted into the darkening sky, sniffed the air, and looked back at me. He continued matter-of-factly, “There’s static between my imagination and my common sense, there’s fog between my eyesight and my insight. The manner in which I conceive something is out of synch with the process of generating a wise course of action.”
Ah, it’s figurative, I thought. It must be. Still, if I hadn’t gotten such good vibes from the guy I for sure would’ve run away screaming by then, but I was beginning to really enjoy his presence. Even so, maybe because so, I said something stupid like, “Well I guess you’ll just have to settle for one or the other, wisdom or vision, until a dry air mass flows through.”
The Seer lifted his cap and scratched the bald top of his head, “Not likely in these parts.” He patted the cap down on his head and just looked at me with nothing but good in his eyes.
I could see all the way out to the center of the universe through those eyes, could see why they called him The Seer, and I could’ve asked him the secret to life, anything, but all that came out of my mouth was, “Why don’t you move to Arizona or something?”
The Seer chuckled and said, “Because I like water flowing ‘round my rocks and on my sand. Because my skin would dry out and I don’t need wision that bad. Because you’re right, I can alternate between wisdom and vision and get along just fine. It’s just not optimum.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to strive for optimum?” I asked.
“Striving can get dangerously close to desperation without your knowing it,” he said. “Everyone around you can see it but you. Thoreau once said, ‘It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.’”
“Desperation certainly is unbecoming,” I thought aloud.
“Best not to invite the possibility of it,” The Seer said. “I did that once, chased after a dream…used to play baseball for a living… Yup, it’s best to let the dream come to you.”
“What happened with baseball?” I asked.
“I don’t remember…” The Seer frowned for a split second. Then his cheerful glow returned and he looked deep into my eyes and said, “This is the dream that found me: to usher in the day, usher it out, and fill the in-between with whatever’s in front of me.”
Then The Seer hopped back across the rocks, climbed up onto his rock and sat there facing west. Without looking back at me he put a hand up to wave goodbye and swung the little horn from off his back around to the front of him and began to play “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonss, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories, and glophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,’ by which he menat Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing.”
John Steinbeck, Cannery Row
Old Cannery Row photo from http://www.unc.edu/~intrm/can_row.jpg, originally from Steve Frisch Photography, Copyright 2001
Click here for more on prompt “#117 – Vision” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.
your writing created a vivid picture.. have always wondered how is it that some strangers do or say something special to occupy a sense of permanence in our memories…
I was drawn into this vignette and held on to the last word. Some very interesting things to think about in here – on multiple levels. I’ll be doing just that (thinking about it) for a while.
I will be back…fantastic writing, and I like where you went with this timely moment…good stuff.
Wow! What a skillful writer you are! The philosophical questions you raise (or that the Seer raises) are relevant and challenging. I also like the your feeling of friendliness and understanding of one of the outcasts of society. I wonder where the Seer slept at night. This was a wonderful take on the prompt.
I have a sentimental attachment to Cannery Row in Monterey. I used to go there with my father (he on business trips) when the canneries were still at their height of activity, before the collapse of the sardine industry due to over-fishing.
I will return to your writing – again and again!
faaaar out!!! — as i read i felt a sort of deja-vu from my professional years, conversations with people in acute psychotic phases – we’d be having a perfectly sane chat and before i knew it they had somehow drawn me into the craziness and i didn’t know how or when i had crossed that line – i had that same feeling after i got past “wision disconnect” and had to re-read to recover my senses – you cleverly led me down the path of his acquaintenceship then threw me temporarily into a place where i thought he was stark raving mad – but i see him as sly and clever under his own special brand of double talk, and i especially like the lines like, ““Because I like water flowing ‘round my rocks …” – to me a sign of life, and, ““Striving can get dangerously close to desperation without your knowing it..” too toooo true!!! — then the end has a mystical playful quality to me, almost like he’s an elfin personality that’s been speaking profound riddles — mega blast power once again!!!!!
Woman, where do you come up with these things? It’s beyond me. I don’t know what to tell you. I was completely speechless when I read: There’s static between my imagination and my common sense, there’s fog between my eyesight and my insight…wow.
And then it started to get even more wowable. Thumbs up.
Striving can get dangerously close to desperation without your knowing it
I know how this is, all right. It’s one of the lines I toe pretty regularly in my world.
Thanks for all your kindness and encouragement tonight about my own vision! You guys have really pulled me back from desperation and moved me into quiet determination. A much, much better place to be.
“This is the dream that found me: to usher in the day, usher it out, and fill the in-between with whatever’s in front of me.”
what a profound thought, missA. if only we could live this way, am sure the world would be a lot less hurried. ah, the maddening pace of it all that leads us, in a way more than any other, to act in the exact desperation that you have mentioned!
yet, i am but tempted to strive, and keep it as close to desperation, yet not get there in a way that it affects me negatively, if you know what i mean.
i am in love with you, miss A, and your words! :)
By the way, I have e-mailed you yesterday. My emails sometimes get caught in people’s spam boxes so…watch out :)
Wision indeed, Miss A: this one is a beauty, lovely prose poem. I’d quote my favorite lines, but to make it simpler, just re-read the whole thang: it’s all my favorite lines. I particularly like the idea that when “this close” to asking the secret to life, we usually balk and ask about Arizona or passing the salt and peppa.
Dickens, Steinbeck, Thoreau, and Miss A: them’s mighty lenses.
A big welcome, Gauri! I’ve felt your still sweetness come through your comments on various sites and made a note to self to check out your site…your two sites I see, one for poetry, which is very good btw. Everyone liked your “…Bittersweet Being” as did I, but I particularly liked “Why summer is sour,” the raw reality of the taste of stolen fruit. So thanks for stopping by here. I’ve got you on my feeds list now. Oh! regarding what you wonder, and I wonder…I feel like we are radically, eternally affected when others say and/or do something that adds to our understanding of, or answers completely, the questions our souls stir within us…questions that, when answered, further us on our souls’ journeys… Or something along those lines :-)
Welcome, sister AE! So glad you found something to ponder in the piece. That’s my goal. I sit down, fingers on the keyboard, poised and hoping something of some value to someone somewhere will flow out. I’m still making my SS rounds so will be by later on to see what you came up with for the vision prompt. Thank you so much for visiting and setting down your thoughts.
And welcome, Stacie! Good, thank you, glad you enjoyed. I took an ultra-quick look at your place, buzzed through “Odd and Ends.” A few things got my attention so I’ll be back by to add my couple of cents.
Granny: good to see you here again! I’m so glad you enjoyed this. I continue to be blown away by your “…Gift of Words.” I know hardly anything about the mechanics of poetry so I’d just use the term “word patterns,” and in reference to both sight and sound, would say your poem employed the most pleasing word patterns to manifest depth of meaning. Anyway, I would’ve loved to be in your shoes to see the old Cannery Row. To me, it has the appeal of a rustic old building with multiple levels and layers of finery and debauchery and bizarre and nifty nooks and crannies to explore…and there’s the fascination of the crashing sea, the buildings so near, the smell, the invitation to be wild or just be. And I wonder where the seer slept at night, too :-)
danni: LOL! My mom spent the last ten or so years of her nursing career at the “state hospital,” the locals call it, for the insane, so I know what you mean! And again your impression is so helpful…I laughed when I wrote that as if it’s one of those ratings, “Did you find this article helpful?” Oh lord…but true! You know how we all need that feedback! And yours is nitty gritty, it’s where your head was at in the important turns. So…well, yes, five stars, I found this article genuinely helpful and so entertaining, and I’m glad you liked The Seer story!
The Divine Ms. M: these things come from the ether ;-) Seriously, I can’t mastermind my day let alone a good bit of writing! Well I can mastermind anything all I want but it’s guaranteed not to go as masterminded ;-) I’m just happy you thought the outcome here was wowable :-)
Oh hey, hit me with that e-mail again, would you? I did check my inbox today, was careful with the junk and the trash but didn’t see one from you.
SHG: good to see you here again! Especially good to hear you’re in the quiet determination place. Although I’m not good at perseverance, I hear it rules. You’re a good writer in good company with the likes of JK Rowling—12 publishing houses didn’t want a gold mine like Harry Potter, and the publishing house that did finally agree to publish it advised her to get a day job because children’s books didn’t make money. I’m sure you know the story. Hard to believe.
Dharmabum! I’m flattered to the ends of the earth! And I’m thinking of not returning from there, thinking of just staying at the ends of the earth behind a Bum-induced smile. You’re one of the sweetest, most in-touch-with-the-universe souls out there. And if you say “if only” to The Seer’s dream I don’t know who can possibly actually live that dream. I know when my ego hears I’m thinking about just relaxing about what comes my way, it pitches fits. It thinks if I get too close to enlightenment I’ll shut its operation down. I keep telling it, “Naw man, I need you, man, you’re my I.D. tag!” but it’s not taking any chances. The dang thing sleeps with one eye open. I do know what you mean about pushing the striving thing. It’s an art I haven’t mastered. Well, Bum, I don’t want to make Ms. Mood’s eyes roll or upset anyone’s stomachs further with this affection-fest, so I’ll just say I hope Inspiration visits you soon as I could do with a dose of you and your words…your site is as somber as a highway truck stop at 2am :-)
Good heavens, Paschal! You’re usually one of the first to arrive. I was sweatin’ it, thinking all kinds of things. Mercy…
Yeah, isn’t that just the pajamas the goat ate? I have anticipated interactions with people thousands of times over the course of my life, have rehearsed in my mind exactly what I will say and do, and when the time comes, everything but what I’ve rehearsed happens. It’s as if someone, something else is controlling my mouth, my body. Whazzup with that? Cruel cosmic joke? Murphy’s law? What??? What happened to the law of attraction there, eh? Well, I guess if we knew the secret to life we’d not need the salt and peppa, and maybe we’re just not ready to give up this world’s simple pleasures ;-)
i am not sure how much i need the ID. its a thin line as always – the one between needs and wants.
am still waiting for inspiration, and a good time, and in the meanwhile, am basking in the love fest, no matter what with eyes rolling and stomachs upset :P
Sorry to take so long in responding, Ms A: I wasn’t meself, exhausted mostly, after that last stretch down the Howard Schultzless Highway. I read your piece Saturday night, I think it was, thinking this is really good, I really like it, all the lovely mica bits of wisdom washing in and out, but no functional brain to put my thoughts together. I’m not exactly surprised by the fineness of your prose, that’s become a given, always a pleasure to read, but how and where you decide to cast the pieces brings lovely surprises. Rave on’s, what I say.
About those tendencies to back off and not to ask: perhaps it’s the wisdom in ourselves, knowing intuitively that no 5 paragraph SAT essayed utterance from even a Cannery Row sage is gonna quite get it: ain’t no secret to/of life that’s gonna beat out the wordless mica wisdoms lived daily in our bones and joys and loves and losses. Besides, the answer’s “42” anyway, isn’t it?
Hey, Bum! If you mean ID as in an identity like the false ones we build so others will see us as we’d like to be seen—the successful businessperson, the macho man, the bard, the Barbie doll, etc—then I could definitely do without! I think of ID tag more as the thinking mind ego which houses our name and the processing power to use past history as a tool and to get us to the airport on time, etc. Of course an enlightened human probably wouldn’t care about that either! LOL! Oh well, keep your inspiration antennas clear of debris and I’ll keep checking to see if you’ve tuned anything in :-)
Hi Paschal! I bet you were indeed whooped after the long haul and anyway, who am I to mention such things, you know? I mean, look how long I take to show up at places in the blog world! Well, I’m glad you stopped back by with your take on the speechless-in-front-of-god sort of scenario. I do think we have to learn TSOL on our own journeys of experiencing as we’re routed through this world, and since encounters with others are part of that, you’d think a brain dump from a seer would be like coming across the dead sea scrolls, but look at all the bungling around that! It just reinforces what you wrote, reinforces that a touch, a word, a look from people in our paths can transfer a lot, just as The Seer did in this story. 42? Why do you say “isn’t it?” I thought you knew! Oh dear…
I felt as thought I was there on the beach, could feel the moisture in the air, the uniqueness of the visit. Wonderful story.
vedanta calls the ID ahamkara, missA, and it includes the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, which pretty much encompasses everything you’ve mentioned, and more – the former, at a very surface level, and the latter, when you scratch a little below the surface. dig deeper, and the ID carries a LOT more. even the ubiquitous ‘thought’ of taking ownership – “i caused you misery” or “i gave it away in charity”, when the fact is that we’re but pawns in the cosmic game, i’d attribute it all to the ego. phew, it is something i say!
Tammie: very glad you liked it :-) Hey, I clicked on your link above and wow! what crystal clear perfection in photos! If I wasn’t such a tightwad I’d buy them all along with Stacie’s jewelry and Devil Mood’s jewelry and knitted things and… So many artists out there… Ms. Mood and I were “talking” about this the other day, the difficulty of artists selling their work that has existed for all time made all the more difficult in today’s economic mess.
Dharmabum: amen, Brother! It is quite something indeed!