Where All Secrets Are Revealed…

Spring returned late yesterday, after leaving in a huff a few days earlier. Summer slipped in during Spring’s absence, arriving with a vengeful blast of heat that wilted blossoms and steadfast resolve. His fiery breath baked new-fallen pollen onto the hoods of cars and urged chiggers and snakes to emerge from their long winter naps. Spring’s return, though, was too late to shepherd insects and reptiles back into their respective dens; they are ready to spring on exposed skin and at unwelcome intrusions.

I prefer the coolness of actual spring to the heat of early summer. Or, for that matter, any summer. Though I was born in an unairconditioned environment and spent most of my youth in sweltering heat and humidity, my ancestral roots are in England and Scotland, where the climate is (or once was) far more hospitable to humans than is the moist oven of much of the southern United States. Consequently, occasionally I have to acknowledge the madness that causes me to remain in a place where intelligent representatives of our species would never have settled. Only a lunatic would stay in such a loathsome, unfriendly atmosphere when he could choose to live almost anywhere else—where the climate is considerably more hospitable. An advanced nomadic lifestyle—moving seasonally in response to changes in temperature and precipitation—would make far more sense than setting permanent roots in hot, rocky, scorpion-infested lands rife with chiggers and snakes.  But, all things considered, I’m reasonably happy here, under the circumstances. I would not want anyone to think I am a whining complainer, though that descriptor might well describe me during fits of discomfort with the local climate.

Yet, as I mentioned, Spring returned yesterday. Today’s temperatures are expected to reach only 66°F and tonight’s should dip to a chilly 48°F. That’s more like it. Despite the accompanying clouds and rain, those temperatures suit me SO much better than yesterday’s official 77°F (though my car’s temperature reading claimed it reach 83°F). I’m not whining, mind you, only expressing my actual emotions in response to unacceptably high temperatures.


I recently skimmed an article that I believe suggested some scientists (physicists, I presume) have posited a theory that an alternate universe in which time moves backward exists as a mirror image to our own universe. As much as I find such stuff intriguing, I sometimes find it beyond far-fetched. Perhaps my skepticism is simply due to the possibility that my mind is not sufficiently open and accepting. Or, perhaps, my doubts are grounded in the idea that time moving “backward” is simply another way of saying “memory.” Perhaps these physicists, during psychedelic trips—stoned on peyote and LSD—are fascinated with how memory works…and that psychedelic fascination morphed into a theory that suggests a mirror universe in which time moves backward. Perhaps we should just ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall. Or talk to the physicists and tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar has given you the call. 

Either I’m fortunate that I did not experiment with peyote and LSD and the like or I’m unfortunate that I’ll forever miss the world-view-expanding experience of taking psychedelic drugs. As I grow older, though, I find that my fear of potentially devastating long-term effects is no longer as terrifying. I suppose the fear is still there, but long-term is no longer such a long time. My guess, though, is that mind-altering drugs have different effects on old brains than on young brains. Old brains have more experiences etched into memory, which could have an enormous impact on how the brain reacts to psychedelic substances. Something that, to a young brain, might be new and remarkable and mind-expanding, to an old brain might seem artificial—manufactured out of shreds of recall that are based on real-world experiences. This is all supposition. I don’t have a clue as to whether these idea have any merit or, on the contrary, are wasteful uses of the electrical and electrochemical impulses in my brain. Who know? I don’t.


This blog is the only place I can openly “talk” about things that would be awkward or difficult in a setting involving real people having real conversation. Here, I can launch into stuff that might make participants in a conversation quite uncomfortable; but, here, none of us are worried about what the others think. But there are many subjects that I have thus far prohibited myself from broaching because they might be too awkward, too deeply personal, too close to the soft, painful spot inside all of us that we want to keep hidden. That spot is different for everyone, but we all have it. And we know we don’t want to allow forceps and scalpels and probes anywhere near it. But other people who write are readily willing to touch on virtually any subject. A woman I met and knew briefly as a writing instructor and guide said, in effect, writers “must be willing to explore even the most painful or the most embarrassing or the matters so personal that they could destroy relationships or families or…” Writers, in other words, should be fearless about what they write. This woman was discussing memoirs at the time. She directed her comments to whether memoirists should be completely, brutally honest. In her view, complete honesty—with all its potentially painful side-effects—is the only steadfast rule for writers. While I accept her assertion, I think it is true only for true, dedicated, unwaveringly committed writers who are willing to hurt not only themselves but others in the name of literary purity. Not necessarily to the rest of us. But everyone, I think, whether writer or not, should have a place where all those hidden parts of our lives, those deepest dark secrets, come out. Maybe it’s just acknowledging a memory. Maybe it’s writing fiction that mirrors—at least in part—the secrets we hide. Maybe it’s a recording a person makes, speaking in his or her own voice into a microphone, memorializing whatever secret action or thought they cannot publicly acknowledge or announce.

I realize, of course, broaching such a subject might prompt readers to think MY secrets are so ugly and dangerous and potentially damaging that releasing them would destroy my world. No, no so much. They are mostly mundane; only slightly erotic or perilous; moderately menacing; yet all of them are private until they carelessly slip out of my fingers onto the keyboard. Or are pried out of me.


Today is trash day. Time to scramble to get the monstrously over-large barrel out on the street for the autoloader trash vehicle to snatch it up and empty it into the bowels of the garbage truck.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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