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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Memento 1. By John von Daler

                    #Deserted would be the one, all-purpose word. Deserted as in abandoned. Deserted as in a desert with hardly any visible growth.  Deserted as in empty of people. You choose it.

                But then you break through the word, ruffle its surface. You dig down and you find something nurturing. No word exists just on one barren level. You use it:
                This volcanic desert was deserted, except for the steeple of a church that stuck abruptly out of the lava. The man in a sombrero and a poncho pulled at the rope that had been tied around the neck of the donkey I was riding so that we faced the long spire with a cross. He stopped and dropped the rope so that both hands could point out invisible sights: "I lived 4o meters from the church that way", and he pointed towards the south with his right hand, "and my parents lived here just ten meters to the west," and he gestured with the outstretched left arm. As if he were some visionary revealing prophesies on a blank page, he held the pose a while so that I could read the empty landscape through him.
                He reconstructed a whole life that day, with schools, stores, factories and homes all buried by the tragic eruption that now had turned into his livelihood. I was eight years old and traveling with my parents in Mexico. We had paid him to show us what had been, but was no longer.
                These many years later I finally understand the story from his point of view. Through time my crust has spread and deepened too. I know what it feels like to ferret in my own mulch.
                I lead my own donkey through the landscape and find there the little boy who once rode here, but who now stands forlorn, his legs half buried in the earth, a solitary little steeple. I see him and start hesitantly to mumble the liberating words of remembrance, I lived forty meters that way and my parents lived...   

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