Eyes on the Road

Driving along a stretch of road I look down along a patch of wood thicket behind a strip mall and see a hanging, broken branch of dead leaves. I keep my gaze a second longer than I normally would while speeding along and notice that the branch of leaves is actually a long, heavy brown coat. Instinctively, I slow my car and look again.  The object in the tree is really a pair of large wings, brown feathers with a white edging hanging from the branch. I stop abruptly and kill the engine.
 
This place is part of the forgotten lands of the country, little slices of nature cordoned off by development. This section has no parking lot, just a small one-way drive for trucks to pull around and angle back to the loading docks of the strip mall. From there a lush wooded area begins. It’s about a hundred yards wide and slopes quickly down to a creek which butts against the hill that leads up to the roadway, creating a miniature valley. Quickly, after climbing the guardrail, I slide below the level of the road and pick my way down through the brush. This spot is quiet. The road noise shoots over the woods. Looking across, I can only see the top roof edge of the mall. It was by sheer chance I even noticed the wings.
The water is high with all of the spring rain and I hear the splashing of something large. I sneak over to the creek, ducking behind trees until I am near the edge of the grove running along the bank. There is a little break where an eddy has formed. I am seized by a thought, who or what is in the water? Could it be a bear? I look again at the huge, perfect wings. Suddenly, a bolt of thought, not knowing how I know: what I hear has to be the splashing of… no; an otherworldly being, a mythical flying creature? But perhaps, a ghost or a guardian, like somebody I’ve seen in double images - exposures of strangers behind me in childhood Polaroids. Maybe it’s an alien. Or… What kind of creature can remove its wings? My next idea strikes me, “If the wings can be removed, then it’s possible I could put them on.”
 
I have no idea what a supernatural being will look like. I assume it will be more or less human with crystal blue eyes. A wood thrush lands on a leafy branch and flicks my attention. A lovely brown bird with a white mottled chest. I realize it has become deadly quiet; no traffic, no insects, no breeze and most noticeably, no splashing. Snapping my attention back from tree branch to trunk I peek around and there it is, standing just on the other side of the tree. It is humanoid, nude with translucent skin and an ethereal glow, platinum hair and the most fierce, terrible eyes I have ever seen, like the eyes of all the animals of Earth looking right at me— they are red. I had so hoped they’d be blue. No smile, but no malice in her face either. Yes, her, a female I guess or rather sense because there is no physicality of gender, no pubic hair nor genitals, no nipples or breasts, there are white eyebrows, red eyes and red lips, she is a genderless woman. She has brown and green patterned edging along the extremities of her body, a variegated animal, but not an animal, other. She is offering her wings to me, isn’t that what I came down here for after all?
 
Suddenly, aware of the actual space I occupy on Earth, I’m afraid to be seen. I feel naked, inadequate and overwhelmed with panic, “I can make it out of here,” I think, “I was on my way somewhere, I can still make it!” I turn and run, run as fast as I can. I’ve never run so fast. I don’t even feel my feet touching the ground I am moving so fast. The trees and branches pass right by me. I do not feel them on my arms or legs. “Don’t look back,” pounds in my head like a mantra. I have an image in my mind of that creature tilting her head when I felt the urge to run. Still, I don’t turn back.
 
Once I clear the thicket, into the open, free of leafy branches, I realize that the ground is well below me and my legs are pumping in the air. I am rising! I stop moving my legs and I am flying in the sunlight. Curiously, down below I see my shadow on the grass of the hill. It’s not the shadow of a human, but the shadow of a small bird playing through the blades of grass. I look behind me for the animal and I see no one. I don’t know how this is happening, but I don’t care. I no longer want to think. I feel an excited and fearful tingle in my stomach now as I rise above the traffic moving slowly past a car down there askew along the road way.
 
 
© Guy Reed 2016

Driving along a stretch of road I look down along a patch of wood thicket behind a strip mall and see a hanging, broken branch of dead leaves. I keep my gaze a second longer than I normally would while speeding along and notice that the branch of leaves is actually a long, heavy brown coat. Instinctively, I slow my car and look again.  The object in the tree is really a pair of large wings, brown feathers with a white edging hanging from the branch. I stop abruptly and kill the engine.
 
This place is part of the forgotten lands of the country, little slices of nature cordoned off by development. This section has no parking lot, just a small one-way drive for trucks to pull around and angle back to the loading docks of the strip mall. From there a lush wooded area begins. It’s about a hundred yards wide and slopes quickly down to a creek which butts against the hill that leads up to the roadway, creating a miniature valley. Quickly, after climbing the guardrail, I slide below the level of the road and pick my way down through the brush. This spot is quiet. The road noise shoots over the woods. Looking across, I can only see the top roof edge of the mall. It was by sheer chance I even noticed the wings.
 
The water is high with all of the spring rain and I hear the splashing of something large. I sneak over to the creek, ducking behind trees until I am near the edge of the grove running along the bank. There is a little break where an eddy has formed. I am seized by a thought, who or what is in the water? Could it be a bear? I look again at the huge, perfect wings. Suddenly, a bolt of thought, not knowing how I know: what I hear has to be the splashing of… no; an otherworldly being, a mythical flying creature? But perhaps, a ghost or a guardian, like somebody I’ve seen in double images - exposures of strangers behind me in childhood Polaroids. Maybe it’s an alien. Or… What kind of creature can remove its wings? My next idea strikes me, “If the wings can be removed, then it’s possible I could put them on.”
 
I have no idea what a supernatural being will look like. I assume it will be more or less human with crystal blue eyes. A wood thrush lands on a leafy branch and flicks my attention. A lovely brown bird with a white mottled chest. I realize it has become deadly quiet; no traffic, no insects, no breeze and most noticeably, no splashing. Snapping my attention back from tree branch to trunk I peek around and there it is, standing just on the other side of the tree. It is humanoid, nude with translucent skin and an ethereal glow, platinum hair and the most fierce, terrible eyes I have ever seen, like the eyes of all the animals of Earth looking right at me— they are red. I had so hoped they’d be blue. No smile, but no malice in her face either. Yes, her, a female I guess or rather sense because there is no physicality of gender, no pubic hair nor genitals, no nipples or breasts, there are white eyebrows, red eyes and red lips, she is a genderless woman. She has brown and green patterned edging along the extremities of her body, a variegated animal, but not an animal, other. She is offering her wings to me, isn’t that what I came down here for after all?
 
Suddenly, aware of the actual space I occupy on Earth, I’m afraid to be seen. I feel naked, inadequate and overwhelmed with panic, “I can make it out of here,” I think, “I was on my way somewhere, I can still make it!” I turn and run, run as fast as I can. I’ve never run so fast. I don’t even feel my feet touching the ground I am moving so fast. The trees and branches pass right by me. I do not feel them on my arms or legs. “Don’t look back,” pounds in my head like a mantra. I have an image in my mind of that creature tilting her head when I felt the urge to run. Still, I don’t turn back.
 
Once I clear the thicket, into the open, free of leafy branches, I realize that the ground is well below me and my legs are pumping in the air. I am rising! I stop moving my legs and I am flying in the sunlight. Curiously, down below I see my shadow on the grass of the hill. It’s not the shadow of a human, but the shadow of a small bird playing through the blades of grass. I look behind me for the animal and I see no one. I don’t know how this is happening, but I don’t care. I no longer want to think. I feel an excited and fearful tingle in my stomach now as I rise above the traffic moving slowly past a car down there askew along the road way.
 
 
© Guy Reed 2016

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: Guy, thanks for joining us in the studio today.
 
GR: Well thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
 
BR: Your story brings several things to mind. I think it’s safe to say that every culture all over the world has myths of winged creatures, especially winged humanoids. I suspect this has to do with our fascination with birds and our own desire to fly like they do. It’s a deep-seated drive that humans have, to be able to lift ourselves off the surface of the earth. I think the Wright brothers worked hard to manifest that. I’m sure that at the root of what they did was the wish that they could do it under their own power. What are your thoughts about that?
 
GR: Well it's one thing we can't imitate out of Nature, I suppose. You know, we can crawl, walk, run, swim, dive – can't fly. I always wondered about the Wright brothers, if they were interested in birdsong, the beauty of birds, their habits, or just the fact that they could fly.
 
BR: Mm yeah...
 
TN: Well you know, related to mythology is the universality of dreams of flying. I don’t mean dreams as in aspirations, but nighttime sleep dreams, in which we’re flying, looking down on the landscape. I understand that flying is among the top ten dream themes that people report. I wish I had a few more of those. But what I wonder is, how often did people dream of flying before airplanes were invented? Back then, that would have been strictly an imaginary exercise, the mind taking a leap of speculation. No one had actually seen the surface of the earth from the vantage point of a bird. I'd suspect that since the advent of airplanes and aerial photography, our ability to dream of flying, or the incidence of dreams of flying, has increased. Do you have flying dreams?
 
GR: Well, oddly I do not. I'm a very active, vivid dreamer. I've done some dream-work, lucid dreaming. Some of the best movies I've ever seen in my life were actually dreams I've had. But the one thing I never did was dream of flying and it was frustrating. I think there was some point in my thirties I worked on that and I actually ended up having a flying-dream. Usually in my dreams where there's height involved, I'm in some precarious position on the edge of a building, or a tall spire, or something like that and the sensation is always of falling, never of flying. Um.....
 
(SFX: faint tapping noise)
 
BR: Hmm... 
 
TN: By the way, what’s that tapping noise?
 
BR: Yeah, I heard that. But it seems to be gone now.
 
TN: Yeah, okay.
 
BR: Well... Interesting that this creature in the story was a woman. A rather fierce looking one too. Could she have been a Harpy, with all the negative connotations from Greek mythology -- nasty, cruel, the spirit of storm winds?
 
GR: A Harpy or possibly a Siren. Sirens originally were described as being birdlike. Kind of like a sparrow with a woman's face. I tend to think that maybe she would be more of a fairy – a large one at that. They're a little kinder towards humans.
 
BR: Something I find equally interesting, is that the wings were removable -- hanging on a tree. Now this is not a characteristic of most mythical winged creatures. It suggests alien technology -- you know, I’m hanging up my jet-pack for a few minutes while I get a drink from the stream. And then this statement: “She is offering her wings to me…” So if we look at the creature as symbolic of Female with a capital F -- not the sexual aspect, but a deeper essence -- the narrator seems to be saying that she has something wonderful that he does not, but now she has given him a gift, the gift of wildness and freedom, represented by flight.
 
GR: I'm not in the habit of analysing myself as much through my writing but the way you put it makes me wonder if being you know, basically a heterosexual male, if my envisioning of this beautiful creature wasn't influenced a bit to be a woman, you know on a deeper sense – offering me, a lumbering male, land-bound, this beautiful gift in that sense. Um....
 
(SFX: Louder tapping noise, more insistent, but brief)
 
TN: There it is again!
 
GR: It.....
 
BR: Damn, what is that?
 
TN: Hmm. We seem to be running into a lot of these kind of problems here. Like last time, right?
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: That crazy electric guy.
 
BR: Yeah, really.
 
TN: Anyway…. You had an original version of the story, and we asked you to make some changes to it for The Strange Recital. Do you want to say a little bit about that, and what your process was?
 
GR: Yes. Originally I had it as an angel, as how I described it. And you were looking for something for something a little bit more ambiguous. That was actually a pretty easy change and I actually enjoyed it, the way it came out. I will say that the story though, was inspired by – I don't want to say a real life event but I was driving by a patch of woods once and saw what I thought was a branch with dead leaves and looked again and it turned out it was a coat hanging there. And I'll just say my imagination went from there.
 
BR: Yeah, yeah.
 
TN: You know our concern was that the word “angel” comes with a lot of baggage. We’ve been conditioned by the culture to react to that word with certain images and meanings, so we wanted to reject that conditioning and see how the story could benefit. I think it worked well.
 
GR: I did too. I think it's interesting that far more people profess belief in angels than a belief in a higher power such as God. I think that's fascinating and I count myself among them.
 
BR: Yeah that's interesting.
 
(SFX: Louder tapping noise, doesn’t stop. Then sounds of Tom moving around)
 
TN: Okay, that’s enough. I've got to find where this noise is coming from.
 
GR: Maybe it's a poltergeist in the studio?
 
BR: It's annoying.
 
TN: Yeah.....Oh man, you’re not gonna believe this… it’s a brown bird with white on its chest, tapping on the window. A wood thrush -- just like in the story.
 
GR: No way.
 
BR: Really?
 
GR: Wow.
 
TN: Yeah, I think it wants to get inside the studio. I wonder what would happen if I let it in.
 
BR: Go ahead. It came right out of the story. Maybe it has a message for us.
 
TN: Why not? Come on in, bird.
 
(SFX: Window opens, wild beating and fluttering of wings back and forth across the room)
 
GR: Whoa!
 
BR: Watch out!
 
TN: Oh Jeez.
 
BR: Yikes!
 
GR Now what?
 
BR: How do we get it out of here?
 
TN: Oh no, I think it just shat on the mixing board...

BR: Guy, thanks for joining us in the studio today.
 
GR: Well thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
 
BR: Your story brings several things to mind. I think it’s safe to say that every culture all over the world has myths of winged creatures, especially winged humanoids. I suspect this has to do with our fascination with birds and our own desire to fly like they do. It’s a deep-seated drive that humans have, to be able to lift ourselves off the surface of the earth. I think the Wright brothers worked hard to manifest that. I’m sure that at the root of what they did was the wish that they could do it under their own power. What are your thoughts about that?
 
GR: Well it's one thing we can't imitate out of Nature, I suppose. You know, we can crawl, walk, run, swim, dive – can't fly. I always wondered about the Wright brothers, if they were interested in birdsong, the beauty of birds, their habits, or just the fact that they could fly.
 
BR: Mm yeah...
 
TN: Well you know, related to mythology is the universality of dreams of flying. I don’t mean dreams as in aspirations, but nighttime sleep dreams, in which we’re flying, looking down on the landscape. I understand that flying is among the top ten dream themes that people report. I wish I had a few more of those. But what I wonder is, how often did people dream of flying before airplanes were invented? Back then, that would have been strictly an imaginary exercise, the mind taking a leap of speculation. No one had actually seen the surface of the earth from the vantage point of a bird. I'd suspect that since the advent of airplanes and aerial photography, our ability to dream of flying, or the incidence of dreams of flying, has increased. Do you have flying dreams?
 
GR: Well, oddly I do not. I'm a very active, vivid dreamer. I've done some dream-work, lucid dreaming. Some of the best movies I've ever seen in my life were actually dreams I've had. But the one thing I never did was dream of flying and it was frustrating. I think there was some point in my thirties I worked on that and I actually ended up having a flying-dream. Usually in my dreams where there's height involved, I'm in some precarious position on the edge of a building, or a tall spire, or something like that and the sensation is always of falling, never of flying. Um.....
 
(SFX: faint tapping noise)
 
BR: Hmm... 
 
TN: By the way, what’s that tapping noise?
 
BR: Yeah, I heard that. But it seems to be gone now.
 
TN: Yeah, okay.
 
BR: Well... Interesting that this creature in the story was a woman. A rather fierce looking one too. Could she have been a Harpy, with all the negative connotations from Greek mythology -- nasty, cruel, the spirit of storm winds?
 
GR: A Harpy or possibly a Siren. Sirens  originally were described as being birdlike. Kind of like a sparrow with a woman's face. I tend to think that maybe she would be more of a fairy – a large one at that. They're a little kinder towards humans.
 
BR: Something I find equally interesting, is that the wings were removable -- hanging on a tree. Now this is not a characteristic of most mythical winged creatures. It suggests alien technology -- you know, I’m hanging up my jet-pack for a few minutes while I get a drink from the stream. And then this statement: “She is offering her wings to me…” So if we look at the creature as symbolic of Female with a capital F -- not the sexual aspect, but a deeper essence -- the narrator seems to be saying that she has something wonderful that he does not, but now she has given him a gift, the gift of wildness and freedom, represented by flight.
 
GR: I'm not in the habit of analysing myself as much through my writing but the way you put it makes me wonder if being you know, basically a heterosexual male, if my envisioning of this beautiful creature wasn't influenced a bit to be a woman, you know on a deeper sense – offering me, a lumbering male, land-bound, this beautiful gift in that sense. Um....
 
(SFX: Louder tapping noise, more insistent, but brief)
 
TN: There it is again!
 
GR: It.....
 
BR: Damn, what is that?
 
TN: Hmm. We seem to be running into a lot of these kind of problems here. Like last time, right?
 
BR: Yeah.
 
TN: That crazy electric guy.
 
BR: Yeah, really.
 
TN: Anyway…. You had an original version of the story, and we asked you to make some changes to it for The Strange Recital. Do you want to say a little bit about that, and what your process was?
 
GR: Yes. Originally I had it as an angel, as how I described it. And you were looking for something for something a little bit more ambiguous. That was actually a pretty easy change and I actually enjoyed it, the way it came out. I will say that the story though, was inspired by – I don't want to say a real life event but I was driving by a patch of woods once and saw what I thought was a branch with dead leaves and looked again and it turned out it was a coat hanging there. And I'll just say my imagination went from there.
 
BR: Yeah, yeah.
 
TN: You know our concern was that the word “angel” comes with a lot of baggage. We’ve been conditioned by the culture to react to that word with certain images and meanings, so we wanted to reject that conditioning and see how the story could benefit. I think it worked well.
 
GR: I did too. I think it's interesting that far more people profess belief in angels than a belief in a higher power such as God. I think that's fascinating and I count myself among them.
 
BR: Yeah that's interesting.
 
(SFX: Louder tapping noise, doesn’t stop. Then sounds of Tom moving around)
 
TN: Okay, that’s enough. I've got to find where this noise is coming from.
 
GR: Maybe it's a poltergeist in the studio?
 
BR: It's annoying.
 
TN: Yeah.....Oh man, you’re not gonna believe this… it’s a brown bird with white on its chest, tapping on the window. A wood thrush -- just like in the story.
 
GR: No way.
 
BR: Really?
 
GR: Wow.
 
TN: Yeah, I think it wants to get inside the studio. I wonder what would happen if I let it in.
 
BR: Go ahead. It came right out of the story. Maybe it has a message for us.
 
TN: Why not? Come on in, bird.
 
(SFX: Window opens, wild beating and fluttering of wings back and forth across the room)
 
GR: Whoa!
 
BR: Watch out!
 
TN: Oh Jeez.
 
BR: Yikes!
 
GR Now what?
 
BR: How do we get it out of here?
 
TN: Oh no, I think it just shat on the mixing board...

Music on this episode:

Dream Closet by PUC.

Used by permission of the artist.

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 17081

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