I remember my early childhood in vibrant action stills. The place, the smell, the color of the location are edge sharp in my mind. These early memories are not like later ones which are cohesive and linked chronologically somehow. Instead they are like pictures, snapshots in my head, often completely unrelated, just a few moments of pure moments of image and that is all. Like this:
I am four years old. The day is warm. It is late spring. Snow caps the mountains still, and the air is crisp in our mountain valley. My father has hired two Norwegian men to chop down trees on our land. Huge Ponderosa pine logs are everywhere, and my sister and I have made a morning of playing in the sawdust. I have brought my crayons with me and have placed their yellow metal box on a log, weighting down my sketch pad.
My sister and I are watching the men cutting logs. One man has bright blue eyes and he stops to talk to us, while taking a huge quid of chewing tobacco expertly from a tin he carries in his back pocket and lodging it in his mouth. My sister and I both want to try it, and Swen laughingly pokes the tin towards us, urging us to take a bit. We do, and the pungent sour nastiness sends us reeling backwards spitting and coughing. I hate the taste, but decide I still like to be around Swen.
By lunch, my sister is bored with playing outside, and follows the men towards the house, but I stay back. I love the sweet smell of sap warming in the sun, and everything sounds so quiet now that the ringing of axes and chainsaws have stopped. I walk back to the log where I have stashed my crayons.
On the cover of the crayon box is a drawing of a boy riding on a horse. I sit down by the log, planning to draw a picture really quick, before lunch, when suddenly I see a beautiful pulsing image. It is not inside my head, but not outside of it either. It lingers, and I am filled with absolute certainty. This is what god looks like: no edges, just pure form, and color. Maybe every color. When the image fades, I rush to pop my crayon tin open, and gasp.
My crayons have melted in the sun.
They are a mess of purple liquid, blurred with yellow swirls, dark green and red seeping through the higes at the back of the box. The picture stays inside my head. For days I try to draw it every day, but I can't quite get it right.
Today, the image remains almost as clear as when I saw it, yet it still eludes me on the page. Sometimes, I think I see it a Georgia O Keefe flower, in some fractal of the Mandelbrot set, or in Kandinski's color studies, but when I look again, it never is. After the first couple failed four year old attempts to capture this image on a page with color, it just became a part of me. It has defined a wedge of my world and made me unwaveringly certain that there is a spiritual world connected to our own.