The follow is a piece I wrote on the flight out to LA on Monday. It is quite raw, i.e. it has been spell checked but that’s about it. I’m not sure what it is about or what it means…… be so good as to tell me.
In the town I have never been – The Lamp Maker
In the town I have never been, the shops are clustered together. Grouped by their common theme, their common thread. Butcher next to butcher. Fishmonger next to fishmonger. Gallery next to gallery.
People frequent the stores their parents frequented. People frequent the stores their friends frequent.
There was always the right number of each kinds of store. No one knew why. It just worked out that way. There was the right number of florists (five.) There was the right number of jewelers (three.)
But there was only one lamp maker. Not for want of lamps. People queued up at the lamp maker’s door in hopes of getting his latest piece. No, there was no other lamp maker because no one could match the lamp maker’s skill. His lamps were the brightest they cast more joy they scared away more creatures from the door they were simply superior to anything else that could be or was.
And all of these lamps were his failures.
Every lamp he sold was imperfect in his eyes. In fact, the only reason his opened his shop was to find an outlet for all the failures that cluttered his house. He couldn’t move about for so many failures he had. The solution was simple: open a shop.
He was quite sure that no one would buy his failures. He was sure. There were plenty of other lamp makers, the right number (four.) At best, he hoped, the unaware tourist would buy a failure.
Slowly, as slow as a river carving out an oxbow lake, people started to come to his shop, and not just tourists. Townsfolk came. At first they werenít sure what to make of these lamps, these failures; they certainly weren’t like the other lamp maker’s lamps, their successes. It was a novelty at first, “let’s go see the blink lamp maker’s lamps.” They would laugh to each other. And so they did come in little groups, clusters of curious.
And the first patrons stood dumbfounded in the little dingy shop. They stood surrounded by failures, those lamps. Their chests tightened as if they were standing on the edge of a cliff, the wind blowing up from the valley below.
Afraid. Afraid of what kind of man could create such lamps, what kind of skill he must possess, what depth of vision he must have to envision such wondrous lamps. And these were his failures.
Then the lamp maker sold one.
When he handed the change and the lamp to the patron he would apologize “i’m sorry this one is so dim, so poor i’m getting closer to perfection just wait and see but in the meantime this will be a poor substitute.”
At the speed at which leaves change color in the autumn, the other lamp makers closed their shops. They did not begrudge the lamp maker for reasons that neither side could understand. It just seemed right. It just seemed right that that right number of lamp makers kept going
until only the one remained.
The lamp maker hadn’t always been blind. He could see when his grandfather raised him. Grandfather taught him about how to live in the woods, how to dance to fine music, how to tell a story, how to listen to a story.
And it was the stories that filled his life, kept him alive.
The lamp maker only heard the story that matter to him most once. Grandfather told it while the two waited out a blizzard in a shelter the two had constructed in the flat gray light.
“the greatest of woodsmen died generations ago he died for lack of his tools the tools he made with his own hands the tools that left his hands through trickery and the believed love of a woman
the woodsman could go anywhere what he had forgotten in his travels most of us will never see in our lifetimes rivers unseen until he bathed in them have never been seen since he hunted in valleys so remote that even the world has forgotten them
the woodsman had his tools a long coat fashioned from fur from animals he trapped leather from hides he tanned sewn together with strips of bark from trees he felled
this coat was so closely tied to the woods that it let him walk unaffected in the heat of summer the cold of winter he appeared to be no more than the breeze moving through the pine needles when he walked wearing his coat it smothered his smell and sound letting him hunt undetected by his prey
on his belt hung the knife he made from the bones of the mightiest of the beasts in the darkest of woods and piece of the sharpest strongest stones from the angriest of mountains
such was his knife that he could skin his food with no effort he could cut saplings into a shelter with a few small quick movements he could throw it without missing so perfect the balance and it never would draw his own blood
but most treasured was his lamp which was tethered to his belt on a long leather rope fashioned from bits of glass spit up by the cold ocean fueled by wild bees wax and the tallow of the largest bears its wick was braided hairs from his own head
such was this lamp so bright it shown that the sun seemed dim he never lost his way in the raging storm or midnight its lamp was never extinguished save by his own lips it never spilled its fuel no matter now violently treated it was this lamp that let the woodman travel throughout the world living as rich a life as any king has ever known
but this rich life
in a flash was poor and empty the woodsman came upon a town where he hoped to sell some furs and minerals he had acquired standing in the shop he happened to glimpse upon the shopkeeper’s daughter a woman the likes of which he had never seen before in all his travels
no sunset’s fire rivaled her hair
no sunlit stream could sparkle like her eyes
her voice he never heard
but he assumed it equal to all other aspects he know or imagine or her yet was better more so and completed his image of her
and the shopkeeper saws this and saw a manner in which to profit he told the woodsman that he would arrange a meeting between the woodsman and his daughter
but the woodsman had to give something of worth to show he could support the young woman the woodsman’s knife would be a good item to start with
forgetting all the times his knife saved his life the woodsman removed the knife from his belt and handed it over
the man told the woodsman to return that evening to meet the woman the woodsman did as he was told only to find the shopkeeper who explained that the woman was not sufficiently impressed with the woodsman’s knife and asked for further proof of worth
without being asked the woodsman relinquished his coat only see in her eyes in his mind hearing her unheard voice the shopkeeper told the woodsman to return the next night
but the woodsman could not wait each step out of town grew colder and colder more lonely
a feeling he had never felt before more lonely with out this woman next to him finally sitting alone in his camp he could not bare it anymore
he returned to town
he went to the shopkeepers home
he looked in the window
and he saw her saw her happily playing with what had to be her children and behind her the shopkeeper undoubtedly her husband playing with the woodsman’s knife as if it were a toy
anger that not even the harshest of winters could summon up was raised within the woodsman’s heart he had fooled himself let himself be fooled even with his great lamp he could not see clearly he had fooled himself his own knife had wounded him the very sight of it there without his coat he was victim to the seasons of his own heart
his selfrage was so great he swung his lamp against the side of the house bursting into flame everything around him as hot as his rage
when trappers came to trade their furs in the town all they found was ash
and they heard
what they heard could have only been the sound of the woodsman sobbing at his self-deceit.”
Of course when the lamp maker heard this story as a child he fell asleep long befopre it ended, and he dreamed of that wondrous lamp.
Grandfather possessed no such lamp and so he taught the lamp maker how to do so many things there by poor campfire light. They hiked at night and over time the lamp maker was as comfortable in the dark as in the day.
Years passed as did Grandfather, and the lamp maker moved to the town I have never been.
He lost his sight.
And on the lowest day, when the lamp maker was at his most pathetic, most self-pitying, he remembered the woodsman’s lamp.
And so he began to make his failures in hopes of one success, just one.
A lamp so fine that by which he could see once again.