Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Motion Sickness

Where am I.
We headed to North Dakota to look for eagles. This was an aerial survey, in the western badlands. While I am not terrified by flight or by eagles, I am easily disoriented, befuddled, vertiginous, and ultimately degastricized when placed in spinning rooms, so I opted to stay on the ground. Amy took to the skies. The pilot was a Boyd Trester, of Sentinel Butte, ND, at the controls of a Piper Super Cub, an inveterate pilot of advanced flight and remote sensing skills. At 67 years old, 80 miles an hour, and 100 feet above the ground, he reads the ground like newsprint.
No eagles were found, but they saw plenty of nests, prairie dogs, porcupine, magpies, coyotes, elk, mule deer, antelope, and one crazed biologist wandering in circles on the prairie below, wondering why he agreed to stay on the ground. This was followed by doubt if he were actually on the ground, then compass readings, then conviction he was on the ground, then he took to wondering why he was on the ground again and the cycle began anew.
Break time, and they slipped out of the sky and skipped along a gravel road for 100 feet before coming to a stop. They laughed and marveled. I drove up to meet them, they offered their sympathy, described the earth in great detail, then traveled another 100 feet and they were airborne again. I resumed circling.
Here is the problem. I am attempting to follow a blurry map coiled in my trembling hand while the earth rotates at a thousand miles an hour from west to east while it revolves some sixty thousand miles an hour around the sun while the solar system revolves at some unfathomable speed around some central point in the galaxy while the galaxy moves with explosive force away from a central point in the universe while, it is proposed, the universe moves away from a central point amidst other universes while, it may be postulated, still other universe clusters emerge from some theoretical haze as covens of babbling astronomers prepare to describe even more clusters of universe clusters within universe clusters moving about some point somewhere, which point, for all we know, exists at this precise moment only in some astronomer's mind. It is enough to make your head spin.
While in Belize I spun around on my feet for three weeks searching for my shadow, but found none, and then I gave up. This was alarming. This occupied my mind for much too long, and I began to char and desquamate beneath the torrid tropical sun. All along, it was directly overhead, out of view, beyond reach, the fabled ascian madness. How can it be light when there is no light? I swatted at it, expecting to bat it to the ground where I could steady it with my glare. But it evaded me, like deerflies buzzing about my head. It was for this, among other things, that I returned to the Northwoods, and now, deerflies again, but the sun is visible in the southern sky. At high noon. Out of habit now, I swat at them and suddenly it gets very dark. A dog barks. A whippoorwill sings. Men fire arrows into the blackness.
At night the frogs sound like science fiction. A large silver ship lands on the shores of a bog, chirping, and dozens of platy warriors angulate out the trap door, swell their throats, and melt my mind with high frequency waves. I open my mouth and confess everything: the grade school pranks, the dinner cancellations, the size of the fish, my mother's maiden name. The frogs fall silent. I am ashamed. What will they do now? To the west, a fog rolls in from the surrounding hills. Ten minutes later it envelops the bog and swallows the ship. Eventually, everything slips into the haze and soon, for all I know, nothing was ever there. It could have been a passing thought. I am relieved.
The next morning, I find that my bank account has been drained dry. That night, the frogs were louder than ever. My night is tortured, I cannot sleep; my mind is spinning.