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October 13, 2008

We’re on the roof.  For weeks we have been scheming about how we might be able to get up here.  At first we planned to get on top of the neighboring building, which at first glance looked like a tantalizingly easy task, but on closer inspection we found that to actually do it we would have to simultaneously leap over the deck railing and hurl our bodies across a five foot gap three stories up.  We realized that the only thing tantalizingly easy about this would be dying.  The solution: find another roof.

Roof number two was our own, and had seemed like an impossibility since the electrician screwed a piece of plywood over the trap door to deal with a raccoon problem.  It was on the morning that he was doing this that I first became aware of the roof possibility.  He had gone inside to find a tool, and I had walked outside onto the balcony and looked up into that square of clear blue nothing that was the sky through the trap door, and knew that where there’s a ladder there’s a way.

Chloe ascends the stairway to heaven

Chloe ascends the stairway to heaven

So, today another beautiful day in California I climbed up with my screwdriver and began unscrewing the plywood while Chloe watched from below and complained about the dust that was falling in her eyes.  Finally, the wood came down with a clatter, and we were through.

Stepping onto that roof was like stepping into another dimension.  It was as though we had lived our whole life underground and were only seeing the sun for the first time, it was like Neo recognizing the Matrix.  It’s amazing what a twelve foot elevation can do.  I suddenly understood the appeal of Hummers.

On top of everything you start to recognize the oppressiveness of living under the roof.  The city is spread out before us, buildings squeezed together and trees bursting through the spaces between, and it’s all so still.  There are no people, only the softest rustle of the fall breeze.  You think that it could never be anyway but this, and that the complicated life that we have carved into nature is at least as splendid as all those flowers.  The two are perhaps not so different after all.

It looks so solid that you are easily tricked into believing that it is.  Ironic maybe, all the lovely little pastel homes under the sun, and the knowledge that the bottom might be falling out of the whole thing.  But you’re on the roof and that doesn’t seem to matter much right now. So you only talk about the economy for a little while, because it’s Sunday and you’ll be down on the street soon enough.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kent McMIllan permalink
    October 14, 2008 4:50 am

    That was a nice sketch. It has a bit of the quality of a creation myth adapted for modern urban circumstances.

    The myth that I heard behind the narrative is that of the Trickster Twins who find the sacred doorway through which they emerge from the Lower World of Cluttered Uncertainty into the Upper World of Light and Order.

    It isn’t the creation myth of the Hebrews as retold in the English of King James. That is one of sky birth, I suppose, the active, creative principle arriving from the sky. I think it was the Navajo or one of the pueblo Indian cultures whose creation story was one of emergence from below into the world of light.

    Sorry, that’s probably a tedious comment, but part of the power of the sketch for me comes from the stories archetypal qualities. The late Swiss psychologist, Marie-Louise von Franz, wrote several books dealing with myths and fairy tales, including specifically creation myths, in which she teased out the common archetypal elements that power them.

  2. charles permalink
    October 17, 2008 5:25 pm

    Congrats, I knew you could use a screwdriver if you put your mind to it.

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