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6646 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA, 90028
United States

(213) 223-6921

Stephanie Gibbs, a bookbinder in Los Angeles, CA, offers edition and fine binding, book conservation, custom boxes, and paper repair for contemporary and historic books, manuscripts, and documents to clients throughout California.

current studio projects

Sunday

Stephanie Gibbs

I was asleep, or I was awake, or I was both asleep and awake, drifting in the embryonic aether of the unconscious as it merges into being.

It was afternoon and there was a sun-warmed breeze tinted with the scent of clouds and summer and it was morning and the sun had carried with it the noise of birdsong echoing through the open window.

I was alone in the house, and you were there, and everyone else was there, but we were all together and all alone and the sky kept expanding until there was nothing else, just a field of bright blue daylight everywhere all around.

I forgot to dream. I forgot what you asked me. I forgot what I answered. I forgot how you responded. Did we gaze deeply into the heart of the same afternoon before being consumed in that all-present field of light?

There was a pause that lengthened and became a hesitation, and the empty space grew longer and wider, it became awkward and unwieldy, a deep ravine across which further communication was impossible. Out of our words we built boats of intention and sailed them to distant shores, answers returned in foreign languages whose context and meaning were uncertain, vague, open to interpretation.

The birds call out. Again. There is a rustling amongst the greenery, a rustle which may be the wind or a chipmunk or my misplaced memory trying to reel in my attention to the matter at hand, which I've misplaced again. The window is open and my dreams fly out, dissipate into the air that you breathe, and I ask, are my dreams salty, are they bitter, do they taste of melancholy and loss, do they spoil your appetite for life, do they sour your hunger for experience? I apologize, I do not intend to poison your spirit, I do not wish to exhale the burden of existence which presses heavily into my heart, and weaves a rut around my thoughts.

But none of this is true. You exhale, leave behind the fog of lost emotions, and listen to the noises, the echoes of what isn't there. Remember that once this was all we had, the burden of memory of a place where time didn't exist and so we had no words to describe the ephemeral passage from nonbeing to being. I slept, and the universe slept, and the cosmic winds were quiet in the tides of night; there was a scuttling of noise, which may have been field mice in the farmhouse walls or may have been the distant reverberations of an earthquake at the bottom of a distant sea, and I turned, saw there was form, fell back into a world with shadows and outlines and beings.

The planets spun and tilted and transited, methane rained down from frozen skies, oceans outlined by asteroid impacts, my core displaced by a comet at high speed, Venus transits across the sun and it is day. The grey shadows turn to objective reality and there is something I meant to hold onto, there was wisdom and understanding taken straight from the stream of dark matter, the souls of the departed animating the quiet dark hours. But I hesitate, begin to form a question, and it is gone, lost in the glare of examination.

I shrug, for there are rivers of things that are forgotten, rivers filled with lost knowledge and half-formed intentions, and by the side of the river of knowledge of good and evil is a ferry landing. I did not think to carry a coin for passage to the distant shore, my boat tossed about in the tsunami of dreams, and I stand on the far bank and use semaphore to tell you all I hope and fear. There is a moment where the shapes almost coalesce into letters, and then a fish leaps from the water, snatches the letters before they form words, and all is lost.

The river is cold and clear and fast, the river is the methane fallen and collected in the winter, and when I start to swim across it, the methane dissolves flesh. There is underneath an array of tendon and blood vessel that weaves an intricate rope of physicality from toes to crown, and I watch, fascinated, the interplay of nerves from thumb to thumb, then the nerves and tendons melt and there is nothing except a skeleton, porous where bone marrow and connective tissue once metabolized thought into action, and as I swim I am pure form.

Lost in the beauty of form, floating downstream, not paying attention to the distant shore that had been my goal, for this is more compelling, this essential nothingness washed and purified, bleached and held lightly into a form without memory. There was something I wanted to be known, or there was some truth I wanted to know, but now ignorance and knowledge are alike, are full complements of one another, and all is as it should be.

The fish that jumped from the water to eat my words swims silently alongside that which may or may not still be me, for without the memories carefully stored in origami tissue paper folds of my mind, I am no longer who I once was. The fish is weaving a net out of words, only all the words are in an unknown order, where the interstitial knots are formed is nonsense, a scrambled mess of alchemy, geometry, semiotics, recipes for life and recipes for comfort and recipes for loss all hopelessly intertwined. The net surrounds me, the fish has caught me in a web of my own words so carefully fashioned that I could not escape back to the free flowing current of the river even if I had the inclination and ambition to swim and create form.

On the riverbank are gathered all of you, all of the yous that existed independently are compelled to separate and reform into a haze of humanity, each shade of emotion, frustration, rage, disgust, envy, disappointment, respect, admiration, love, each an entity with individual form and feature. I recognize none of you, although I know all of you, and I do not struggle in the net of words as I am brought closer to shore.

There is a fire built on the bank, and over the fire is a stockpot filled with an amber liquid, cloudy as old glass. There are shapes, animated, chasing one another across the surface of the boiling amber, there are butterflies, there are kites, there are monkey bars, there are willow trees, there are snapping turtles, there are dandelions. None of the people are speaking, or all of the people are speaking, but they are not speaking in words. If they spoke in words, I know that the net of language in which the fish has captured me would grow tighter and more dense, the knots would multiply and strengthen and I would be caught up not only in a web of my own making but a web of universal and thus infinite complexity.

They are speaking in sound, in tone, in music, a formless inflection of the chant and the aria. There are the contrapuntal patterns of Bach and the atonal harmonies of the medieval mass, there is the syncopation of jazz, there is the lyricism of the romantics. The tones form a cocoon of sound, turning my net of words into a chrysalis, and as the music threatens to become cacophony, the boiling amber liquid is poured over me, and I solidify in a glowing cavern of silence.

There is nothing to do, I am caught tight, the vocalizations of my thoughts are petrified in the hardened amber, and time loses all meaning and definition. Forests grow from saplings into dense acreages where children build forts and create territories, the forests are razed for ranch land and for houses, in the back yards of houses children play in sandboxes and construct worlds of mountains, filled with panthers and blue whales and dinosaurs, while climbing roses cover everything in the scent of early summer, the heady anticipation of endless adventures in long afternoons, ready or not making way for ambushes in the no man's land scrub.

The sun sets, a river of orange washing across the horizon, and the orange is the melted amber from my cocoon. Night slowly blankets the plans and hopes of childhood, the cool evening breeze blows apart the net of my hibernation. I rise, I stretch, there is a shooting star across the constellation of Leo, and there you are. I remember, but I do not speak, as all the stars of the sky gather and dance across the fabric of the night.
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May 13, 2012
asleep in the sun