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Ephemera: Flipping the Script

I'll post a better video next week
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I’ve never shot a video on my phone and thought this one was longer than two seconds. I’m still learning this tech stuff and will replace the above with a longer video next week.

First a story…

For the past couple decades I’ve posted holiday lights at the base of my driveway.1 Every year I buy a few more. This stretch of highway is heavily wooded and dark, and each year my display grows. So much so that I once called the local sheriff to ask if it might be legally considered an “attractive nuisance.” The sheriff told me he commutes this stretch of dark road every night, and he loves the lights, and not to worry.

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Rigging the lights in cold weather kills me, it’s so windy. Taking them down in colder weather and snow is worse. So this year I built frames ranging from eight to twelve feet tall, covered with wire fencing, and fixed with casters. This way I can assemble the lights in my shop, taking weeks if need be. Then, it takes only an hour to roll them into place and — voila.

My family could never afford lights at the holidays so we’d drive through better parts of town and ogle their lights on Christmas Eve.

When I build the display, the lights always have to look a certain way. It has to be a field of blue and purple lights overlaid with larger, dark-colored shapes, rising to even larger, brighter, round shapes. And like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I climbed ladders for weeks to get the composition “right.” This past weekend, it began to snow. I walked down the driveway with a glass of wine and stared at the display, and it finally made sense. My obsession. As a very young kid I wanted to study architecture, and I pored over library books about medieval churches.

In that instant I recognized what images had been driving me since childhood.

In the next instant I flipped the script. I wondered if instead of the past haunting the present… perhaps it was some knowledge of those future lights that had drawn me to obsess over the pictures of church windows. To me existence has always occurred as a “solid,” a three-dimensional shape as opposed to a line. To me every moment is present in every other moment, and that’s how good fiction should work. That’s why I repeat patterns and choruses and phrases so often. And I’m charmed by the idea that the future me was contacting the past me.

Whatever the case, I understand my compulsion a little more. This is the insight we gain from creative acts. In the next moment several cars full of families pulled up and began marveling and filming. From the dark I just watched them and drank my wine, and it was nice. They had no idea I was even there.

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Yes, where the murder victim was once left.

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Chuck Palahniuk