If the body is just a change of clothes…

Man takes off muddy clothes. Ink, brush, pencil by Eric Waldemar

"In From the Bog," ink & pencil, c.1992

Well, what if? Suppose for a moment that you’re just passing through.

The details of your personality, your quirks, tastes and preferences, what you look like – these come about from genetics and surroundings, sure, at least mostly. A lot is random. The course of your life is shaped from whatever happens to be going on as you wade into it again and again, every day.

That combination of obvious variables is often what we consider to be our “self.”  Our personal history defines us most of the time in daily life, for ourselves and others. But if you’d somehow been brought up 10,000 miles away from where you actually were raised, by different parents, in a different culture, by some fluke…  What part of you would still be the same? Any?

Whatever that ghost might be, it’s not the same thing as your “personality.” You could have come out very differently, given different circumstances. But then there’s that nagging near-insight, about some fragment of yourself that wouldn’t be altered at all by a shift in time and place. You could change the eyes or even the species, but you’re still there, looking out, going through it all.

The drawing, by the way, was done about 20 years ago, when I was living on a hay farm in Clifton, Colorado. I’d spend days up to my calves in mud, opening up creases in the field when the irrigation water was flowing. (The property’s water rights permitted only a small number of hours of water flow per month, so when the fields were flooded, there was much to be done before the water gate was shut off again. In the desert.)

I’d come in with inches-thick mud covering my whole body, and would have to dry and scrape my clothes before I could put them in the washing machine. Been a long time since then. It feels like a whole different “incarnation.” I’d like to get in touch with Kim Mariner, to get some insight into what that guy who lived on his farm was like. Who was me, actually, at the time.