True geology

I like the sound of the word ‘meridian.’  It has a distinguished, well-traveled global sort of feel to it.  I think of stately lines on a map, well–defined and sensibly laid out arcs, a civilized sort of netting thrown by sober Masons and Dixons (un-Pynchonian perhaps) intent on imposing Western order on natural chaos.  Paths, trails, maps.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, besides the expected arcs and zeniths, a meridian can be defined as “any of the pathways of the body along which energy is said to flow.”  Certainly blood flows here.  But I’m interested in the role that unseen rocky and remote trails and paths play, the map of America in Blood Meridian, because McCarthy’s writing describes a landscape that is electric with a breathing energy, a true geology:

“That night they rode through a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft blue fire ran over the metal of the horses’ trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little shapes of pale blue light came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men.  All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear.  The thunder moved up from the southwest and lightning lit the desert all about them, blue and barren, great clanging reaches ordered out of the absolute night like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream.”

A rare sighting of a few commas there.


“The storm had long passed off to the south and the new sky was raw and blue and the spire of smoke from the burnt tree stood vertically in the still dawn like a slender stylus marking the hour with its particular and faintly breathing shadow upon the face of a terrain that was without other designation….about him lay only the strange coral shapes of fulgurite in their scorched furrows fused out of the sand where ball lightning had run upon the ground in the night hissing and stinking of sulphur.”

I’ll never think of Cassiopeia in the same way:

“…and to the north the constellation of Cassiopeia burned like a witch’s signature on the black face of the firmament.”




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