"Vivien and Merlin", by Julia Margaret Cameron

Dearest Vivien,

I write this letter to convey a communication of utmost importance. You think that you know me well. Perhaps this is true, for certainly you know more about things than I do concerning my future.

This may be hard for you to believe, but tomorrow you will ask me to write this letter. Tomorrow you will have understood how we are different, and convinced me of my need to grow. Please excuse the words I use. Often I fail to translate them before I put them into form. The tenses may be wrong for you, but the meaning will become clear once I explain how we are different.

I am not from a different culture that I need to translate my language, I am from a different time, rather a different experience. You see, I live backward through time. I plan for what you call my past. As I grow younger, I remember the death of my awakening. My before means your after. My after means your before. We find it interesting to remember each other's future. My past is your future. My future is your past. The only way I write this letter is by removing the scribbles from the paper. The quill worked quite well in this regard and I stored the ink in a bottle of crude design.

Our experience of time is opposite to one another's and you think I am strange because I do not know the past yet I remember the future. 'Mystic' they call me, insane they label me. Curious, I search your books on the future and close them, reading right to left, bottom to top, until I begin and am pleased by its content. Why do I read the book if I have read it before? I can tell you exactly what a book is about until I have 'read' it in your way of thinking. Then I have no knowledge of its content. Why can I never remember the questions to your answers? Offended, you wait as if I should say something. From indignancy to expectancy you then ask the question and then you seem friendly. If I tried to answer, you would think me strange.

People called me 'senile' when I was young. Your young is my old, my young your old. I wonder what it will be like to be pulled into my mother and shrink into the cosmic origin of life. Will I lose my consciousness? Will I become my parents?

I wake as you look so tired and I remove a bandage from my thumb and it bleeds, so I pour water over it into the pitcher and hit it with my knife. The bleeding stops! No cut.

Elimination intrigues me. I sit down. My bowels fill and my bladder absorbs urine. Later I get some dirty dishes from the servants. Putting them on the table I sit down and enjoy the taste of my meal as I regurgitate it, chew it into wholeness, remove it from my mouth and place it on the plate. I spit up a mug of water also and, finishing my meal, I send it to the kitchen where they restore the animals and plants to wholeness. Once a week they send the goods to the market and we receive silver.

Each evening I walk in the woods. The sun rises in the sky and I replace herbs and roots to their rightful place. I do things and people ask me to do them again. I understand that they do not want me to do them again, they want me to do them when I did them before. I receive salves and elixirs and someone sends a message, asking me to send them. I understand what they mean. I have lunch (like giving birth) while reading a book. I return to my tower as the sun sets and the birds sing.

I am taking these letters off the paper because I want you to know about my experience. I will not 'remember' this letter just as you do not 'remember' the meals you will have tomorrow. As we pass this time together try to take this idea into consideration when you deal with me in your future (my past). I will not remember your name one day and you shall have to introduce yourself, just as I will have to introduce myself to you again. That night I shall die in your world. As I remember it, I was born on that evening.

I don't want to tell you too much, my love. Just as you told me tomorrow (my yesterday): "The future is a joyous mystery, why spoil it by telling secrets before their proper time?" Now I wonder, who created this letter and that question? I remember it from yesterday's conversation. You had tears in your eyes and a smile on your face as you said those words. How could I know that I would send you a letter which included them? You remembered and recited them from this letter. I remember and recite them from our conversation. Where did they come from? Quite a paradox.

I have been alive many years, many more than the decades that I have left to live, some of which you can remember. It is appropriate that I will 'grow up' an orphan. In many ways I do not wish to see my mother until the end. It must be as difficult for you to understand and believe me now as it was for me when you took the time to explain it to me yesterday. Why did you wait until yesterday to do so? Ah, yet I see you tried to explain it earlier and I did not catch on. I suspect I would have an impossible time making you believe it tomorrow when you wake up. At least we shall have this time together and a fine letter to remember and think back upon, relating our separate pasts, our separate, yet connected experience of our confusing lives.

With much love,


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