The Petchary was listening to the gloriously liquid guitar of Jimi Hendrix, flowing through the garden on a warm and sunny July afternoon. An emerald green hummingbird hung in the air. Delicious.
Jimi’s album “Electric Ladyland” has a lot of watery references. In the meandering, dreamy song “1983…A Merman I should Turn to Be,” he sings about he and his lover bidding farewell to the bomb-ravaged, despoiled earth and descending to Atlantis under the sea. (Yes, in those days there was a lot of talk about Atlantis, and some fervent believers in its existence).
No, we are not discussing the mega-hotel in the Bahamas, but the lost island of Atlantis that sank beneath the waves during a catastrophic event of some sort. This is an ancient legend, first recorded by the Greek philosopher Plato, and since expanded and elaborated on and never, quite, forgotten. Atlas – yes, the man who holds the planet on his shoulders – was the king of Atlantis, and Poseidon carved one of its mountains into a palace for his love Cleito (who bore him five pairs of twins). Then, in a day and a night, it simply sank.
What a beautiful legend; the best ones are always rich with possibilities, letting the imagination soar. But of course, there were as many ancient scholars as modern ones who were doubtful Atlantis ever existed.
The dreamers wanted to find it. A Brazilian scientist, Professor Arysio Nunes dos Santos, dedicated his life to its study and worked out that Atlantis in fact lay in the Indian Ocean. His son Bernardo continues his research. Some say it lies in the Atlantic, others the Mediterranean. Yes, even the Caribbean…
An American Congressman also became fascinated by the legend and wrote a book in 1882 extolling the virtues of Atlantis as a highly developed society. Even the Nazis investigated whether the citizens of Atlantis where, in fact, highly advanced and superior members of the Aryan race. Poor old Atlantis has been messed about with, quite a bit, over the centuries. Perhaps one of its most interesting modern interpretations is “Hearts in Atlantis,” a series of novellas and short stories which use Atlantis as a metaphor for a lost dream – the unfulfilled dream of the “baby boomers” growing up in the 196o’s. It is written by that master of the imagination Stephen King, and well worth a read.
Come to think of it, Jimi Hendrix, whose flame burned so bright and was blown out so suddenly and quickly, would have been a baby boomer. Now the Petchary likes to think of him as a merman, living in a slowly crumbling palace under the sea with his mermaid, amidst kelp forests waving in slow motion. The palace is furnished with pink and black and white coral, and the carpets are made of sand woven into patterns like Tibetan paintings. Striped sea snakes adorn the columns. Silver shoals of fish dive in and out of the windows. The merman and his queen float through their days in a flickering blue dream; and sleep their nights away, safely entwined in their bed of sea moss, while the sharks come out to hunt their prey.
The Petchary hopes we never find that underwater kingdom. It might be such a disappointment.