Inside an Aura

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Déjà vu on steroids–that’s how an epileptic might explain the few surreal seconds before a seizure hits. Aura is the technical term for the pre-cursor sensation, explains Richard Farrell in his creative nonfiction essay “Accidental Pugilism,” published in Hunger Mountain (2011), an annual journal put out by the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Farrell’s essay contains the most beautifully vivid description of an aura that we at Utne Reader have ever read:

One of my most intense episodes happened two years ago, while living in Spain. It was a hot summer day and I was running on a deserted road along the ocean. As the road curved, a large stand of trees appeared before me. I felt a shallow moment of déjà vu, something about the sight of those trees seemed to trigger it. Then it grew rapidly, into an almost mystical series of sensations, images really, which appeared intimately familiar, like the most intense daydream. In those weird seconds, as the aura passed from something subtle to something more sinister, everything that was happening, every detail, every sight, sound and smell, seemed to have happened before in the exact same order and sequence. I became intensely aware of things: the trees, the angle of sun, the curvature of the road, the crisp blueness of the sky, bluer than I’d ever seen it. The road bent around to the right and a guard rail separated it from a low wash filled with reeds. I felt like I knew what was waiting beyond the curve, even beneath the reeds. The world became hyper-real, an intensely emotional feeling, not of the brain or body but, please pardon the over-amped language, of the soul. The moment felt familiar and strange, recursive in a way. I was filled with the oddest sense that something profound was about to happen, something almost indescribably sad but predestined, too. The future felt fully accessible–I knew exactly what would happen next. Then things shifted, and the sensation rose into an almost crippling weariness; I became nauseated, cold and dropped to a knee. The pleasant déjà vu had been infused with darkness, with fear, something Jones describes as the “typical epileptic aura, which is that of terror and impending doom.” But these darker sensations blended delicately for me. As loopy as this may sound, the moment felt life-altering, epiphanous, expansive and eerie all at the same time. Both terrifying and inexplicably peaceful. I felt no panic, just dread and calm, roiled together in a cocktail of lucid emotions.

Then the aura, which had hijacked my consciousness, almost as quickly, let go.

The feeling simply receded. It disappeared, reversed directions, and I woke from the dreamlike trance. The entire episode lasted less than a minute, I suppose, though I was alone and have no way to know for sure. All that lingered after was a slippery sense of uncertainty. Unsure what to do, I finished my run, as if nothing had really happened.

Don’t miss Hunger Mountain‘s interview with Richard Farrell, about the author’s inspiration and writing process, or the rest of his insightful essay. The opening line will grab you–“My first diagnosed seizure occurred in the cockpit of a Navy T-34C Mentor, on a formation flight”–and it just gets better from there.

Source: Hunger Mountain

Image by martinsillaots, licensed under Creative Commons.

Danielle Magnuson is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter @DnlMag.

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