I am the wind that runs down the wet, black road
spinning the coloured leaves
into a thousand yellow falling stars
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
There is a stretch of road that he walks each day. The road slopes gently to the sides where the stones are loose. It bends quietly to the left, passing two houses that face each other, window to window. He closes his eyes and his footsteps fall evenly and deliberately on the pale road. When he opens them, nothing in his vision tells him it is the 21st century. He wonders what could give it away, perhaps the shape of the hay bales, rounded not square, perhaps the absence of hay stacks, but that is all. It could be one hundred years before, and he could be there, walking down the road, on a sunny day such as this, cool air, green fields with apples covering the ground. The sweet smell as he passes them by.
His back aches from chopping wood that morning. He had started early before the frost had disappeared, slipped out of the warm bed, dressed in the uniform that winter brings and brushed his beard down towards his chin, a habit he had recently come upon. He liked growing it thick for the snow. The tradition of it appealed to him. The seasonal aspect too, he felt then that time was passing. So when the ground is sodden with melted snow, in Spring, he thought, then I will shave it off. But for now, and he self-consciously stroked it, it keeps me warm.
Not hungry yet, he had stepped into the air, sharp on the inhale, cold in his lungs. He imagined the air travelling his warm red throat, dropping down into his expanding lungs, and stopping there, still frozen for a second. His breath caught, but he breathed out again and bent for the axe. His fingers stretched and flexed inside his mittens, enclosing the cold hickory handle, and he reached for the first log and loaded it onto the stump. Swinging his arms a long way back, his back arched as the underside of his forearm lengthened, and he came down smoothly through the grain of the wood, two pieces falling to the side. He stacked them to the left, to the pile that grew a little more each day. He kept working, swing and fall, swing and fall, until the stack had risen to a height where he stood admiringly and stroked his beard with pleasure, and said to himself, 'One more and then I'll go in'.
He set the next piece up and came down again, but this time the axe glanced off the side, and wedged in the old stump. His swear came out in a warm cloud.
Breakfast was easy enough to prepare, he still had oats from yesterday. He stirred the congealed mass, breaking up the blobs of oats and water, until it burned and he spooned it out into a bowl and covered it with milk and brown sugar.
He sat at the table. He tried to focus on the warm, sweet soft food entering his mouth, his hand holding the spoon, small in his palm after the axe handle.
He would have to walk there again today. Although he pretends to be angry, to snort with derision and frustration, in making the walk for the tenth time in a month, he knows he enjoys it. Not at the beginning when his legs are still stiff and his joints move in jolts, and his body is cold, but at the end. At the end, when his arms swing by his side, when his strides are long, and the road is quiet. It is then, after letting his thoughts wander where they will as he forces his legs up the mountain, it is on the flat where his thoughts come together, on the empty road, where he is able to focus, to mend, to create, to be happy.
Pushing his chair back suddenly, silently making a decision, he leaves the bowl in the sink and fills the pot to soak.
He slams the door behind him and walks across the grass, dull now, after the first few frosts. Snow today maybe, he thought, it always seems colder without snow, the wind seems sharper. The trees are ready, their leaves gone, their body and soul gone into hibernation and he knows he is also ready for snow as he glances at his woodpile.
He steps back as a truck roars past him, the two flat beds full with logs. Bigger ones than he has seen, traveling the highways. These ones are old, perhaps one hundred years old, maybe more. He thinks how deep into the forest those trucks must be going, deep where the animals would think they would always be safe. But humans will come, they will always get there. He imagines the skidsteers, the trucks, the old trees being trimmed, the huge wheels slipping on the mud. The chains razing the trees. We all need our paper. He remembers a notepad he wrote on the other day, 'Made in Brazil' printed on the back. And the moment when he realised he was writing on the trees from the Amazon. He had looked at the small meaningless notebook in his hand, one of an infinite number on every shelf in every shop, one of something so useless created from something so finite.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
We walked past the greenhouses to where Raleigh was waiting. The three of us climbed through the fence and began the steep climb down to the river. At the bottom of the hill lay a little bear. A small one. A baby. We looked down at him, curled up, maggots were burrowing away at a sore on his head, his eyes were closed.
‘Ahhh, he’s still alive,’ I breathed out.
He was, his small chest was almost imperceptibly moving, and as we watched his eyes flickered.
Jacob bent down, looking at the bear closely.
‘He has to die. He can’t be left like this. And look at his teeth! His awesome canines!’
‘What? Raleigh? Do you think so? He might just die on his own. It doesn’t seem like he is in much pain....?Jacob? Wait a second!'
Jacob was already scrambling back up the steep hill, and as I watched he began pulling at one of the fallen steel fence posts. It wouldn’t budge. He yanked and yanked, suddenly a small man on a big hill, slipping and sliding in the mud.
‘Raleigh! I could use some help!’
Raleigh sighed and without looking at me, heaved himself up the slope. After working the post back and forth, they soon had it free. Jacob slid back down the muddy slope dragging it behind him.
I stood upstream from the bear, my feet sinking again and again into the sandy bottom, the current tugging at my ankles. As I stepped out of the river onto a flat rock I saw the bear stir. The soft water was running over his legs and I had a sense that he could be carried down stream at any moment, and be free of us, of us who had disturbed his last few moments, as he lay under his empty sky. And I looked at the little bear, his eyes flickering, staying silent, nearly dead, with almost a sense of peace, and yet here we came.
‘This bear’s fine Jacob, he’s calm now, he is almost dead. Let him be.’
‘You,' he panted as he reached the bottom and began dragging the post over the rocks towards me and the bear, ‘you don’t understand. He is not fine. It is more humane for me to kill him now...'
He began to position his weight in order to swing the post back over his head. I grabbed his arm.
‘No, Jacob. Jesus. Stop, let him be, let him die, and in a few days, come back and get your goddamn teeth.’
‘Yeah Jacob, I don’t think you should do this’, muttered Raleigh.
‘Get off me’. He shook off my arm.
I suddenly filled with fury, for it all, for not listening to me, for believing in himself at the exclusion of all else, of everyone else. I reveled in the true and undeniable sense of my soul finally bursting out of my long apathetic state. I yanked the post from him, staggering from the weight, he yanked back, and we pulled back and forth, until I couldn’t hold it, and he fell, sitting into the shallow stream.
‘Leave it Jacob.’ A smile traced across my face.
Furious now, he stood, and picking up the post, he swung it long and back over his head, landing it smack on the crown of the bear’s head. I stood for a moment, entranced by the violence, and by how much I completely hated him at that moment. A cracking sound rang out over the forest, and the bear’s body jerked, before it let out a horrible bawl of pain and surprise. I shuddered as Jacob swung back for one more.
I turned and looked back up the steep path to the house.
Jacob, now sure the bear was dead, tied his bandana over his mouth and nose, and bent over and began wrenching and cutting at the bear’s mouth.
I had to get away from this person hacking into the bear’s jaw. I couldn’t see where Raleigh was and didn’t care. I started scrabbling up the hill, holding onto tufts of grass, my feet trying to grip in the mud. I could still hear sound of knife on bone as I crested the ravine and ran back to the house.
Afterwards, he lay the four teeth carefully in the sun, saying nothing, and I drove into town for food with some of the others. I got back late, and found out he'd gone to bed.
Later in the night, I stood outside the fly, breathing in the cool, wet air of the Californian forest, I could hear him stirring, waiting for me.
We lay in our old tent, with the familiar smell of salty bodies and warm plastic, and I did hesitate, it is so easy to stay, to stay. But only I knew all my hours, of wanting this, of wanting these moments of mine to finally come to me. And I knew I was free to do it now. He was warm as he always was and we shared our last sleep in the small tent.