Giant Sequoia

somewhere in Sequoia

Filtered through the needled curtains, soft light falls on a giant monolith. Under the redwood canopy, it feels like a space sealed off from the rest of existence. The immense dome is paneled by the distant blue sky as if it were stained glass. There is at times an absolute stillness in the air. Like once when I stood in a cathedral and it felt as if I could touch the air itself. And some of the sequoias have altars carved into their base by fire.

Nearby a bear and her cub forage near a fallen tree.

Barrels of Soil

Once there was a farmer whose soil was so rich that he was the envy of all other farmers and anyone who tasted his crops.  The other farmers got so sick of it that they held a meeting about what to do and came up with a plan to ruin him.  

They invited the farmer to let them buy his rich soil at a profit to him that was at a price the farmer could not refuse.  He could see the dismay that his rich soil caused them and even felt sorry for them because his farm’s rich soil was a mystery to him as well.  He was just lucky and he understood how some people hate that in others while wanting it themselves. So to sweeten the pot and lessen the envy, he told the farmers that not only would he sell the soil but also deliver it to their farms.  

The farmers agreed and looked like the cat that ate the canary as he signed the contract selling soil from his property.  They were certain that they had tricked this fool into ruining his farm. All they had to do was buy enough of it over the course of the next few years.  Meanwhile they imagined that the tastiness of their crops would allow them to raise their prices again to cover the cost of the plan to ruin his farm.  

With the profit made by selling soil, he could easily hire people to dig and deliver it.  So he hired two teams. One who lived in another village where he knew the other farmers did not go and he purchased property there.  That team dug up the earth and filled barrel after barrel with soil from that property. He hired another team to deliver the barrels.    

Years passed by and the farmers still received as many barrels of soil as they asked for.  The farmer had the team who delivered the barrels do so with a magical sounding chant that actually had no effect other than to make the farmers feel as if they were receiving the rich soil.  But the flavor of their crops did not improve. This was disappointing but the farmers were possessed by their plan. The idea of putting the farmer out of business by taking his soil consumed them.  

Meanwhile the farmer with the richest soil got even richer off of his crops and his sale of soil to the farmers.  He even increased his crops prices because he left a plot of his land empty to seem as if it was being used to dig the soil from for the barrels.  And the folk that bought his crops didn’t mind because they understood that he had less to sell of what everyone wanted.

As the farmers saw their profits disappear and their debts increase, they became more desperate and their suspicions finally made them hire someone to spy on the farmer’s operations.  They found out that the farmer had duped them into buying the soil from his other property. They took the farmer to their local court and explained the rich farmer’s plot to take advantage of them.  To which, the local court asked the rich farmer to explain himself.

The farmer simply produced the document the farmers signed and it stated that they would pay the amount agreed upon for soil from his property.  Then he proceeded to produce another paper that proved ownership of the land that he purchased and gave them soil from. Unfortunately, the local court could not process such evidence because it was a court made up of locals with many ties to the other farmers and their families.  A few were even family.  

Upon destroying the documents the other farmers claimed had been forged, the local court came to the conclusion that the farmer had in fact duped the other farmers and had caused them such economic hardship that his farm would have to serve as collateral.  So they divided up the farm and finally enjoyed the profits from that land. Nor did they seem to care about how they had tried to ruin him and were angry at him for trying to dupe them in return. It was as if he should’ve known to just hand over his land.

The farmer went home to the property he had bought in that other village.  The soil had been dug out to sell to the farmers so deeply that the farmer was worried about how to restore the land to produce the best possible crops.  But then, he noticed the entry to a long forgotten tomb whose treasures made him wealthier than he could’ve been as a farmer. This spoiled the short-lived victory of the other farmers who now envied him more than before and feared him even more every day that he did not collect on his revenge.  

The farmer waited for years until the other farmers assumed he had forgotten about them.  The old team visited each farmer with a cart of barrels. The farmers were put in a barrel one by one and rolled down into the tomb.  Sealed and buried, the farmers only broke out of their barrels to spend their last days alive stuck in the tomb yearning for a revenge they would never have.  And the farmer went out in the pouring rain to relish this scenario going on under his feet. As he squished the mud between his toes in glee at his revenge, a lightning bolt struck him dead on the spot.

Tree Ghosts

somewhere in Yellowstone

In my favorite film, Solaris, by the phenomenal sculptor of time Andrei Tarkovsky, an alien planet is sentient. More than that, it reads the psychology of anyone who crosses its threshold and has the power to make clones from whoever the person is fixated on. When I take exposures of nature, I often think of Earth in this way (are we not its DNA clones in a sense?). That it is a sentient planet experiencing itself through me. That I am its witness. That any image I expose of it is the image it projects. And through the fog of my consciousness, its primal forms emerge like these ghostly trees.

My favorite quote from the book: “Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition?  That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should report itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox…”

The Mirror Man

Once there was a village who came together every night and danced around the bonfire in a great circle.  Young and old alike danced as they watched the fire’s mysterious power to transform anything it touched into a dazzling display of light.  And it made them feel empty inside and ready to fill themselves with tomorrow.  

And then the mirror man came with his wagon of mirrors for sale.  He had been to other villages like this one and knew just what to do in order to sell as many of his mirrors as possible.  First he got permission to set up mirrors around the bonfire and the folk let him without thinking anything of it as long as there was enough room to dance.  But that night as they danced he got some of them to look at the concentric circle of mirrors. And when they did, suddenly the fire lost its power and they looked at how they were dancing instead.

Some stopped dancing altogether.  Others changed their dance according to how they wanted their reflection to look.  The next day most of the folk did not feel as refreshed as usual by their transformative dance.  They knew something was wrong and the mirror man offered them his solution: buy a mirror for your hut to improve your dancing in addition to such things as table manners, appearances of hair and clothes, and much more for when you look into a mirror because you see the truth.  

Even the folk who didn’t want to look in a mirror and knew in their gut that it was better to live looking at the fire instead, had to give in when the rest of the folk got one and insisted that they do the same.  Soon after, the folk quit dancing around the fire and held dances during the day for more light to focus on how their bodies moved. And they built a stage and held competitions to judge each other with a harshness that seemed harsher than the day before.  When anyone tried to argue against it, the mirror man convinced them that they had greatly improved and were better than any other village he had ever come across..

A few of them cried themselves to sleep at night when they remembered the time they danced around the fire and how great they felt in unison with the whole village.  But this mirror divided everyone with a strange sense of some truth. One time, a girl was angry at how she was judged and she broke as many mirrors as she could. Soon after it was forbidden to break a mirror or else suffer the punishment of seven stones thrown to break bones.  

And so in every home a mirror showed each family what was wrong with it.  And the more they tried to improve their reflection, the more they saw wrong with themselves.  The kids never had enough manners. Workers never did everything the right way.  

Mirrors were put everywhere so that anyone could look into any home to help criticize whatever they saw.  All the folk spent their extra time watching everyone else. It was as if the world outside the village disappeared and the one that used to exist in it.  Everything was in the mirror now.

As usual, the mirror man moved on to the next village to change it with his tool for the sole purpose of his gain, for he did not feel anything bad about this because he had lost himself in his mirror image long ago.  He had learned to see how others see himself through the mirror and that told him what was more important than what he saw in himself. So he became rich by selling what seemed a harmless or even helpful trinket without ever warning his customers of what was to come.  For any consequence of his product was not his fault but the fault of whoever chose to purchase it. And so he lived without blame as he burned each village he visited to the ground in its mirror image.