Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who hoped to have a baby boy but got a girl instead. As she grew older, she didn’t seem to care enough about anything. Her parents tried to make her learn how to be a seamstress but she was too lazy to be good at it. All she wanted to do was go for long walks in the woods and over the hills. She was always running away when she was supposed to be working. And the village took the side of her parents and said the girl was useless. They gave up trying to find her in the woods and just let her roam. And when she returned they told her to eat the scraps from the garbage heap.
This made the girl even sadder for she could not resist the urge to run away from any work her parents or the village wanted her to do. Even when an old woman asked her to help carry some sacks of grain, she’d eventually drop it and run for the woods. The girl became like a ghost to them. People stopped talking to her or noticing when she was around. This hurt her feelings even more because next to wandering in the woods, she loved talking about walking in the woods and now nobody listened to her.
Then one day whilst walking in the woods, she saw a frightful army of invaders creeping toward the village. So she climbed to the top of a hill overlooking the village and screamed louder than her little body ever did. So loud it shook the needles off some trees. So loud it made the old lady drop her sack of grain. So loud her parents ran out of the hut as if the village were on fire. So loud everyone in the village looked up and saw her wildly pointing down the hill where they saw dark shadows moving amongst the trees.
Her warning gave the villagers enough time to gather their tools and weapons and fight the invaders until they killed most and captured the rest. Then it dawned on them that if the useless girl hadn’t screamed they might all be dead. They looked amongst them and she was not to be seen. They searched the woods and climbed the hill and found her with an arrow stuck through her throat. Her fragile body pinned against a tree. Her little purple tongue dangled out the side of her mouth as if it were trying to limp away to wander in the woods.
The whole village looked at her face and wept. They wept for weeks and not just for what the invaders had done but in far greater measure for how they had treated her. Those who had said the most hurtful things like “she’s just another mouth to feed” and “maybe she should never come back” felt the pain as if they had an arrow in their throats that they had shot into themselves. From then on, the villagers said, “you’ve got an arrow in your throat” if anyone talked bad about someone else without seeing that person’s bigger purpose or contribution to the entirety of their existence.
Once there was a hermit who lived in a giant shell on a tiny island. And each room in her shell was connected by a central spiral staircase. As she got older, her shell grew taller with more rooms being added. And she always stayed in the newest room at the very top where she made herself a new bed out of kelp and a table and chair made from pebbles. Whenever there was a storm and the sea covered the island, her shell stayed put because it was so heavy after all those years of rooms being built. And when she got older than anyone else alive, her newest room in the shell overlooked the clouds that drifted over the sea. And if she wasn’t in her new room, she was visiting the other rooms where she felt as old or as young as when the room was built. On her last day, she spiraled out of her shell for the first time since she began building it and sat on the beach to feel the water on her toes and looked at the sunlight bouncing off the water until her last nightfall. And she laid back in the sand and saw millions of shells twinkling in the night sky before she went to sleep beside her own sparkling shell with the final thought of the greater part she had played by doing what had come so naturally.
While on a photographic quest for an amazing epic scene, the small moment in the tiniest corner of the woods can speak as loudly, if one knows how to listen beyond one’s intent.
On the way to a waterfall, a stream whispers under a tree. Fallen leaves quietly look for a place to release their tannins. Moss gently lingers across the heavy wet bark.
This soft entropic scene slowly drifts me along its slide back into material. And the scene whispers to me that death is an illusion, or an imaginary ego point in a process that is concerned with the larger return of existence.
I release any bitterness about being a part of what this scene whispers into my ear. The inevitable has softly spoken in this small round corner of the woods and I gently accept it.