Deep in a small forest, a murmuring brook reflects the shards of sun sliding through the crown of pines, its whispered wisdom infinitely more clear than the babbling of men holding the reins firmly in distant cities of power.
The birds know this well, sing of it in chorus, nature’s music, jazz scatting that the graying clouds absorb, an always willing audience, and the wind rushing by cries through the trees in the voice of long dead poets whose words offer a truth to which cloistered talking heads have grown deaf.
First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic , 2021
He’d been searching for ever, or so often seemed, for no-self, and he couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult to attain simple absence, nothing must be less than something, after all. He knew, like Sisyphus, he would continue to search until he succeeded, the gods of his soul decreed it and you don’t fuck with them. It was difficult recalling how much time had been wasted in the search for mirrors and when he found one, looked, there he was selfsame, self-filled, and he imagined, selfish. He took to always carrying a hand mirror and when he thought he might have found it he glanced at the polished surface in his hand and there he’d still be, his endless self older now, but there, very much still there. One day, frustration getting the better of him he wandered deep into a massive forest, hours later sitting on a fallen trunk, he reached for his mirror, gone. There was tree and sky and earth, that was all, as night enveloped everything, even his no-self.
It is a large boulder in the middle of a rutted path. That path leads nowhere in particular. It comes to an end at the edge of what appears to be a dense forest. Several trees are posted with “Do Not Trespass” signs, long faded until you must stare to make out the words. The forest is foreboding, so it is not clear if anyone would willingly enter. Few ever come down the path. Fewer still make it to its end. The large boulder has been here for centuries. It stares up at the sky, in amazement.
A cloud envelopes the forest. The trees believe it is they who pierce the cloud, impaling it, its essence drained onto their sagging limbs. The shower passes and we walk the forest floor. In a small clearing we lie down on a damp bed of needles. They do not pierce our skin. Four birds gather on a nearby limb. They stare at us, we back at them. I pull sandwiches from the picnic basket, a bottle of wine. You open the small blanket. The birds seem to find this interesting. They chitter among themselves. We only think we understand what they are saying. The tomato is pressed tight against the mozzarella, basil leaves floating above. Crumbs from the ciabatta fall on the blanket. I am distracted by a motion on the edge of vision. I turn and think it is a doe standing many yards off, in an odd stand of birch that seem lost, dwarfed by the surrounding pines. Bits of roll fall on the ground. The birds pause and take careful note of this. They are certain when we carefully pack up, the last drops of wine spilled on the ground, our forgotten scraps will be their meal. As we walk from the forest we watch as the trees release their grip. We see the cloud slip away into a sunlit sky.