20 May 2019

A Feast for St. Crispin, Part 2

He rose to his feet. Crackling in his joints echoed the crackling flames. To his ears the sound was another stitch in the universal fabric into which his existence was woven. The body, like fire, consumes to live. The price of existence includes the toll it takes on both. The flames offered themselves up as temporary axis mundi for this feast day in the woods. Ephemeral, fluttering, but temporal and true.

Metaphysical indulges aside, there was work to do. He stepped out in a languid amble spiraling anchored by the volute spring of the fire. Leaf litter crumbled underfoot, little brown mosaics shattered by the high notes of his tread. Fire warmth in the limbs fades into the coolth of October air seeping through shirt, jacket, and jeans. He amused himself with the folly of the forest as a Roman bathhouse. Leaving the fire behind on a foliate passage from caldarium to frigidarium, minus the shock of a dousing with water.

Having recently dropped the stones, his hands were empty. They tingled. The time had come to fill them with new fuel.

To be continued

13 May 2019

A Feast for St. Crispin

The smoke rose to meet Heaven on October 25th, in the fifty-fifth year of his tenure on Earth. A warm beast of a campfire lay just beyond his feet. Sparks threatened his socks, but the therapy of the flames was too good to resist. Hard days of hiking had etched tattoos on his lower legs, in the form of bruises and blisters. Cramps, too. He considered that as he absent-mindedly massaged his left ankle and arch. New, not quite broken-in boots sat on the ground by his side. To the front firelight dappled a pair of old shoes that very nearly were in the embers. The proximity of fire to footwear did not bother him. Indeed, the closeness made him happy, seeing as it was integral to the point of sitting fireside on this Saint Crispin’s Day.

October seeped into his bones. Afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees striped the forest with honeyed gold and slices of dusk. Leaf litter tanged the air, undergirded with the memory of petrichor. He reveled in the boon of communion with earth, air, fire, and water. Modern science may have moved on to greater accuracy in classifying the world and loosening the grip of things elemental but they still held sway on his imagination. Balance was restored through the arboreal embrace of the forest. The proof was here and now.

More walking awaited. There was still wood to gather, provisions to secure. He reached for the boots, slipping them on. While lacing up, motion by the fire caught his eye. Faint threads of smoke were spiraling up from the toes of the shoes. “Whoah!” he barked, startling himself with the volume shattering the quiet of the woods. He snatched the shoes away. It was too soon to end the celebration. That would have to wait, when the sun was down and the belly was full. He finished lacing the boots, and stood. The fire needed the depth of the night to reach its full flower. Time to gather the fuel.

To Be Continued

06 May 2019

Essence, Volume Zero

Memory and longing grabbed me by the nose on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday afternoon, putting a tiny stutter in my step. The tourists may have thought I was tipsy, but I knew better. The sway of abrupt dislocation was triggered by an amalgam of scents wafting from a doorway. The drawing of a breath snatched me out of myself and into a memory palace far from my feet on the ground. A quick turn of the head to verify the source, a shake thereof for clearance, and then continuing on my way down to the harbor. This was break time. I would have no truck with ghosts, within or without me.

In the town where I work there is a spice shop around the corner from my office. It is on literal Main Street. I pass by it nearly every day during the work week. Good weather in the warmer months leads to a door often propped open. It is their custom to place a folding sign on the brick pavers in front, adorned with photos of the wares offered within. Aromas heady and alluring spill out into the sidewalk air. Most days I stroll past without much of a thought for it. But this Tuesday was different. The aromas hit hard and fast.

A different time. A different place. A different me. That person is not here now except in his own amber memories. I am reluctant to think of him now. How often does an island think of departed tsunamis, or a mountain dream of past earthquakes? I have no claim to the solidity of of such geographic stalwarts. but in our shared concerns it feels that we are brothers. Remembrance of the past does not equate to a desire for reliving it.

Mountains and beaches speak of singularities. In the collective memory of humankind, such features are “essential” in an ancient sense. They possess spiritual gravity. In our lives we know this because their proximity pulls at our hearts and minds. The great naturalist John Muir understood this, famously saying “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Substitute “ocean is” for “mountains are”, in particular, and it becomes supremely illuminatory.

The light was strong, the call was loud that ordinary Tuesday. I stood surrounded by both, with a nose full of memories. My heart beat slow. My pace matched it. I wandered off in search of an essence just beyond the edges of recall, wondering if it was written in Volume Zero.

29 April 2019

Middens, Part 5 (At Rest)

Night air with its aroma of pelagic iodine brings with it a heightening of the senses. Hearing, touch, and sight in particular undergo an increase in their gain akin to dialing it up on a stack of amplifiers. Crickets in the dunes chirp with an intense clarity. My forearms rest on the desk. The burnished raspiness of the wood comes through as mild, electric warmth. By such solidity I can reassure myself that I will not plunge into the earth. I have an anchor as I continue to gaze out the window.

There is joy in bearing witness to magic. A silver ribbon bedecks the wine-dark sea as the moon begins its languid ascension into the sky. Breakers atomize into argentine drops, Poseidon casting coins onto a waiting shore. The scene spurs me to move. I am overwhelmed by the urge to walk the waterline and scoop up the bounty. The scraping of chair legs over planks ricochets around the cottage when I push back from the desk. Prickles of something akin to pain grind through the knees, the back, popping the joints. The sensation reminds me of stepping from the ocean into the embrace of a scratchy cotton towel. Slightly rough but offering tactile satisfaction. Standing feels good. I grab a flashlight from the shelf by the door and make my way outside.

Heat of the day clings tenuously to the siding and the sand. It is quickly being replaced as the night breeze swirls about. I know the path to the shore well enough to walk it on the dark, but moonlight makes a worthy accompaniment to the trek. Footsteps make their own music from the crunch and rasp of shells, sand, and dry grass. The sound is a balm, perhaps best enjoyed in the silence of a solitary walk when the mind can be fully present. As I approach the strand this current rendition is subsumed into the studied cacophony of the waves. It is a dialogue worth hearing.

I am at the tide line. The sand has that peculiar heaviness that comes from saturation. Density underfoot, with gravity. Seaweed scribes the beach with calligraphy untranslatable but intuitively understood. The vegetation is another shield, I find. A green rampart redolent of iodine, bedecked with remains of tiny creatures that did not survive the surf. There are pebbles, bits of wood, and shells. Clam shells in particular, with the odd fragment of whelk. The shells remind me of the oysters I had for dinner. Appetites come to mind. A shard of history surfaces in my mind.

Native peoples by the shore knew where to find sustenance. Ancient humans knew a good thing when they saw it. The consumption of oysters and the like over time led to the creation of huge mounds of shells, as we have discovered. Middens created by the survival imperative. Standing by the wrack, looking out over the moonlit sea, I am surrounded by the water, the walls of the cottage, the oysters in my belly: the middens between me and the world, keeping me alive and sane.