04 June 2019

A Feast for St. Crispin, Part 3

It begins with small things. Branch tips. Twigs, if necessary. Slabs of bark. Wind and weather have strewn the forest floor with them all. “Chop wood, carry water” the unspoken mantra of the amble, the stoop, and the grasp. Embraced by the nave of trees he finds hushed joy in the rasp of dried wood against his fingertips grasping the first stick showing promise. At the moment of contact, from deep in the trees comes the toktoktok-toktoktok of a woodpecker hammering on a tree. The patchwork canopy diffracts the staccato tapping into a call to prayer. He stops, sinking to his knees. Not much of a religious man, he nonetheless succumbed to the first devotion of the day.

The shock that hit him had been years in the brewing. The garden was no longer the refuge it once had been, its silence amplified by the disappearance of those who had accompanied him through the gates. There was no one with whom to keep watch. Peace of mind had become moonlight on broken water. Try as he might the pieces were ever slipping from his grasp, a prelude to the terror and confusion that would grip him later. He knew this now from the benefit of the scanning microscope that is hindsight.

The woodpecker hammers anew. A zephyr stirs leaves dampened by new-fallen tears. Of regret or sadness or loss, he did not know. That they fell brought solace as proof of life. To be alive is to feel, emotion as real as the crumbling leaves that disintegrated under his fingertips. Questions arose from the crackling litter.

To whom do you listen? Whose will do you obey? Who is your master?

Breeze ripples through the trees, feeling for all the world like whispers on his ears. The effect startled him. Spooked, he sprang to his feet with a racing heart. There was no way, he hoped, that someone or something could have followed him out here. The last people he had seen was a pair of hikers heading in the opposite direction, over three hours ago. They would most likely be at the trail head, he thought. More hammering from the woodpecker. The burst ends with a solitary, emphatic knock reminiscent of a gunshot. He took it as a sign to return to the fire. The sticks he gathered in his arms before turning to the thread of smoke winding through the trunks.

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"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...