Monday, September 13, 2010

Look! I wrote something!

Let me tell you tale of this place. It began long ago, in the time of the love of ice and earth, when the ice ground out fantastical shapes in the skin of the earth, vast mountains and deep gullies of passion, narrow twisting rivulets of tenderness, when earth could still ignore the dormancy that crept up inside her, the ice the warmth that snuck in. But time passed, and finally the ice could not deny the warming of its deepest coldest parts and fled back to the place of cold that had birthed it, leaving behind the warmth within it to patch the holes left in the earth. Thus was this place born: made of earth's loneliness, surrounded by ice's regret.

For many years here the earth kept this place open and empty, the traces of the ice's fingertips exposed to the incessant wearing pull of wind and the thirsty tongue of water. But when naught but a thin strip of land remained shivering against the onslaught of the lake, there was some shift, deep within the heart of the earth. This place, which for so long had only known stone and harsh eroding grief, began to know green: first tiny intrepid bursts of moss, clinging to the smooth stone with everything that was within it, then tight little clusters of leaves that took shelter in indents in the stone, before growing bold and proud on the tops, sides, wherever it could find purchase in worn boulders.

But you wonder why I tell this old tale, set to the pace of great slow things, when you asked me who I was. Well, child, it is my tale too, for I sprouted with those first plants, near to this very spot, taking shape out of the age and sadness and wear of these rocks, of the incessant pounding of wave on shore. I was born with a face pitted and creased like weathered stone, hair the grey of the storm-tossed lake, bones that creaked and groaned like the shifting of earth. I tended some days to the squalling of new lives, but in other times moved little, let the waves lap at my toes, remembered in some distant part of me the deep sweet voice of the earth.

Still, my melancholy did not keep me from being charmed by the growth of the first pale tiny flowers, the large ones in riotous colors which followed, the whole hale meadow that sprung from barren rocks. Once soil filled in the ice-scars and straight tall saplings grew from the ground, I knew I grew more and more tired with each new growth, even as I bursted with love and pride. As the saplings grew into trees I lay down among them and did not rise; as vines twined their way around great trunks, I let my hair grow long and snarled around their roots; and as saplings grew from the toppled trunks, I fell at last asleep.

I dreamed: dark, and warmth, and a voice that sang a song of ever-shifting ground. And then I woke up, and I was not the same.

I woke to a sky that was close, smokey flickering stars not ten feet from where I lay, and was filled with men who worked at great beasts of metal and did not see me.

I stood—the lethargy that had possessed me seemed but a tale, remembered but untrue—and wandered about the tiny space that had become my world. It was bigger, I thought, than the tight embrace of the earth, yet it felt like a cavern woven of strangling vines, surrounding me, cutting me off from all I knew.

For a time that seemed much longer than my time in the earth, I watched the men and their machines and feared to see nothing else. But then came a clear, cold clanging, the machines ceased moving, and a bit of the wall was flung aside to reveal a patch of sunlight. I slipped outside in the crowds of men, and danced my joy among them.

My land, though, was as changed as I was. The towering stone building I came out of stood where my dear first trees had been and were no more; great winding paths were cut through the forest, and rail-cars and motor-cars spat noise and smoke out from them; and in the center of the island, a great pit gaped, growing bigger still with each stone they hauled from it.

Yet I did not mind as much as I think perhaps I should have; my skin was smooth as birch bark, my hair bounced back sunbeams enough to blind the sun, and nothing but that moment was real. I breathed deep the ancient dust of ice-furrowed stone, and took my delight in ghosting the miners; I puffed myself up to half-filled their rail-carts so that most of the stone they dropped in tumbled over the side, then springing out as the car was unloaded to watch the dock-workers as they saw only a few small boulders topple into their ships; I made myself visible and solid as I tumbled off their cliff, only to vanish again and float softly to the other side; I sung strange screams that bounced off the walls they build for hours; I sat on men's chests at night and blew strange dreams of cold winds and rough waves beneath their eyelids.

Then one day the railroad cars stopped their clatter back and forth, and men no longer trudged about, and the last steamship left and did not return. The silence unnerved me, and so I slipped away into the woods, sought once again what I had been before their coming.

Yet even as the railway track was surrounded and then overrun by the hungry forest, as clever young saplings shoved their branches between the slats of the wooden bed of a rusted pickup left behind, as the roof of the prison I woke in crumbled and three strong trees shattered the floor and roofed the building again in their branches, I could not find the joy I once did in living things. I dove again and again off outcroppings of shore; I bloodied myself on sharp rocks in shallow waters. In winter I slid barefoot over the ice until my toes grew numb, and I grew older each winter and each spring heeded less and less the needs of green things. Now you find me grown ancient once more, and this land at once too familiar and too strange, my thoughts turned towards elsewhere. Now you find me grown ancient once more, and pale as ice.

It definitely still needs some work, but I think I like it.