Writing Practice – 2/25/2019

A walk in the woods…

Footsteps crunch on brittle lanes. Pebbles scatter before the toe of my boot, startling and chasing away small creatures of 4 legs or no legs, the brown-and-green-and-yellow of a garter snake just barely registering in my mind before it disappears again into the underbrush. I hear chickadees calling, twit-tweet, twit-tweet, echoed falsely by jays, robins, maybe even a crow or a raven. I walk in my ignorance, knowing names of things, but not essences. I can hear bird songs, identifying that they are different, but I am no ornithologist. I cannot, with any certainty at all tell you which is the robin and which is the cardinal’s song. I can recognize their picture, but everything else is a false front. I know nothing for real; all I list on these walks is impostering.

I cannot tell you the difference between granite, quartz, shale, limestone, other than that they will be found in different layers, exposed as the winding streams have cut mercilessly into their hillsides over the last ten million years. Which must mean, then, that those same hillsides are far older than that, right? Which came first, ended up at the bottom of that pile, and will be exposed last: limestone or igneous rocks? See, I cannot even be sure I have the right kinds and thin categories. I have many facts within my head, but little use of them.

I cannot tell you, again, with any kind of certainty, whether you are looking at an aspen, a maple, or a boxwood cedar. I think I could reasonably tell you which is a birch, and maybe an oak; yet to distinguish an apple tree form a box elder would take much more expertise than I can bring.

It’s not that that I am ignorant. I care. I do. When I am in that environment, active, embedded, I listen to my guides and gurus, I understand what they say, I nod along when they explain how the leaves of this species are identified by the thick veining pattern on the underside of their leaves. I pay close attention as she points out the differences in this bark from that. I strain my hearing and indicate, with a subtle nod, that yes, I do hear the differences between the twoot-twoot-twoot of the whippoorwill and the tip-tip-toop-tip of the nuthatch. I concentrate, hard and expressively, on every word that helps me to differentiate the bluebells from the lady slippers growing beside the path. I am a good student, the best, and I ask insightful, meaningful questions, ones that inspire my guide, impress them with my ability to make connections between fauna and flora, that show I am not only paying attention, but that I care, and I will continue to care in the future, and that perhaps they have convinced another disciple, they have converted another recruit, they have a future bird-watcher or tree-hugger or trail-sustainer in their midst, and all their effort has not gone to waste, that I will come alongside them, and will come along behind them, and I will pick up their convservationist bent, and I will continue their work after they are gone, and I will pass that love and passion on to another and another, and another, and these great resources, these great forests, these trees and trails and pine-needle-strewn meadows, they will never disappear, they will always be with us, they will always remind us of our responsibility to care, to husband, to shepherd the world around us, as our responsibility and our privilege for the privilege of living the blessed life we do.

I will let them believe this, for I am a good person, and, then, I will finish my tour, I will walk out of the woods, I will knock the dust off my boots at the edge of the parking lot, and with that dust will fall my intention, my memory, my insightfulness, my burden to carry on their passion, their love of nature, their desire to see this world thrive for generations, centuries, millennia to come, and I will return to my life, my world, retaining nothing more of my experience than a few more names to add to the list of near-meaningless facts accumulating within my mind.

Short Story: Into The Woods

Another Story Art story written a while ago. This one was to use the prompts “checkbook”, “CD”, and “grid paper”. I was surprised at how much extra came out as I was thinking of how to make those interesting.
Into The Woods

 I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how little Marcel knew. He had been raised by wolves and could not be expected to, well, know anything, really. But it was my job to integrate him into human society, and I always take my jobs seriously.

 “That,” Marcel practically grunted when he talked. It was still disconcerting that he could understand so much more than he could say. He was pointing at a CD lying on the table. I’d brought a whole box of stuff from my house. I took it in my hand and, at the same time, said “It makes music.” I sang a few bars of Bob Seger, who seemed to be his favorite, and then handed it to him. He looked me, looked at the CD, sniffed it, held it up to his ear, looked at me again, and threw it across the room. Typical.

 Our sessions were almost always like this. Me, doing lots of talking and explaining. Him, the wild man, the wolf boy, who had been kidnapped at age five, left to die in the woods and been taken in by animals. At least, that was the conclusion of the rescuers. The Times had shown a healthy bit of skepticism, what with the rash of new performance artists attempting in one way or another to make a name for themselves. This might just be a struggling kid from junior college off in Pig’s Nipple, Arkansas trying to pull a fast one. I had been assigned to either retrain him correctly or expose him as a fraud. Either way, he was going to be a real human being again, and the paper would get all the glory.

 Once I had tried to kiss him. Actually did, too. He seemed surprised at the sensation of my lips touching his, unsure of what to do with the beginnings of a hard-on. I blushed for the two of us and returned to my work, displaying bananas and apples as things to eat. Showing what a wristwatch is, and the differences between digital and analog ones. Writing a letter. Showing him my checkbook, running perilously low.

 Marcel wasn’t really a good student. He seemed to be more interested in returning to the forest than in learning the ways of man. And I thought, too, about whether we were really saving him. And if we were, from what? Had he not been taken care of very well during his time in the forest? Had enough to eat? To drink? To play? To stay warm in winter and cool in summer?

 And if he was a fraud, wouldn’t letting him go back to that place expose him even faster than forcing him and I to perform this charade?

 Pencil. Pen. Notebook. Grid paper. Law. Rules. Society.

 I wanted to let him go, of course, to see him flourish or fail on his own. We were doing him no favors, but my supervisors wouldn’t budge. We have an obligation to every single member of the human race not to allow them to fall into perdition, they said. We must take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, or we are no better than the beasts, they said. We must demonstrate the innate primacy of man over nature, they said.

 Bull. They just want another headline. They just want another all-expenses paid tour. They just want to go on Letterman and talk about how damn great they are.

 I’m on to them. I don’t believe their lies. I don’t buy into their sanctimonious half-smiles. I’m calling their bluff. Tomorrow morning the truck is coming, and we’re going to go back to the woods, Marcel and me, and we’re going to show them just who’s stupid. Together. For today, though, we have one more lesson. Naked. Penis. Erection. Orgasm.