White Electric Wind
After many moons of wandering over hill and dale, through snow and gale, she comes to a clearing in the woods where the orange glow of a fire crackles, the scent of apple smoked wood meets her nostrils. An old woman sits by the flames, the hood to her cloak resting on her shoulders, revealing hair touched by moonbeams, starlight, and frost. Her face is eroded, carved with lines threaded finely around her eyes, marking her with stairs leading up the plateau of her forehead. She has a slab of stone on the ground infront of her, which she is painting with brushes made of sticks bundled with twine and fur, dipping them into hollow bones filled with pigment. The old one acknowledges her with a nod, and gestures to a pot sitting on a bed of coals to one side of the fire.
“Stew’s in the pot,” she states, “Help yourself.”
And so she sits down and eats her fill, lifting the spoon to her lips under the net of bells she wears. When she’s finished the old one says, “Come, paint with me.”
She moves beside the slab of stone and looks at it. There are symbols painted in white covering the surface and the old one is painting a series of curves.
“What are you painting?” she asks.
“A path,” replies the old one, “I paint a path.”
“A path to where?” she asks.
The old one quietly considers her question. Eventually she speaks.
“Before I answer your question of where this path leads, allow me to speak a moment about the nature of paths for the nature of a path and where it leads are related. You see, a path by definition is a passage or a trail upon which we step, but it is formed by our walking and the walking of others who have gone before or ahead of us. Thus, there are many paths that the earth wears, shaped by the hooves of deer for instance, or a flock of turkeys, reflecting their movement, where they came from, where they went.
Where do any of these paths lead? When you walk the path, then you discover where it goes, for here’s the thing with paths . . . depending on your approach, perceptions, and way of walking, a path may lead you everywhere, nowhere, somewhere sometimes, into doors and dead ends, corners and curves, or to a core center where you meet other parts and paths, and so it goes with where and tear; some paths get grooved, marked, mapped, laid out in stone and logs, while others are covered with leaves, blankets of moss, and eventually unseen, they become forgotten.
A path may be a trail walked with curiosity, wonder, alertness, and trust, leading you to a magical spring of sweet refreshing water illuminated by the moon, under stars that sparkle, emanating the warmth of the sun, from which to drink and bathe and converse with nature spirits while inhaling the fragrance of wild rose and night blooming jasmine and move forward fortified with courage, resolve, inspiration, and gratitude . . . or a path may be a maze filled with struggle, conflict, obstacles, tension, where you wander lost in the darkness, stalked by beasts, trembling with fear, jumping at every crunch, creak, and rustle, walking into boulders in a swamp where the water is brackish and slimy and you must overcome and rise above everything in order to find your way, and as you overcome and rise above the muck you move into more to overcome and rise above and round and round you go . . .so; a path is a path and where it leads is up to you and your choices, based on your responses to and engagement with the adventures you face. The path I paint is one that leads home.”
“What shall I paint?” she asks.
She dips a twig into pigment and begins drawing bones. The net covering her jingles as she holds it up to see the paints and stone. Jingle jingle the bells chime.
“Why do you wear the net?” asks the old one.
“Oh, I woke up in a cornfield one evening,” she says, “And this net of bells was my cover. I’ve worn it ever since.”
“In a cornfield you say, beautiful places cornfields. Long ago, when I was a lass, I’d go out with a bag of golden corn seed for planting, but first I’d lay under the open sky and watch buffalo and dragons chase each other. Often I’d fall asleep, then the corn would wait quietly for me to awaken and get to sowing. I loved those cornfields! Once the seed sprouted I’d walk around and pinch one out here and one there, form a path for them to grow in, and oh when the stalks were tall and leafy, what a thrill to walk between them to a hidden center and sit for a spell, late into the evening, under the stars . . . do you see that star sparkling over there?”
The bells jingle as she shakes her head.
“Well, that one, it’s the eye of the sky, and it watches me wherever I go, helps me find my way on my travels. Mostly it’s white and brilliant, but every now and again it winks, when it does it turns purple, blue, pink. The colors all mean something, and sometimes it streaks around with a long ribbon of a tail that it flickers to say turn here or not that way. It’s funny, the eye of the sky, once it was simply playing with it’s tail and I wound up going round and round in circles for a long time until I understood it wasn’t talking with me, just playing that’s all!”
“I wish I could have seen that,” she giggles.
“Well, you might if you knew which star it is, but seeing as you’re all covered up and can barely see ahead of you, it’s not possible; I reckon you’ll just have to imagine it,” the old one shrugs.
She paints bones, elbows, arms, shoulders, giggles mingled with chimes and jingles. Then silence.
“You know,” she says softly, “I could take the net off and then you could show me, the eye of the sky you spoke of.”
“Now that’s an idea! It’s your lucky night too, for the eye’s out as we speak, right there between those pines running up the hillside.”
She lifts up the net and places it in a bundle on the ground. Her head feels lighter, her neck feels lighter, her shoulders, her whole body feels lighter from top to bottom, and she looks around in amazement.
“Why it all looks so different!” she exclaims, springing to her feet, “And it’s quiet when I move!”
She laughs and turns around looking at everything touched by the campfire’s glow. She looks up at the sky and her breath catches as she sees stars threaded here in clusters, scattered there apart, big small and in-between stretching across and winging below trees until her eye no longer sees where they go. Then suddenly one flickers, yellow orange, it winks.
“I see it, I see it, the eye of the sky! Look, it’s winking!”
“Ah, so now you know which it is, good good. But come, finish these bones, the night is long and there’s painting to be done,” says the old one, as she finishes painting the path; a golden orange path, flickering by the campfire, edged in violet where stars circuit and spiral. Then she puts down her brush of twig and fur, and feeds the fire oak and apple.
She doesn’t notice when the old one goes for a little walk, disappearing into the darkness. Without the net to distract her, she paints freely, ribs, hips, knees, ankles. She paints stones, dirt, seeds, and roots. She paints leaves and flowers, rivers and underground streams. She leans back and stretches, gazing up at the twinkling sky. When she looks back at the slab of painted stone she gasps, for from the bones have sprouted a row of heads, and they stare at her from ten eyes in five faces.
“Do you see us?” they ask in one voice.
She nods her head.
“Who are we?” they ask, five pairs of lips moving and giving voice to the question in one sonorous sound.
“You are . . . people,” she says, “People from different places . . .”
“We are people,” the heads nod in agreement, “People from one place, from here on this Mother Earth. We rise from the white bleached bones below, we stick our heads out under the sky above. Tell us, where lives the difference that you speak of?”
“You just all look different, your skin is not the same color, your eyes, your lips, they are shaped differently, so you must be from different places . . . .”
The heads laugh.
“Then you must be surprised that we say we are from one place. Listen, close your eyes for a moment, how many voices do you hear speaking?”
“Just one,” she says.
“Keep your eyes shut, tell us, when you walk upon the ground beneath your feet, how many grounds are you stepping on?”
“Just one,” she replies, “But as I travel, the ground changes, it’s different in different places. This one place I went through had no trees, no grasses, it was bare and scrubby, the plants growing there were spiny and sharp; it was not the same as where we are now and neither were the people who lived there.”
“It is so,” the heads nod, “This Earth is vast, as the sky above is vast, as the Source that ignites everything is vast. Under the earth, unseen unless you dig for them, bones are bones, bleached, raw, returning. Above the earth there is a field of stars, brilliant, raw, fueling. Here in the middle, between sky and earth, where we stick our heads out in different shapes and forms, coalescing into matter, only here do we we appear different, reflecting parts of the vastness. We appear different, and so do the places we inhabit. It is through this ‘difference’ that all facets are made visible. How would it be for the vastness of Source to stuff itself into one form, which holds the whole . . . bluejay, woodpecker, squirrel, porcupine, bear, octopus, tree, beetle, dragonfly, and more, all as one embodiment?”
She laughs with her eyes closed, imagining the sight.
“So here we are, facets of one whole spread out for perceiving and appreciating, by way of separating what is one whole. Instead of using this perception to enjoy one another, to celebrate all that Source is, to learn from one another the spark present in one that is not present in another yet threads through all in various ways rippling across this Mother Earth, we have chosen to focus on the appearance that occurs when forms are shaped, using this focus as a way to divide, split apart from the whole, differentiate in order to fracture and create friction, here in this middle world, alone. The above and below do not distinguish between our bones, despite their apparent difference, raccoon, crow, rock and tree, you and we, all are embraced without difference. Only here in the middle, when eyes alone are used to look does difference become a matter of its own, a classification of what is higher and what is lower, a judgment, a distinction. Think on these things when you open your eyes,” they say, “Think on these things when you feed the fire, think on what it has to show you, what is being made known through flame, and ask yourself what do you show fire that is unknown to it?”
It is quiet for a long while and she opens her eyes. The slab of stone has heads painted on it, rising out of the ground, from bones. The embers wink at her and she feeds them paintbrushes of twig, sticks, bundled with fur and pine needles, wrapped in lichen and moss, hollowed bones, pinecones, and a log of peeling apple wood. They hiss and sizzle, then flare up and burn. She curls up, her head on the bundle of net, wondering where the old one went as she drifts off to sleep.
She awakens in a cornfield, under a ripe peach ablaze in the sky above her, buffalo and dragons flying swiftly by. She gets up and sows golden corn seed in the field under the sun’s last setting rays, she sows until stars fill the dark sky. Then she catches the eye of the sky and follows it back home, where her husband has cooked a stew for them both, and waits to eat with her.
“Long day love, you must be famished,” he says, when she enters with an empty sack.
She laughs, “I’m quite full,” she says, “I’ll tell you what happened in the cornfield while you eat, I dreamed quite a dream!”
His eyes twinkle, green and blue, as he dips his spoon into stew and eats slowly while he listens.
The next day they go to visit her family, where he father sends her to the cellar to fetch beer for the table. She climbs down the stairs, untaps the keg and fills a pitcher. While it fills she looks around and notices an axe in the ceiling.
“Strange place for an axe, I wonder how it got there,” she muses, walking over and grasping it firmly by the handle. She pulls it out and lays it to rest against the wall, then picks up the pitcher of beer and climbs back up the stairs.
“So I found an axe in the ceiling downstairs, anyone know how it got there?” she asks.
“Someone threw it high and it stuck?”
“An axe in the ceiling you don’t say, odd place for an axe.”
“Sounds like the work of witches!”