Finitude – Into the Woods
The finitude of man means the settling and conquering of land will eventually sputter out. Quite literally it often consists in a road with a jagged end, walmart to the right, a field of millet to the left, or a fence marking in and out. He ventured past the horizontal of a power-line and the full leafed oak, sighing higher than the oaks of Texas, and he was in. House behind and a funneling line of wear ahead. It was not the Sunday afternoon wandering of a man attempting to recapture or understand the similar times he spent as a child exploring, it was a swell of grandeur in his heart. This was an epic moment, a decisive moment; feeling he might simply never return. A poem memorized as a youth churned in his mind; now foggy and muddled with lines and reference numbers from Bible blips. Frost wrote it, “One day venture in to those woods. Return more sure of all I knew,” something along those lines. He felt it applied to the walk. All squirms and sweat about the swivel chair that held him to a gray shelf of papers and screens, which if arbitrarily sat at long enough would produce money, were being eternally left behind. The desk was an artifact of when machines were red and blue and gray and they churned in a predictable way, which you could see and understand if the shiny exterior was removed. Time was put in on one end and money spit out on the other. This seemed reasonable for years because for years time seemed abundant and money scarce, but he was reaching that point, which all modern men reach, where the levels were reversing.
Uncalculated steps stubbing, popping, and stumbling over angled branches and the pretty children of exhaling oaks. A man learning a new dance, eyes set on the pretty light which shimmered in rough patches. He was like a boy enraptured by the green eyes of a first date unaware of the fact that dancing takes thought, and oversized feet don’t naturally follow the pattern. A robin swung up from left, awakening him to his own trumpet blasts of movement. Stopping and shifting his weight to and fro he tested the soil; measuring the creaks and give of ground. Measuring out the next set of steps to see where the line of branches met pools of leaves, he moved forward practicing the primal skill of silence which the rhythm of the industrial revolution has been eroding in all men since its birth. The swaths of green and brown began to breakdown into intricate little homes of moss, flakes of bark, and indicators of life like dung and fur. As the colors split and fused into objects no longer abstract, another dimension rose from the stagnant painting; movement. The mechanical pinprick steps of a spider caught in the left side of his scanning view. A granddaddy-long-legs, that’s what he called them when he was a boy and his mother handed him the white funeral garb of tissue to clutch it in and drop in the toilet. It circled, spiraled, a game of sorts, watching to see if it would free itself at the last minute from the paper cage and jump back out to bite you for the whole event of trying to kill it, even if your mother asked you to.
So this is where they lived before linoleum floored bathrooms became their domain; the smudged petal of a wild rose, or something that looked close enough to a rose.
A pattern had been unearthed; his eyes focused and twitched scanning and identifying the life vibrations of the woods, which before blended into the term “nature”.
Life, tiny little streams of life are everywhere. If there are small things, spiders, flies, ants, I bet the ants are hated by all the other, like America is by the rest of the world, then there must be bigger life. Life with teeth and blood, something closer to my own shape and function.
The pages of Darwin were filled with meaning, mostly fiction, but the idea of life and death and one creature resting all on the death of another became a thing of weight which a white-line diagram on a green board could never carry.
I could live out here. I could be the life which rests atop of all other life. I could be king. A rabbit, I bet they burrow here. I can kill one and live off that for a day or two.
The foundation to this though was a memory; one illustrated and glorified from childhood when he visited the cousins in Texas and took a big light and a big gun (he realized eventually it was only a 22, but kept the glorified bigness of it all in that final version of the story) and with a sun cracked truck chased dark blurs in the night, pattern searching for the pure white glints of eyes to shine the big light on. The clinching heart squeeze of a talon trigger, dust, chipped-tooth-rocks spinning off and a dark blur resting red and smooth now; clear and focused in death.
I should use all of it, I think that’s what the Indians did, make a hat with the ears coming out like a second set above my own. I’ll be king and even have a crown. He laughed stiffly from his nose at this, at his giddiness and the absurdity of it. Who does this land even belong to? Can I just kill things, I think you have to own the ground which the paw digs into before you can decide to make that stamp in the mud its last. I think the city might own it, the great trees, the ones that are old and manly, have been pinned with a dog-tag. It’s a metal circle, like a charm, but there is no emotion in the five san-serif numbers pressed into it. I think the city owns it because they are tracking these trees. Knowing who lives where and how old you are, and being able to fill out the blanks in the spread sheet with the title “Year of Death”. So humans aren’t the only creatures the city tracks, trees get a database as well. Well if I need to make a fire I’ll take the branches already shed, or look for the ones free from scientific city jewelry. A rabbit, wood for a fire…and shelter. I need shelter, I was watching that show which Megan talks about every week on Wednesday, and last week they were finding wood and palm leaves to fashion a makeshift home, because they finally found a stream for water. Water, I’ll need water too. It rains a lot here, I can catch it in something, I wish I had my mug from work. That would help.
A mist of birds lifted from in front of him in a sigh of caws and a flutter of wings, as the bell nodded loudly and dissipating from the church a few blocks away. Life, it wasn’t a call back to reality, an ollie-ollie-in-come-free cry from mother-modernity reminding him of responsibilities and dinner being served. No, it was reminder like a perfume reminder, where an old scent briefly calls another day to mind with a different lighting and different voices. His family was there, and they would be there just as the screens and swivel chair would be there. He loved them, he had forgotten the exact meaning behind the word and heart, but he loved them. They and love carried the same abstract blur which the swaths of green and brown held when he stepped into the woods. Buried in the blur of child-adrenaline and focus on all the alien pieces of his surrounding he had the taste of the Frost poem, that maybe on the other side of whatever this was he would be sure of all he thought true, that the swath of family, love, and work would breakdown into their virgin clarity. The solemn cluck on the church had ceased and he pressed further into the mesh. Ahead lay a break of cream bobbing bellow the pseudo-horizon of tree-limbs and sky. A scratching of mint blades, exaggerated grass, and stalks of cream feathered-plants wedged a break in the humid growth of forest.
Water, or is that the wind streaming through the blades. Perhaps water flows across their roots, and wind across their face. How lovely that would be to do nothing but sit and feel; grow.
The black gloss of his left shoe rippled into the cool root-water which shifted from the ground carrying the black of mud with it. He moved the other foot parallel to the wet one, waiting for the black of leather-water-mud to meld. The ground slowly gave, a sigh of comfort, accepting another root into its fecund soil. His pants grasping at the memory of the hot morning iron shot up as a black stalk, only to be cut off by the unfurled white button down which turned like the cream feathered-plant in front of him. Opening his eyes and blinking to let the light back in with stuttered portions, he looked for something. It was more some place than thing; a place to practice what man has done since he rose from the ground, to take the earth and break it, model it, fashion it to his own form. A house.
Maybe it was the black of water, or the specks of ink still caught in his light-adjusting-eyes, but another visual pattern emerged. After the normal blacks of bark, scars in maple trees, and ants, a scrawling line appeared. It was a solid cable with a neck the size of a garden hose coated in waxy black. Loops swinging higher than his balding head, crashing down to doodle swirls then back into another loop, over again till it was a knot. Man’s hand had already touched the plot. But touched it without purpose. The careless hunching on the charcoal line stood as a black crayon energy burst of a child on the surface of a Soutine landscape, from a distance seeming natural and wild, but when touched and squinted at was clearly an undesired afterthought.
I can move it. Perhaps I can use it as another piece of rawness to tame. Here is the spot, my spot where I will rule. I want to build something square and covered. Clear the green from underneath its shade and then dye it with my dinner’s blood and blot it, sign it, with the shell of burned out wood. What unmarked tree can I take and
He saw it. The wire had lacerated it from his sight, but tilting his head in thoughts of designing his kingdom his eyes found a tunnel of sight leading him to see the shelter. Stumbling over grass and wire he cracked his way toward it, returning to the initial volume of movement. He squared himself in front of the rectangle of emptiness, of humanity. Three lines of limbs, two impaling the earth and a third balancing between them, the sole difference between landscape and division of space; an in-and-out, a welcome threshold. Four squares of boney wooden lines with the occasional recycled fence plank, and crowning it a left cocked swatch of corrugated tin, more dull-red than gray, all leaning together in the dependency of a card house. Half-finished with its reverse-metamorphoses, but a shelter nonetheless.
He beat me to it. Another man already left his screens and desk and found this spot. Nature must have her own force like gravity and this is the low spot pulling life here, to this spot as a point longing to be settled. He already toiled and dyed the floor with blood, signed it with the charcoal of burned out wood. Perhaps it’s nothing more than Saturday efforts of boys escaping the sidewalks and patterns of town. If we would let my son out here it might even be his. I’m not sure where he even goes though. Either way it’s been claimed, fulfilled its purpose of yielding to the form of man.
Having found Walden only to realize Thoreau had come and gone.
He submitted and turned. The metered slush of his wet shoes and pant cuffs muttered over roots and stones, a deflated echo of the church bell heard previously.
Well Frost I’m returning more sure of all I thought was true, but where is the triumph your words felt pregnant with? I was fifteen when I breathed in those words. You were a man when they came from you. Perhaps they were the shell which you knew would resound in triumph when read on cold nights by passionate boys. Though you knew their future emptiness, the best you could offer was a chamber to amplify the triumph for a little longer.