An Experimental Yarn  By  W. Bruce Watson
In the old days too, we sometimes ate by lantern light.

"Tell me a story, Dad" she adjured.

"¡Oh, what story?" I demurred.

"Oh, a real one this time," she said, exhaling in exasperation at my sudden obstinacy; then, after a few moments’ reflection, "one that you've never told me before."

How uncharacteristic of me to treat such a simple request as if it were an intrusion into my private space. “How many more such opportunities do you suppose you’ll have, asshole?” I asked myself in rebuke. Maybe I’d had too much wine. Or not enough. "OK,” I sighed, giving in, and began. “Let's imagine this is a story passed down to me by my own dad. Let's suppose it happened to him or to someone he knew." She waited while I poured myself a fresh glass of wine.

"A long time ago there was this guy, this lonely man, and he lived at the edge of a dark forest. No, now that I think of it, as a matter of fact it was just a regular forest.” How could I be stymied already? I’d just started. The presence of a dark forest in any tale never portends good or happiness. Nothing joyous ever transpires in a dark forest, at least not in children’s stories. Was that what this was going to be then, a child’s story? Well, actually it had been a dark forest there where the man lived, only I couldn’t say that for the reasons just noted. Picking up the thread, “Whatever it was, he had to pass through it often to get from his place to some other place, wherever that was."

I was having dinner with my daughter who was home visiting me for the holidays. Just as in the old days—the somber ones, the ones following the inexplicable and precipitous abandonment by wife and mother—I cooked, and she did everything else, although this time the wine and the lantern were her idea. I think she was trying to convince me that somehow things hadn't changed, that we weren't drifting apart, that she was still my little girl, that I hadn't become a wine besotted old man after all, and most importantly that my stories still mattered. I, we, loved an experimental yarn, or so it was in the old days. I continued.

"Once while he was walking along through these rather ordinary woods, he encountered a beautiful woman all dressed in strange clothing, like something a bird would choose to wear were a bird to do so. She was standing in the path, smiling at him, as if she knew him, as if he were an old friend. This lonely man who never talked to strangers and seldom even exchanged glances with them felt compelled to speak to her so great was her beauty, so warm her demeanor, and after all she did seem familiar. But not knowing what to say, and since he was walking, he invited her to walk along with him. She quickly accepted. It is not known what they spoke of as they wandered along, or even if they spoke at all. However, this much is known; it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and an occasional warm breeze was blowing.

"They soon found themselves in a part of the forest unfamiliar to him. So happy was he to be with her that whether he noticed he was lost or not, he said nothing about it. She stopped. He stopped beside her. She grew solemn, absorbed. Leaving the path, she walked a few yards into the ferns that grew there in such abundance. He watched as she knelt down amongst them and began to scoop and scrape the dirt, brushing the leaves aside, making a small shallow depression in the earth. Peering into the depression at something, she placed her hands into it and began moving them as if handling something found there, something small and intricate. Just at that moment, the sun began streaming through the upper branches of the trees as the breeze stirred their boughs, creating a most beautiful, dazzling, green shimmering all about them.

"She stood up, brushing the soil from her hands as the breeze abated and the shimmering ceased. She returned to the path and they continued on their way. So enchanted had he become with this woman, he no longer cared where they went. He only wanted to be with her."

Well, the story was beginning to have possibilities, ones that would require a resolution of some sort, and soon. I poured myself some more wine. The lantern light reflecting from the golden rim of my glass streamed through the red darkness of the wine onto my hand. I gently rolled the glass back and forth between my thumb and fingers, passing the maroon glow from right hand to left hand and back again.

"Please go on," she urged.


"What is the significance of the hole?" she asked.

"Why do you think it has any?"

"Because in stories, in contrast to life, everything has significance," she announced.

"Quite so, quite so, smarty." I was not surprised at her observation, for she had always been more than merely her mother’s namesake. "They continued down the same path together, or perhaps it was by this time some other path. It doesn't matter. Once again, the woman grew pensive.

Slowing her pace, she began to look around, her chin raised slightly the way a cat's is when it's sniffing the air. Leaving the path, she knelt down but only a few feet away this time. The man approached as she was once again digging, uncovering something. Peering over her shoulder, he could see that she was making a kind of bowl in the soft, damp earth. Soon something began to emerge at the bottom of the hole she was making. They looked like roots, but they were not roots. They were strands, crystalline strands and fibers, lots of them, all of different thicknesses and colors, all clustered together, glowing with an inner light. Some were stretched taut, others were quite slack. Brushing a last few crumbs of earth away and using both hands she grasped them, and her fingers and hands were bathed in streams of colored light. She began to move them back and forth singly and in small bunches from hand to hand in a braiding or washing motion. Gently and slightly rolling each filament and fiber between her thumb and fingers, she passed the incandescing strands from right hand to left hand and back again.

"As she did this, a most curious thing happened. The wind began to move the upper branches of the trees, and the boughs began to sway. The forest was filled with a great sighing, almost a singing, as if the strains of a distant choir were being wafted to them on the breeze. Was it the music of the void, or from beyond the void? No, maybe there was no music, but only the profound sighing of the wind in the trees. Perhaps the sighing only conjured up the music in their minds. Perhaps they only thought there was singing.

"And once again, as she ceased the plaiting of these strands, the breeze weakened, the sighing ceased. Carefully she replaced the soil and then stood up gazing at the man with a strange resignation in her face, as if to say, 'Well, now you know. Now you know everything.' As if to ask, 'What are you going to do now?'

"He returned her gaze and in his face could be read, 'Though I have seen and heard, I can not believe what I have seen and heard.' With a look of bewilderment, 'I see you, but do not know who you are or what you are.'

"They stood this way for a long time. At last, and maybe for the first time, he spoke. 'Who are you?' he asked.

"She replied, simply, 'I don't know,’ and then with a sadness that hearkened to a time of unvintageable sorrow, ‘I am.'"

I had to sip some wine just then. I did not know how to continue or even if I could. I, we, were at a crossroads. "Well, how does it end then? You're not going to tell me they get married and live happily ever after, are you?" the irritation and sarcasm dripping from her every word.

"No, I think the man inexplicably runs from the forest, almost immediately realizes his mistake, returns to the forest, but she is gone and he never sees her again or else he can't find the path again, or something?"

"Hmmmm. Nope."

"Ummm. How's this then? He took her hand and was one with her and she with him, and they were one together with the immortal beloved. And when they gazed into each other's eyes, they saw themselves; and when they gazed not at each other, they saw the immortal one and they saw that they were one with her. As the breeze moved through the tops of the trees, a great sighing commenced and descended all about them. A green fluttering filled the air with a glimmering light. The forest had become a great shimmering womb, and they were there within it, and then they were gone. They were there some, but mostly they were gone."

After a few moments of respectful silence, she commented, "I think you need to start from the holes and come a different way."

It was her way of sparing my feelings. She would never come right out and say a thing I'd done was over done or lame or ill conceived, but instead would suggest alternatives.

"Well, maybe I've had too much wine," I said in my own defense. I sat turning the glass with my fingers, watching the pattern in the gilt. It turned into view on the far inside edge of the rim, became oblique and finally hidden from sight as it traversed the near edge and then reappeared a moment later heading away from me. I decided to continue the story.

"She scrutinized the man as if trying to decide that he was trustworthy, but basically didn’t answer his question. They continued on their way and soon came to the edge of the forest. They stopped and turned toward each other. They did not speak for a few moments. Finally the man said that this was where he was going and that he had best be on his way. She nodded but made no effort to leave. He hadn’t noticed that her eyes were glimmering with tears, for he could no longer bring himself to look at her. Finally, he said goodbye and he turned away from her and he left.

"That night at home, alone, tormented by his failure to act, he thought ceaselessly about the woman, the curious events in the woods, and those mysterious roots in the earth. He vowed that he would return to the forest the next day, that he would find out where she has gone and kiss her lips and take her hands, and that this time wild horses couldn’t drag him away.

" 'He returned to the forest the next morning,' " my daughter continued for me, " 'but he could find no trace of the path, the woman, the holes or strands.' Right?" she asked with mock cynicism, obviously pleased that she had anticipated the disappointing ending.

"And what's wrong with that, Caer?" I asked gazing into my now empty glass. "Isn't that the way real stories usually end?"
The truth is, after much furrowing of brow, I can't think of anything to say by way of preface to my blog. Along the way I wondered what it's purpose might be and maybe I should say a few words about that and would, except that I don't know what its purpose is, or could be, or should be. I only know that my clock is winding down and I'm so desperate to have my mind known that I could just spit! Maybe my blog could be about that. But how depressing and pretentious that could be! But hold on a second, maybe not—my therapist commented the other day how in late adulthood (AKA elder years), one is forced to deal with the sense of loss, all the time, it's always there, and it's painful, it takes great faith to live on even though one knows it's going to end and that whatever they accomplish, if anything, is not going to matter all that much. How does one find meaning or a sense of fulfillment in life knowing that it’s coming to an end? Psychologists have not written much about this if anything. It's sort of an unexamined part of adult life. It takes a lot of self-discipline to function in spite of this sense of loss—it's so easy to give up on the constant struggle, on life. A lot of people do—drinking, TV, drugs, electrosex, So, if you'll bear with me, let us examine this unexamined part of adult life.
Copyright © 2011 W. Bruce Watson, Inc. All rights reserved.  
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