“Sorry to hear about your bad news, Miro”, the neighbour shouted, looking up from the garden he was weeding. Miro walked on, dismissing the neighbour with a smile, a wave and a shrug, determined to continue his constitutional without interruption.
He paused at the country lane at the end of his road and contemplated which direction to walk today, when his thoughts were interrupted by the noise of a bright green sports car driving up and screeching to a halt. The driver appeared to be a lady in a ridiculous long tan-coloured cloak that spread across most of the front seat, and wearing a sombrero and dark glasses. She nudged the dark glasses down over her nose, peered at him and asked “You Miro?”
“I am” Miro replied.
“Get in”, the lady replied, throwing the dark glasses into the small rear seat of the vehicle. “We have a date”.
“My mother always told me never to accept rides with strangers”, Miro said, smiling thinly.
“You up for an adventure or not?”, she replied, pushing open the passenger door. “And do you want the top up or down?”
“Down is fine”. He peered at the lady more closely. He was struck by her green eyes, alert like a cat’s. He got in.
She drove in silence for a few moments. Miro grimaced as some of the car’s vibrations hurt him. “Can we stop somewhere and get some water?”, he asked. “I need to take my medicine”.
“In the glove box”, she replied. Miro found the water and downed his pain-killers.
“We’re going to be awhile”, she said. “Why don’t you sleep and I’ll wake you when we reach our destination.”
Miro nodded, uncomfortable as he waited for the morphine to take effect.
“But first, take off your clothes, except the shoes”, she said. “You won’t need them where we’re going. Wrap the mantle around you when you’re finished”, she added, nodding at the large expanse of tan cloak draped over the back of both seats.
The cloth of the cloak was luxurious, astonishingly soft, like chamois. Miro did as he was told, and then said “So now we are sharing an item of clothing. Seems a strange intimacy, as though we were sharing a secret.”
She nodded approvingly. “It’s plenty big enough to share.” She reached behind her seat and pulled out an oilcloth hat and placed it on his head. “Perfect”, she added. “This is how all men should dress — a hat that makes a statement, a non-binding cloak, and sandals laced up to their thighs. And nothing else”. She laughed.
“Sounds like quite a costume party we’re going to”, Miro said.
“Here”, she replied, drawing her hand down across the brim of his hat, and then softly across his eyes. “This should help you sleep.” That was the last thing he remembered.
When he awoke it was dark, and they were in a forest bathed in moonlight. What’s more, they were in some kind of observation platform high up in a tree. Miro looked around in amazement. The platform was large enough to walk around on, and had an edge, perhaps two feet high, all around it. It was soft as down on the feet, like an overgrown nest, and seemed constructed of some sophisticated thatching rather than wood. There was a large cloth-covered chest on one side, and at each of the four corners, a large lit candle burned. The green-eyed woman was seated behind him, and had drawn the cloak around both of them.
“How the hell did you get me up here?”, he asked, turning his head and shoulders back to look at her.
“I’m stronger than I look”, she replied with a guarded smile. She stared right back at him, studying him with her eyes. He was unnerved and averted his gaze reluctantly.
“I thought the male was supposed to be the nest-builder”, he said, quietly, trying to absorb the situation.
“Depends on the species”, she replied. She gave him water to drink, and a clay bowl with berries and nuts in it. The bowl had two paws or hands imprinted on it, as if to instruct the user how to hold it. He drank and ate quietly. As he did, it began to rain, first a fine mist, then a downpour that, in the silence of the forest, was as loud as thunder. The woman drew the cloak tighter around them and under them, although the canopy of the tree already provided some protection from the rain. She turned Miro to face her.
“Close your eyes”, she said. “I am going to teach you something important that you have forgotten.” Her voice was like a robin’s, musical, as sweet and as intoxicating as the rain. “Open your mouth just a little and do exactly as I say. Feel me getting closer to you. Anticipate it. Break the distance, in time and space, between your lips and mine, into a million tiny pieces, and then, as slowly as you can, move one piece forward. Now stop. Pay attention. Without speaking, tell me what you sense.”
Miro could hear the birds in the nearby trees, some of them luxuriating in the rain and others sheltered from it. He could hear their voices and understood what they were saying to each other. He could hear the rabbits and skunks and field mice scurrying for shelter on the ground far below. He could smell the woman’s breath, and parse that smell into molecules, each different, each landing on his tongue or in his nose, this one with the scent of red current, that one walnut, and this one with the scent of love and concern.
Each moment brought their lips infinitesimally closer, and a profusion of new sensations. Now the wind was full of stories, of a wounded blackbird, the birth of a baby raccoon, the discovery of a patch of blueberries, wet with rain, the first thing a young sparrow saw when it opened its eyes. Miro learned these stories from the scents, the colours, the tastes and sounds and touches that were carried by the wind, each, like a snowflake, complex and rich and complete in its detail. Now he was parsing, miniaturizing time and space so finely that he could sense subtleties that he could not have imagined. The bird’s song was a symphony, and he could hear the elaborate melodies, the interwoven harmonies, the thousand messages of longing and love and connection that were encoded inside them. The bird was speaking to him, not personally, but as aware-part-of-this-place.
Now closer. The smell from the woman’s breath was not just berries, it was those blackberries, there, that cluster, with a unique mix of acids and tones and nuances that only belonged to them, in that place, because a particular weed that shared their soil infused them with some of its flavour, because a bee had alit on them, briefly, imparting on them the precise mix of pollens its feet had touched before, because the angle of the sun and the leaves protecting them or not protecting them from the rain was slightly different there than anywhere else.
Closer still, and now as he opened his eyes he could see in her eyes all the truths that were captured in a mere flicker, in the dilation of her pupils, in the flecks of blue and yellow that made up the stunning green that shone into him with the force of a thousand suns. In her eyes he saw what she felt. He was so overwhelmed that he cried, and each tear tumbling from his eyes was a torrent, a cascade of colour and the tinkling sound of it bouncing off his cheek and then off her cheek.
And then the touch, as each cell of her lips caressed a cell from his. As the flavours from her mouth poured into his and he had to slow down even more, to savour each one, to hear its story and learn from it, to open himself up absolutely to it. He let go of everything and just became that endless moment, became her, became them, became all-of-life-on-Earth. Now he understood why the word ‘sense’ initially meant ‘to find one’s way’. There was no urgency in the kiss. Time stopped. There was all the time in the world. The kiss lasted forever, as if days and seasons and the rising and falling of mountains was all happening during it, and still it lingered, with the parting as slow and gentle and sweet as the first touch.
She smiled at him, holding his head in her hands, her eyes downcast, almost shyly. “That is the time that all the creatures you see and sense around you live in. That is why, unlike humans, they are never in a hurry, never afraid to die. They have all the time in the world. That is what I wanted to teach you.”
The rain had stopped and the woman rose, re-lit the candles and opened the cloth-covered chest, drawing from it two rough-hewn wooden instruments, a guitar and a recorder. She handed him the former, and when he made to protest that he did not play (at least not well), she shushed him. “Drink this”, she said, passing him a bowl with a thin blue liquid in it.
“You do not need that to intoxicate me”, he said, smiling at her. “You already have me at a disadvantage.”
“We owe the creatures of the forest a concert, and they are waiting for us to play. But first, I need to get your stubborn ego out of the way”, she said.
Miro wasn’t sure if it was the effect of the kiss or the strange beverage, but he was beginning to see things, hear things, imagine things. “The creatures are sending you their dreams. Now play”, she said.
Somehow Miro was able to find the notes to play a madrigal, one he had never heard before. It just came out of him. And now the woman was joining him with the recorder, playing notes that responded to and built on the deeper notes he was sounding. He played like a madman, as if his fingers did not belong to him, finding notes and chords and sounds he had never studied and did not ‘know’ to play.
The woman nodded as she played, and then as he continued and moved into a frenzied, lightning-fast flurry of rhythm and melody way up on the frets a whole octave above open-string, she said, “Now you see, you are the instrument and not the player. The song is merely being played through you. You have opened yourself to it.”
On and on they played the song of the forest, rising and dancing as they played, until they were exhausted. The woman put the instruments away and said “Now I have something else to show you. You know this. Your instincts have told you this truth. But it is time you saw it.” She re-wrapped the mantle around them both, drew her legs up under him and plunged them both off the side of the platform. She hovered just above ground-level, and pointed. First, in the moonlight, to baby rabbits being born. Then, a trio of young foxes wrestling with each other, then yawning and curling up into a ball together. Then, in closer, the intricate work of a spider, so close that Miro could see the weaving, and witness the wondrous speed and intricacy of its construction. And even closer, an aphid, lustrous in the moon’s glow, making its long journey to a new leaf — turning colour to signal her departure to her community, growing wings and soaring away, borne on the wind miles to a new and unknown home, and then the delight of discovering it, knowing it was waiting for her.
And then the woman turned Miro’s face to hers and kissed him, and plunged again into a deep pond, using the cloak like fins to swim to the bottom. She breathed life into him, keeping their mouths locked, willing him not to panic, and by swirling around showed him the mysteries of life under the water, where all life began. She showed him creatures so tiny and strange that he could not believe his eyes. She showed him creatures that were transparent, that you could see right through and were so much a part of the pond that unless you were paying attention you would not notice them. She showed him, by guiding his hand, creatures that lived in continual darkness and therefore had no eyes, but which responded to his gentle touch so powerfully it was as if they purred.
And then rising from the water she drew him up into the clouds, soaring, the cloak becoming wings, and pointed out to him patterns you could not see from ground level, or without the eyes of a raven or eagle. And then still higher, until the horizon of Earth was passed, and on into the stars, until even larger patterns became visible, even obvious, and then into other galaxies and universes that were beyond his comprehension, so he couldn’t see them at all. He began to get dizzy, and the last thing he understood was how the vibration of a single string, with no physical existence at all, could create everything.
The car rounded the final curve before the street that Miro lived on, and he woke up with a start. The woman was smiling at him, as she drew the car to a halt. He moved to say something but she put her finger to her lips and shushed him. He opened the car door and climbed out, weary and a bit disoriented. He was wearing his normal clothes again. She pointed up and he looked, instinctively, into the cloudless, dazzling blue sky. When he turned his gaze back, the car and the woman were gone.
He made his way unsteadily back along the street. His neighbour was still tending his garden, and rose, wiping his forehead, and said, “You won’t get into shape if that’s the farthest you walk. At least walk around the block. D’you want me to come with you? We could share a beer.”
“I feel like I’ve been gone for days, an eternity, even. You mean to tell me we were just talking?”
“Not two minutes ago, my friend. I think you’d better take it easy with those medications. If you overdo them, they’ll drive you out of your mind”, said the neighbour.
“I need a rest”, said Miro. “I’ll take you up on your kind offer soon, though.” And with a wave he continued down the road towards home. Suddenly a crow flew down and landed by his feet, not five yards ahead of him. The crow kept jerking its head up and down, finally staring into the sky. Again instinctively, Miro looked up too, and as he did, the crow cawed, rose up and landed on his shoulder and then on the outstretched hand he was using to shield his eyes from the bright sun. The two creatures looked at each other intently. Then the crow balanced itself on one leg,lifted the other to its breast, nodded twice, and flew away.
Original artwork by the author, 2003.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
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Dying of Despair
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What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
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What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
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Complexity and Collapse
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If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
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The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
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The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
Ask Yourself This
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May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
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Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
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How Change Happens
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We Make Zero
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If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
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Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
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The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
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Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
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Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
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A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
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Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
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