Meeting at the Brook

It is the blinking of a firefly's light. It is the x that marks the spot on the treasure map that says, dig here. It is the fairy in the woods signaling, follow me.

Meeting at the Brook

I watch the cursor flashing like a lighthouse in the night – do they flash? Or rotate, which is also rhythm – now you see it, now you don't – like the moon, even the sun, all things rotating in the universe appear and disappear from view.

The cursor is an I. It stands alone on the white page like a solitary figure on an iceberg. Like the photograph I have of myself dancing in the white desert of the Great Salt Flats. The brave and curious I, the me, heart beat, Earth beat, drum beat, breath. Birth, death, birth, death.

It flashes at the end of every sentence, every word. Every time I stop the flow of words it flashes, as if waiting, saying, ...and then? ...and then? It flashes like the mind of a child listening to the storyteller ...and what did he see when he opened the door to the cave?

It could be seen as a danger sign. There have been times – yesterday, for instance, half my life, for instance – when I would have seen it that way. The times when I am not at it, not in it, not riding the rapids in the river, but watching from the riverbank imagining all the ways I could capsize, go under, smash my head against a boulder, get my foot caught between two rocks, and drown.

It could be seen as a taunt, a dare, a chant, egging me on, to make me turn and run, to make me give up trying, to make me cry. Naaa na na naaaa na. You don't know what you're dooooing... The bully showing me who's boss. The inner saboteur.

But today it is clearly the beat of the heart of all that is, the pulse that Dylan Thomas called, "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age. . . the force that drives the water through the rocks drives my red blood".

It is the blinking of a firefly's light. It is the x that marks the spot on the treasure map that says, dig here. It is the fairy in the woods signaling, follow me.

I follow her and she slows down for me when the twisted roots and undergrowth make it hard going. But soon I see a clearing up ahead, where there is a grassy space between the trees, appearing empty, but for rays of light streaming through the canopy of leaves from overhanging branches of the towering chestnut trees.

The clearing is covered with what looks at first to be grass, but is actually a huge variety of delicate, low-lying plants, some with tiny flowers, some bushy, some like grass with wider blades, some with fern-like structure. I untie my shoes, tie the laces together, sling them over my shoulder, so I can feel how it is to walk on this carpet barefoot. Spongey. Springy. Soft. No thorns or twigs, no sharp stones or muddy patches. Heavenly. Healing. And my footsteps release the scent of the plants as I walk on them, unfamiliar but delightful aromas, tangy and bright, reminiscent of pine, rosemary, and lemon rind.

My fairy guide is blinking her light at me up ahead; where is that light attached? It seems to be in a bump between her lemony colored wings, like a tiny backpack. I wonder if it ever goes out, need recharging, is it solar powered? I realize I have no idea how fireflies power their lights.

As I hurry my steps to catch up to her, I hear the burbling of a brook, though I see nothing in the shadowy woods that she has disappeared back into, on the far side of the clearing. Stepping back into the cool forest, I see the stream a few paces ahead, and see her sitting on a long curving root that rises beside the brook like the back of a Victorian couch. Suddenly realizing how thirsty I am, I pass her and walk straight into the water, which only comes up to the middle of my calves, bend down and scoop up a handful of the water, and have a drink. It is unlike any water I have ever drunk. Silky. Smoother than normal water, if that is possible. And with a flavor to it that I can't identify, but reminds me of oat straw tea, something gentle and golden and healing.

I splash some of the water on the back of my neck, and then into my eyes. Instantly, my vision is altered. I am startled by what I see. Blue forms around me, floating in the air, about the size of people, but vaguely defined, light form without faces, but with personalities. I turn around to see the fairy smiling on her branch. She herself, is only the size of my face. And yet, as I look at her, more than smiling, actually, more on the verge of laughing, but I can see she is careful not to hurt my feelings - she begins to appear the same size as me, and I feel dizzy for a moment. It happened when I looked into her eyes. The moment of recognition, eye to eye, was like a key that turned in a lock in my perception, and suddenly a door opened and I stepped through it.

It was as if she were an old friend, just the same human form as me, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, her straw colored hair pulled up in a messy pony tail, with stray strands of falling in a kind of careless beautiful way around her slightly pointed face. Some part of me recognized her. But another part of me didn't know where from. I couldn't get the two parts of me to agree.

I turned back to the forms I'd seen above the water, but they had disappeared. I heard voices approaching, the sound of footsteps rustling through the undergrowth and fallen leaves, for it was the beginning of the autumn, from the somewhere across the brook. They sounded young. A couple male voices, and then a few female voices as well. Suddenly they popped into view, coming through the trees, all of them wearing colored vests, looking medieval, that made them stand out like brightly colored birds against the dark and mossy tree trunks. They carried long walking sticks, a bit taller than themselves, which were slightly twisted, not milled, and shiny from much handling.

When they saw me – stunned and perhaps looking dumbfounded with my mouth hanging open in surprise, and motionless as if frozen in the middle of the brook – they called out my name with such joy, I almost fell backwards. They hoisted their sticks in the air in happy salute, and hurried towards me, though the undergrowth made it hard to hurry. I turned for a moment to see if my fairy had some clue for me as to who they were, but she had disappeared. As they approached, though, I could make out that one of the women had her hair in exactly the same messy ponytail, with the same face. It was indeed her, in a different form! I didn't want to appear rude, or unfriendly, so I crossed carefully to their side of the water, and they offered their hands to steady me as I climbed out.

You made it! Some were saying. Others put a hand on my shoulder. You haven't changed a bit, one said. Nice work, finding this exact spot of our rendezvous, out of all the moments in the history of the planet, and all the spots on its surface. You are still the master navigator you always were. I was speechless, confused, like someone with amnesia, or a visitor from another planet, and yet somehow deeply relieved. My mind was racing, but my heart felt connected to theirs, and the tears streaming down my cheeks were tears of joy, of being reunited with friends – or perhaps much more than friends – it would take me some time to remember.