Of course I knew I would have to begin again. I am not going to fool myself about that. How and why, these aren't issues I am going to deal with. I am having a very hard time focusing. The sky has slowly lost all of its color, the ground no longer seems able to support my weight. A loss of faith, I suddenly think, not sure why. But it seems obvious. Where faith is lacking, no one can be expected to believe. It begins with yourself. It isn't a point I am going to debate anymore if I can help it. It just doesn't seem to be all that important at the moment. My body slowly sinks into the formless material, which is getting more fluid by the moment. I hold out my hands, feeling the warmth as it passes through my fingers. I have always known that the only time I will ever get to an end will be when I die, and even then, that outcome is by no means guaranteed. Further thought in that direction can be nothing more than mere speculation, however.
I can feel the doubt creeping in over me, washing up against my subtlest points, evaporating into an irritatingly empty space. It is able to take advantage of this gap, and sets up a makeshift headquarters from which to operate. There is little I can do about that, however. Worrying will accomplish nothing. The thick fluid around me is sort of interesting, illuminated as it is by dark blues and reds, also an occasional emerald–green. I am not sure what to do with it, or myself. But nothing seems necessary to do, for that matter.
When I hold out my hands to gauge the thickness of the material, as well as the speed of my decent, it is like holding your hands out the car window on the freeway, only more so. I smile, for the first time, and let myself fall. The illuminated portions flash by quickly, forming odd patterns, none of which I can quite get a hold of before they pass my by. The colors are not important, however. Neither are the forms themselves. That seems to leave nothing. But that cannot be. This is why, I suddenly realize, that it has come down to faith. You can't hold anything real in your hands. The truth appears to us as merely a collection of attempts at description of this unholdable real. It simply does not speak strongly, although it has not lost its voice. Its efforts just can't manage to pierce through into the world anymore. It is time to move on. Where, that is a good question, but not one I have to worry about at the moment. Not that the thought of moving has any significance here. But I have to do something – that is a requirement of sorts.
But I am not a fan of requirements. I could try, but I would never be doing anything other than kidding myself, and those around me. Needs, however, are another matter. And needs have to be filled. The primary question is when to stop. But I don't even know if I have begun, or if I have smashed up against the end. There just isn't enough information. Obviously there isn't going to be a lot of information–gathering going on around me either. A fair working hypothesis is that I have died. Time itself is just not the same. I can't put my finger on the difference. But there is a difference. The world is moving in relation to something different. The sky, while still of course invisible, has gained several new shades. I don't know how I know this either. My knowledge seems to me no less or more reliable than any other knowledge. But I can't put a form to it. That is somewhat annoying. If I have died, then certain things that made no sense suddenly become less confusing. But how can I know? And do I need to? Matters have taken on a life of their own, of that much I am certain.
The question of my death pleases me. I like the idea of not knowing. Death and life, each holds its own appeal, and I don't feel pressed to pick. My descent through the fluid has slowed. I suddenly remember that I haven't breathed in a while. That's ok though. The slowing is what interests me at the moment. Will I stop, and just hang there, suspended in the viscous substance? A string of questions rise up, bubbling to the surface of my brain, floating around there for a few minutes, then drifting off, like a leaf making its way down a river. It is best to remain focused. When the time for action comes, I will have to be ready. One thing is for sure: I won't be able to do it alone. That secret has been learned, unlearned, then relearned, time by painstaking time. I myself manage to forget it each time as well, just like everyone else seems to do so consistently.
My motion has stopped almost completely. The jelly–like substance quivers slightly, the colors shift and blend, writhing around each other, forming new shades, then separating into their original hues. But how am I to find that someone? Every time I feel like I am getting close she vanishes, almost as if my approach is what makes her eventually disintegrate into the air. Maybe that is not the way to go. I have tried it enough times, after all. I look around, hoping against hope that she will walk out of the murky light, but all I see are flowing bands of colors. That won't do at all. Flowing bands of colors are very interesting and all, but they seem markedly beside the point. Almost like a trap designed to lure you in by flashing pretty colors at you. What I need to do is get a hold of the situation. How to do that is still not clear to me. But the need, that is strong. If I close my eyes, and stop trying so hard to see, maybe then things will start to clear up. It doesn't seem like that bad of an idea, now that I think about it.
Everything stops – I see nothing, feel nothing, know nothing. There is nothing to hold, not even a dream to follow. Everything is empty – which was the initial claim, I recall. I have seen this emptiness before, but have not said or thought anything about it. I have seen it, then turned to look for something more substantial. That was my mistake, of course. It is said that learning to stop in time is a big part of the trick. This is hard for us to understand nowadays. The point has grown so profoundly mired down in our hurtling towards our future that it is becoming quite difficult to think that this is not a new situation. Thinking has never had the power to reach these areas, which drives it crazy. And results in a lot of books being written, none of which quite manages to capture this elusive element. And these books themselves are all a part of this evolution, or rotation, or revolution. We are all spinning together. Every element is there, balanced and distributed in a way so precise that it screams out for science to grab a hold of it. Our time becomes so limited that there is no question of enough anymore.
I look around again. The landscape flows around me, in an almost liquid form, but a form that has finally become two dimensional, which is something of a relief. It was time. How I know this is unclear to me, it's more in line with feeling than knowledge or words. Time comes like this, then vanishes if ignored. I don't want to do either too much or too little. There is a level to be reached, and the tools for the job can never be further away than within arm's reach. That is why contentment is such an important idea.
My feet sink slightly with every step, but the surface is firm enough to hold my weight. I like the colors of the surface around me: dark green sinking into blackness, a deep red streaked with flashes of orange – the list is endless, as far as I can see. A faint light begins to shine on the horizon, although the surface around me has so far been lit by only the faintest of glows, just bright enough to illuminate the colors. I walk forwards with more enthusiasm, feeling the first rays of the morning sun break out over the horizon. This is what I was waiting for. There is nothing to be argued here, the point is completely clear. There are no flaws in its design whatsoever, and so there is nothing to grab onto. One has to suspect that that too is part of the design.
The air around me vibrates, falls slowly to the ground, then floats back up, in a circular motion that is vaguely relaxing. I can't help but believe that I am seeing it move as its swirls and undulations transfix my attention. Then I look away, blinking, wanting to cry but knowing tears won't come. There was nothing there, and now I am standing, looking around as if there had been. Something, that is. There is nothing to say about it. Wherever the dark–haired girl has gone off to does not matter, since she is not here. I will just have to make do. I put my hands down, and look around again. The surface ripples slightly, the peaks and valleys highlighted by the rising sun.
The reasons for this all, those will become obvious over time. An anticipation, an over–reaching – that would be a fair appraisal. Plus the simple fact that things are just going to work out the way they are, nothing can stop that, and nothing should. I can actually deal with that, even though it is sort of annoying. It all comes down to what I can do this exact moment. Not exactly a magic recipe, but there it is. Just the same sort of pain–in–the–ass type situation matters generally seem to resolve themselves into. I know matters should be more dramatic, like in Hollywood, but they aren't. Things just sort of roll along with their own rhythm, with or without me doesn't really seem to matter. That's about as far along as I need things to go. Time is a problem. I don't want to get into it more than that, but it needs to be said. And, once having been said, it needs to be repeated, round and round and round until it begins to sink into our tiny little collective brain.
The situation is getting really silly, after all, it is interfering with... with exactly what, that is the question. Maybe it is not interfering with anything, and things are just as fucked up as they ever have been. Who knows, and who wants to. I shake my head, then look around, to get a grip: matters seem ok, no major problem to report. That will have to do for now. Tomorrow, I don't have time to wait for it to come around. Like I said, time is a question, but not a central one anymore... beyond that... well, there can be no planning for that.
So this is the perfect place to begin. Everything is in order, the objects are arranged just so, the world is still spinning, the oceans are washing against the shore, things are beginning to regain their proper perspective. This is a relief. Resistance was futile. Everything is as it was foretold, the prophets have not lied. This is a good thing to know. Everything else can be allowed to take its proper perspective. The breath I have been holding in can be released. This too is a relief, since my body felt like it was going to explode from keeping this in any longer. Now it is just a matter of moving properly. But there won't need to be any question of these matters. That is the trick, learning how to move without thought, acting and reacting only out of necessity. A return to the basics is not only called for, but is the only possible solution to our dilemma.
I begin to understand why I was so unable to move. Fear is always the inhibiting factor. It is time to engage in significant action. But without end. This is enough to drive us crazy if we let ourselves stop to think about it. Losing the sense of the enormity of it all is driving us completely insane; the world can't be allowed to go on in this way. Of course saying that does not change anything. No, it isn't a matter of words. Things will have to be allowed to flow back into their proper channels. And that will not necessarily be a beautiful thing to watch. It is time to call the religious bluff – progress is not an inherently good thing, growth is not the foremost human value to be sought after.
And that's not such a subtle thing to see any longer. I look around, watching the surface undulate, feeling the sky seep into my pores. It's getting too easy to forget the really basic things; our lives are spinning more and more out of control, and there doesn't seem to be anybody at the helm. A situation like that really has to be resolved on an individual level. This is not a time for orthodoxy, or fanaticism. A flexible response is definitely called for. A period of waiting has to be gone through, then a cleansing. These things have all been described before, there is really no mystery to the matter, just a question of preparation, and willingness. And of taking these questions seriously in the first place. And since I am already doing that, this is not a side of things that I have to worry about. Certain things can be allowed to take care of themselves. We don't have to push so hard all the time; in fact, pushing is just boring. I'm not interested anymore. It's time to let everything fall into place. That can be called a point of faith, but it doesn't need to be.
I begin to see that nothing is easier. This too was mentioned before. The ground begin to solidify, the sky twists and writhes as if in pain but it too does not shred apart. Sharp lines of light flash through the air, the plants at my feet spit up sticky webs of sap, the smallest of insects dance under the leaves with an almost reckless abandon. I look down at them, pushing aside some of the leaves to get a better view. The insects stop their scurrying, then look up at me, their antennae groping desperately around, searching for that last piece of information that will clarify matters enough for them to get a functional view of things. But it is to no avail. The leaves have been returned to their place, the sunlight is once again shade, the world is as it always has been. I smile to myself, trying to avoid the insects as I make my way down a vague path.
The air is clear, clean in a way I have not seen before. Or not for a long time, anyway. The stars, too, are far brighter than normal. Or brighter than what I had considered to be normal. I am no longer so sure of matters like this. I look down at the ground, but it is covered by a swaying layer of long grass, yellow but with patches of green here and there. The grass gives way to more clumps of wild–grasses, then the grass becomes less frequent, and more wiry, then finally there is only sand.
But none of this matters. I have no time, time has exploded into itself, leaving flaming little bits of debris scattered all over the sand dunes around me. The sun shines with an intense purple shade, offering itself as a sacrifice to a set of gods who have not yet been born. There is no longer any question of waiting, nor of looking for a better time. I cannot be held accountable for other's failings, I suddenly realize. The sun burns overhead, well satisfied to let these realizations flood over me as if time really has stopped, and the black crows that left their odd little footprints on the sand are not watching me to find the beginning of failure and weakness. And I am not strong by any means, just stubborn. But that is neither here nor there.
Because I have been waiting quite some time, I feel as if there now is a particular rush, but this is a mistake. A sense of hurry always, and I means always, reveals some type of error. This is not something that is easy for us to understand nowadays. And it also does not suggest that we sit around doing nothing, twiddling our thumbs to pass the time of day. No, it is more of a filtering mechanism, a way for us to find error. I don't know how else to think this, and there has not really been any need to come up with any other way in the first place.
The crows are busy intimidating a loosely banded flock of seagulls, and, using this as an opportunity, I quickly turn to the side, and walk down a little gully, or valley, between two sand dunes. The crows' cries fade into the distance, as do the hysterical screams of the seagulls. I am relieved to find that silence now is the only accompaniment to the roar of the surf to my left, and that, if I step very carefully, I can fairly easily find my way through the much more thickly growing wildgrasses that cover the ground, but I still have to pay attention, that is something I need to remember. The how's and why's of the procedure are not so important as the carrying out of it. And that is going to have to happen on its own, out of my hands, and out of my sight.
This makes me happy in a way not very much has ever done, and I can't say why, or how, this happens either, only that it has happened. The simple mechanics of this, and all other, events, are going to have to be forgotten. There are no rules to proceed by and through. This is an adequate description of the circumstances, I feel, and does not need to be further amplified. A sense of restriction has closed in on me, nothing more than a trick played out by an envious detractor, whose name or nature I will never be able to learn, since they do not exist in that sense, or in any other sense that can be immediately comprehensible. Traps like this are sprung as a matter of routine, and have been well described in the literature, but this literature is not currently understood, at least it does not seem to be to my eyes.
It is quite odd that assistance and guidance both do and do not exist for me. This violates my sense of all propriety, as well as making me somewhat uneasy. Of course there are other matters to be taken care of, but they need to be allotted their proper places, and no more. This is one of many tricks that has to be learned, basically from scratch, at every step. And with every step such matters can become habit, and thus the very thing that pulls me off–course, forcing me to once again, painfully, find my way back to where I was before I started out. Doing this so repeatedly is quite frustrating, but I have as of yet found no way to avoid the problem.
I believe, although I can of course not be sure, that the problem can't be avoided, and is in fact an integral part of the process, although I can of course not speak for anyone else in this matter. My sense of freedom, however, cries out that I find a solution, if only to give me some breathing room, which I feel a strong need for at the moment. I am not going to find anyone to explain this need to, nor should I.
The sound of the ocean begins to drown out such thought, or rather, more accurately, it begins to file away their edges, leaving the thoughts less and less defined, until finally they simply don't have the internal cohesion required to maintain themselves as separately existing. And with this they fall away from themselves, melting back into the sea out of which they were born. This is, I reflect, why I need to spend at least some time by the ocean. Rivers just don't cut it. They are not active enough, and are not the repositories of everything, but are merely a local phenomena. I don't have the time to deal with things on that level.
One river can be replaced with any other, but the ocean is going to need to always be there, no matter how much we pretend that this is not the case. As I walk, I find that the surf is relaxing me in a way I had not even realized I needed. It is not a question of good or bad here, but rather necessity. I need to feel this way, and if I don't, I might as well be dead. And it is not even close to time for that to happen yet. I have too much to do in the meantime. It is this having to do that is pushing me to keep going down along the floor of gulch. I am not able to actually walk along the bottom as I would have preferred, since that is taken over by a semi–swamp, and would mire me down immediately, not to mention soaking my feet. I don't like that squishing feeling, and so have been making some effort to walk on the edge of the spongy surface, but still close enough to the valley floor to avoid having to climb up its sides. What I mean by use here is not really clear to me, but it seems to be the right way to think about it. Questions of utility in general are not really all that relevant to me, nor are questions of application. What really matters is that I don't walk too high up the bank that rises up on either side, and which, I notice, is not actually a part of the sand dunes, but has slowly become a more sandstoney kind of material, quite a bit steeper than the laws of physics allowed the sand dunes to have been. The bottom of the valley floor angles up slightly from its marshy bottom towards its walls, for by now the walls have in fact become walls, and not just a mere incline. I see why I have been keeping close to the bottom, for if I had not done so, I would have gotten stuck on some ridge or other, where exactly I of course I have no clear idea, since I have never been here before.
I stop to examine my surroundings, noting the texture of the crumbling sandstone, the reeds covering the swampy valley floor, the color of the sky – especially the color of the sky. It is smeared with a sickly green hue, like the color of a stagnant pond filled with algae, only superimposed opaquely over the blue of the sky. I look back down at the ground, and, finding a smooth spot covered with grass, sit down to rest. The sand has been replaced by a loose soil, which I can easily dig into with my hands. Large insects fly around my head, but do not land on me, a fact that is something of relief to me, since I don't like bugs. The sun gleams overhead, cutting through the soupy green, warming my face, sinking into my flesh. I close my eyes, thinking about what I have just seen.
There are definitely better ways to have gotten where I am resting at the moment, I can see that for sure, but, since I can't backtrack, I have to accept the situation for what it is. This is a key, I suddenly realize. In a sense we are always stepping just to one side or the other of where we need to be. That is a part of the formula. And the formula has been created long before I was born, so perhaps there is nothing to be gained by questioning it excessively. Questioning in general is a sign that things are not yet in their proper position.
A light, warm breeze brushes over my face; I breathe in the scents, wondering where they have come from. From further up the valley, that is obvious, since that is the direction that the breeze came from. I open up my eyes, following the movement of the clouds for a while, dreaming of things that I wish I had done but never found the time for. And now it is too late. All I can do is dream of new things, each of which will go undone in exactly the same way, until the time comes to let them go as well. This thought pleases me, although I can't exactly explain why.
Things have turned out to be far simpler than I had first thought possible. Even just resting where I am, that too I had thought to be a feat achievable by giants or monsters far beyond the reach of mere mortal men. Yet here I am, sinking into the soft soil, cushioned by a thick layer of grass, feeling the sun seep into my pores.
I look down at the stagnant swamp water in between the reeds, noting its steadily deepening color, and its syrupy texture. The sky is pouring itself into the water in front of me, in a bizarre process which I can not understand, nor even see as it happens. But the result is clear enough. The sky is returning to its blue condition, the grass under me stirs as if in response to this event, the birds in the bushes that pop up here and there along the banks of the swamp sing, insects chirp and click and cry little songs to themselves which will never be recognized as such since they are to our ears just insects.
My head pounds, seeming to implode and explode at the same time while all around me there is a celebration going on, an ordering that is escaping me by the minute. Things do not have to go on at all – no, ending it all can be the best idea I have ever had. I look up the valley, then back down, noting how the walls spread, softening, back into dunes in the distance. A bank of clouds hovers by the horizon exposed by this backwards glance, but does not seem to be very threatening. I put my head into my hands and begin to cry, why, I can't possibly say. The birds assume an almost reverential tone in their calls to each other, then begin to sing in harmony, no longer ignoring each other, nor me. It is as if they are extending an invitation I can either accept or reject, but of course, rejection would be such a stupid thing to do that I have to eliminate it immediately as an option. If, that is, I ever want to get anywhere.
The birds sing on, lulling my eyes closed, working their way into me, creeping into my veins, floating in the spaces between my cells, where no–one ever thinks to look for anything. I look back up at the sky, thankful finally for what I have received. The wind quiets, the birds resume their dialogues, but with an implicit nod towards me that was not present before, very much like at a dinner party where many conversations are going on, until they jell around some point or other that touches on everyone present, and after this jelling, all the guests are somehow connected in a way they were not before.
Whatever was absent is now present, and I am free to go on. A wave of relief washes over me, sending me tumbling head–over–heels towards the swamp. I land with a thud by the edge of the water, held in place by a large clump of reeds. The birds have stopped their singing, presumably to investigate this event, then gradually regroup, reconnecting into the pattern they were working on before I so rudely interrupted the proceedings, not unlike a guest who suddenly vomits all over his plate.
A large black crow sits on a bush across from me, on the other side of the swamp, eyeing me in a way that suggests strongly that it is debating whether my action can be forgiven or not. With a final nod of disgust it launches itself into flight, landing by my feet, where it stands quietly, looking up at me, seeming to be waiting for me to say something or other to it. I notice a subtle green glow coming out of its beak; looking more carefully I see that it is holding a small stone in its beak. The bird looks up at me, waiting for my next move. I reach down, hold my hand out under its beak, and look into its eyes. It stares back, with a somewhat disconcerting steadiness, then drops the stone into my hand.
Even though none of this makes any sense to me, it does not feel wrong at all, so I get up, and, looking up at the sky, put the stone in my mouth, not knowing where else to put it. The crow makes one of its harsh cries, then flies off, back to the bush it was sitting on, and resumes its almost scientific observation of me. The stone feels good in my mouth, and after a few minutes, I forget all about it. The crow too seems to tire of watching me, finally flying off, his shape growing smaller and smaller against the blue glare of the sky, until it finally gets too small to follow. I look back down, around me, realizing that I accidentally swallowed the stone when my head was turned up following the crow in its ascent. Hopefully it is not poisonous. But that does not seem likely. If I was meant to be dead, there have been enough opportunities for that particular result to have come about already, no need to go about it in such a convoluted way.
I smile, letting myself fall back into the song that is unraveling itself all around me, worrying only that the sky will turn dark, and that the set sun will suck all the warmth out of the earth around me. But it has not moved for several hours. I lie down, tired, needing a rest, needing sleep more than I had realized. My eyes close, my breathing grows regular, then swirls of thoughts crash with increasing violence against the sides of my head, trailing odd patterns and colors that escape definition, but which are definitely up to something or other. I let them drift, hoping that they will find a way to work out their differences, and blend back into a smooth stream of dancing colors, which is how it seems to me, sunken as I am into the darkness, the way things should be if everything was right.
Nothing is clear, I don't know if I am awake or dreaming. This is disturbing, for I usually depend on the separation between these two conditions to maintain some semblance of clarity. But apparently this is not to be granted me. I will have to function as if I know, but all the while knowing only that I don't, and won't until I either wake up or realize I have in fact been dreaming after all. And even then I can't be sure that that is not an element of an even more intricate dream. My dreams, after all, have been getting more and more accurate, less and less dreamlike, to the degree that, while I feel more or less able to determine if I am awake or not, I feel much less able to say if my dreams are simply an ongoing commentary, or contribution, to daily life. The line is blurring, and I can feel that line pulling me this way and that, fading in and out, blending and evading my eyes with an almost calculated intensity.
The water still is audible, but the sound is very faint, the waves crashing can no longer be clearly described, and could easily be something else, the roar of a freeway, an airplane passing by overhead, a series of cascades, the list goes on, each element celebrating its autonomy, each quite sure of itself, but of nothing else. Flickers of light flash by my eyes, inviting me to follow them, but I am more intent on determining if the sound I am hearing is actually the sea, or if it is caused by some other thing. But how to do this? That is the pressing issue, one which I cannot ignore any longer, for reasons which I am hard pressed to explain. Of course I have heard that sometimes matters became this confusing, but it is a different thing to actually experience it yourself. Such differences are often talked about, as if they could be settled by debate, but debate is just words bouncing back and forth, and inevitably not only get you nowhere, but, worse, sink you into a pit of your own making. There is nothing to debate. At least that is clear. The water rushes on, assuming that it is water, that is. Perhaps there is a beach over the sandstone hill, covered with soft sand and families with their beach towels and other beaching equipment. Or maybe there are just stones, against which the ocean pounds relentlessly, chipping away piece by piece the rock, grinding it into sand and gravel, foaming thickly as it draws back for its next assault. Who can say?
In a thicket to my left a voice shouts, quiet, but still insistent. I am not sure if it is addressing me – a quick look around shows no–one else present. I peer over at the bush out of which the voice came, trying to find a person, or body, to connect with the voice, but there is no sound, no movement, no indication that anything out of the ordinary has happened. A bird lands on the bush, which sags slightly from the weight, then settles. This bird is much smaller than the crow, and more colorful. The longer I look, the more I realize that I do not really have any idea of what color it actually is. This bothers me, since I want to describe it. But it is just there, staring at me, not chirping, cawing, whistling, or making any other bird or non–birdlike sound. Maybe it is waiting for someone, another bird perhaps, to come along, and then the two of them will talk about whatever it is that they have on their minds.
As I look over at the bird I notice that the swamp has begun to flow, thickly, almost turgid, but definitely it is flowing, and its level is rising, but not so quickly as to be worrying. The reeds begin to sway back and forth, then bend in the direction of the water flow. I note with alarm that the water has risen substantially in the few moments, although there is still plenty of room before it gets close to me, and even then I can simply climb up the wall behind me. I look to make sure it actually is climbable, and note with satisfaction that the surface is quite rough, and not actually as steep as I thought. I walk over to it, pulling at a protrusion, to see how much weight it can hold, and am happy to find that it is far less crumbly than I thought. This is a relief, since the water is by now lapping at the spot I was standing a few seconds before.
The bird across the by now rapidly flowing stream looks one last time directly into my eyes, then takes off, its form hard to follow against the bright blue of the sky. I think I hear it call, but I can't be sure, since the water of the stream is now making quite a bit of noise. I shrug my shoulders, and begin to climb, very carefully, since although the rock is not as steep as I thought, it is also by no means easy to climb, and requires my undivided attention if I am to avoid falling down, into what is fast becoming a quite violent river.
A patient putting hand over hand, foot here, then into the next cranny, then a grab onto a small shrub, testing to see if it holds my weight, then a slightly more relaxed climb results in my rising several hundred feet in altitude quite quickly. I look down at the river, noting with satisfaction its turbulent whitewater, and the top of the bush where the bird was sitting whipping back and forth in the water, the rest of it already submerged. I pause to rest on a small ledge, then look up at the sky. The sun does not seem to have changed its position at all, it is almost as if it were stuck in place. I begin to worry that the hand of some up til now unseen giant will come screaming out of the sky and give the sun a huge whack, forcing it to resume its stuck transit across the sky, but the sun just hangs there, gleaming in an almost metallic way. The rise of the water seems to have stopped, although below me the river is lapping up against the sides of the wall of sandstone I just climbed up.
Not able to think of anything to do, I rest for a little while longer, then begin to climb up again. The rhythm of putting hand over hand, foot here, then there, soothes me, and gives me time to think. I hadn't realized how much I needed to do this when I was down there in the valley floor. Maybe the air up at these elevations is just cleaner, or more pure, or has more oxygen – I can't say the cause, but the result is clear enough. Thinking is something I had thought was unnecessary, but it seems I was wrong. It is only a certain kind of thinking that needs to be avoided – and this kind of thinking, not incidentally, can be found anywhere you look. Because it can never be said what this thinking is, no real warning can be give out, but the signs are clear enough once you learn to recognize them, and, perhaps even more importantly, to not mistake them for a more general state of ill– health. I am learning something as I climb that I had not understood before: despite the risks involved in listening, there is no other way to go. I tilt my head upwards, to see if I can see the top of the valley wall, or at least a ridge of some kind, but there are too many obstructions for me to see very far
The stone hardens, while the grade flattens out slightly, which means I no longer have to climb with my hands, although I do have to lean pretty far forwards to keep from falling back into the ravine. I look down, amazed at how small the torrent below has become. A bird, I can't tell if it is one of the ones I saw earlier, glides along, tilting a wingtip slightly to readjust its course. It seems to be playing with the currents in the air, seeking out thermals, then spiraling up them, then leaving them behind, gliding down slowly, repeating the procedure in a way that makes me suspect it is simply glad to be alive. I look down at my hands, wondering where exactly I left such a feeling behind, or if I even did. Then a smile breaks across my face – it is not a question, or, rather, it is not something to approach by questioning. I watch the bird as it grows smaller and smaller, then turn back and begin making my way up the hill again.
Small tufts of grass start appearing in the nooks and crannies of the stone surface; as I walk, these little expanses of grass begin to spread out, until I find myself walking along a sort of diagonally tilted meadow. Low trees spring up, angled sharply to reach a vertical position, while ahead I can see a mountain peak jut out from between the branches, its outline rising high over my head. That is not a place I am going to go, I decide. The air here feels just right, and the sun too has a nice quality – not too warm, not too cold. I wonder if it gets chilly up here at night, but the sun is still more or less in the same position as it was earlier, so that doesn't seem to be a pressing concern.
The roar of the river begins to fade as I make my way through the woods, until its sound is not any louder than any of the other sounds around me. Birds call to each other, tree branches squeak and groan in the wind, and the wind itself whispers through the grass and leaves, as if it had something to tell me, but is not quite sure how to go about saying it. I put my head against the ground, listening for signs of mechanical devices, but there is nothing to be heard but the groaning of the tree branches. Satisfied, I lie down, curling up around myself, and soon fall fast asleep.