Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Grief or wrath or anxiety leave footprints behind them. I can track them backwards through the woods, into the darkness. I know the marks their passage leaves--the snapped twigs, the impressions in the cushion of fallen pine needles, the faint taint in the air. I can find the dens whence they came, and understand their secrets.

Confronted with a beast, I may flee, but at least I know the enemy that pursues me. Once it departs to plague other locales, I can look around and understand where it broke through my fences, what enticed it or allowed it entry into my domain. I know how to treat the wounds these beasts inflict, and how to banish them, at least for a while.

And so I survive.

But sometimes there comes another menace that leaves no tracks, only a haze of melancholy. Anger is a bear, and grief is a wolf, but this is a faceless creature with an unpronounceable name. It descends noiselessly, and its shadow blocks out the sun. Cloud-like, it creeps into every corner. When I awaken to its presence, it has already penetrated my inner courts, and I cannot escape, nor drive it away. I can only wait.

I wait, and wait, cowering in its shadow and shivering in its chill. I wait, and try to go about my business, while it hangs overhead, shedding darkness and miasma. In its presence, I am weak and cowardly. I dare not look up, lest I gaze into its terrifying eyes. I wait, and sleep, and wake to find it still flapping about, and still I do not know how to drive it away.

But one day, something triggers a change. The shadow and the creature casting it glide away. The sun shines unsullied again, and I rejoice. But I rejoice with bewilderment, because I do not know what dismal region birthed this monster, nor what it wants from me. I cannot tell what drove it away, nor what might bring it back. Again, I can only wait. I cannot track a creature that falls out of the sky.

I put up little charms, hang garlic on my doorposts, drink tea with herb picked by the light of the moon, listen to my intuitions. But the mystery cannot be dispelled, and I must continue a life of uncertainty.

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