Sunday, January 15, 2006

From the Cave: Father of the Deer

Father of the Deer

The road was clear. But the standing crusts of snow were like walking on well packed cardboard boxes over nearly thirty foot square. I broke through. It was two-thirty in the afternoon.

For the six years that I have been loving this place, it was the first time I saw those tracks in the snow. On the verge of a night of freezing rain. Pausing on the pan, I looked deep through those same woods. For the first time seeing you returning along its path. Somewhere in that night, you crossed the rabbits’ own path.
I stepped in among the pine needles, upon the dark sweet loam, upon the many tips and roots of new growth, that fall, that blow to the ground as tonics for mouse or man or Indian pipes below. That old blue tarp is still flapping from my Grand Prix Caravan. Pense and pausing again, near the largest wind dams built on the summer of ninety-nine and two thousand and two. Mom and Dad appeared to carry more than I did.

So I was just taken with those tracks. I wanted to know every little rivulet, every little moment, the sweet softness of such contemplation. With little encouragement they enjoy making a mark out on the mountain with me. Thank God for that alder smoke and the quiet saw and my fear of chain. I never burn alone. The sun shines down, at forty five degrees, blanketing the entire view with wild rose hips, young spruce, gleaming birch, and golden winter gloaming.
We had some trouble getting our stacks. Raked low, the fire only started when Dad went back to get more paper. A memory somehow lost in my shuffles, a room without windows, only doors to pen on paper, first child-like scratchings. A fire in the alders. The only forest wood that burns green and hot enough to forge iron. In winter, I crack those one or two seasons of growth, one or two, two month holidays. I crack those ones with my bare hands.
After some steady burning I invited Dad to tour the grounds. I did not know what we would see. I know what I wanted to show him. The tall and oldest trees in the place. It was nearing four o’clock. The full height would be a well of branches, backlit. But did I lead. The tracks I kept to my right as my feet punched on through the crust.

A little rivulet was all that ever was and all that was ever needed. Here the mosses grew thick in summer, coarsened in the winter, and the water pots deepened in the basalt. Near, some muzzle had worked holes in the snow before it froze. Directly above that point in any one’s lands, where the winds and the waves pile seeds, must, dust like devils and the sources of natural refuge. Piles like shavings nearly in the centre. Some of my Acadian neighbours I imagine.

The lays on that ground, are the eons old and bowled out shape of the rock, the old bay which had pushed and pulled, through germinated seeds, that the snow could not freeze over. Neatly made. The symbol was clear. It was the eye of the heart of my old Buddhist friends. Here some of the alders take on the wisdom of the wizened hawthorne. Where I prune and garden for the emperor himself. There below, ten more feet, a nest on the softest bed of snow, frozen into the form, where body heat had first made it. Twice.

The track it took was known to me, I had made it. Further into the ravina, past the deadfall of two years ago, it had toured my black spruces on the boundary lines, respectful groups of trees, where Papa and I took each other’s picture on the perfect light, cast upon our masts above sixty foot light. The track continued in the stillness and silence, startling the rabbits’ to trails again, returning to its little nest, on the moss still before the snow froze.

I guided Papa back to the fire, but first I asked him if he recognized himself. I told him I follow the sun and the smoke. We toasted our beers. Mom and I had gone out to burn the last time in November, when the first owl I had ever seen fly home, flew home to my woods. That time we had little water, we were so careful with the embers, I even dumped an entire bucket of frozen lobster shells on those ashes. We saw those same trees that day. The same as today around the same trail.
Do we leave a mark on the places we go? How long does it take before we know? Had the deer been so near all of these years? I opened my heart long ago to an apsara and I finally knew it.

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