Still Water

Still Water – Oil on paper – 18 x 24 inches.

If we were able to hover, if we could watch from above like angels, we would see a figure walking alone in winter along a river. She, or he, is not lost. At least not lost yet.

Blue open space above the water, sunlight in the west, melting snow, solitude, green mountains in the distance, deep forests close by, close around you, like an embrace, deep, thick, dense pines and fragrant cedars. No sunlight reaches the forest floors here, not now, not even when Spring seems to be so close.

From a space far higher than we can hover, a jetliner disappears. The walker hesitates, looks up to see contrails dissolve and hears the echo of the aircraft’s passing. Thoughts of distance, time, empty space. Thoughts of someone missing, a someone living on the other side of the world, the someone living inside the walker’s own heart.

A chorus of little birds and the croak of ravens rise from the trees. A fresh wind is coming in from the North. Another storm coming? Ears and nose grow colder. Half an hour passes. Snow crunches underfoot. Twilight will be brief. “Where am I?”

Logic says: “Follow the flow of the river. You are not Lost.”

An older voice from memory murmurs:

“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.”

(“Lost,” by David Wagoner.)

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