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In the hollow of the rock

It is cold again at night and the raccoons that reach their little hands up to the bowl of food are not there under the porch light again.

In the hollow of the rock

When it was warmer they stirred in sleepy hunger to feed but now they are in their dark dens. With the recent snow now draped on branches, spring seems far away again.

And that is when the somber thoughts arrive. Stray thoughts that keep you up at night—about the state of the world and the struggle of the human condition and how it is that I should find myself here in this time. I am, of course, not the only one who wonders this.

I have to remind myself that children still laugh and the sun, once a deified marvel but now all scrutinized into flares and magnetospheres and proton fluxes, despite this gross indignity of science, still rises in the morning as it always has. I also have to remind myself that in my next life I’ll have to pick a better time to reincarnate for I don’t much like the way things are going in this one now. It is unfair. Many would say that. It is unfair. It is particularly unfair to the old.

For all our wisdom and experience, we have not the strength we once had and we look with worried eyes to the younger ones. We cannot save them. We haven’t the time now. It is not our world anymore. It is a generational fear. Maybe it was always like this but it seems different this time round. So different. We can only hope we taught them well. For as much as they would listen.

When it is cold again I think we can go for a walk. It is better this than sitting silent at a window looking out or watching screens that tell you nothing. It is a place you need to know.

Come with me. We’re going somewhere I’ve been many times but of course, not for a long time now. We will walk into a haze of memory perhaps fresh cleaned by romantic notions but nevertheless, a place, a time, a wandering. And it is summer there. It is always summer there now for it is not likely I will ever see this place again as I grow old and time spins faster and makes carnage of the future in its relentless way until there seems so little left to hold of it. It was always this way though. Not just for me.

This place I will take you to is by the Atlantic Ocean. I was partially raised there and it is a place you would love if you knew it as I did, the meandering day-dreaming child. I would sometimes stand on the cliffs where the wild ground-evergreens sprawled and foxberries grew to catch the wind in my hair.

Can you feel it? Now that I have brought you here to the edge of the ocean? You will feel it soon. The wind. When we emerge.

There is so much life in that wind, as if it is newly born there, breathing. Like the ocean seems to breathe. Can you see the rise and fall of waves as if that great shimmering expanse catches its ragged breath on the rattling shore? Sometimes at night I think I hear it still but that is just a fancy of course. There is no ocean here. But sometimes the flow of traffic could be that same rasping of stones swept out in exhalation. It could be. I’m telling you. But then, what does that matter? I’ve forgotten where we were again.

We are on a path up to the top of that far high hill where the Thinking Stone is. It is the best place. We will stop there. Dally. For we are children again. We have no sense of time or pressing need. Just a dog that follows us and the crows that call. We don’t even have a watch—what is that possibly for? We have the chattering of squirrels in the spruces and pines, the scrambling of flustered birds, the return of the seagulls from the far boats, the hunger pangs that tell us it is time to go back. We do not even think of it—going back. There are always the blueberries if we want to take a little longer.

Although alone, we are not lonely. There are words all around us. Do you hear them? Of course you do. You are here with me.

It is not such a far walk, up the hill along the shoreline where the path is carefully placed to avoid the edge where the cliff swallows have their nests just underneath. You could easily fall through their underground hollows and that might not be good for it is a long way down to a rocky bed. You know the swallows nests are there though because the foxes have dug holes down. Sometimes there are bits of feathers but you try not to think of that. There are none on this walk.

You must try not to think of the eagle that sometimes sits wicked on the Thinking Rock watching prey. It will not be there when we arrive though. It is not time yet for the wind is too strong for the hunt just now. The eagle is crouched somewhere in the high trees waiting. And we are just reaching the Thinking Rock.

It is bigger than you, even as an adult—the rock. It is perched right at the crest of the high hill not so far from the edge. It is smooth from the wind and salt spray and the scrabbling of eagles’ talons. It has been there for a long time. You can find that hollow in it to sit and watch the world. Far over there, that horizon is England or Scotland. Maybe both.

Can you taste the salt from the wind? It is coming from the sea. Later it will come from the land when the sun shifts. But as long as it is coming from the sea then you can find your way to think because the words are all around you then.

You can see the distant container ships from faraway lands headed for the big harbour south and the island stretched awkwardly over the horizon line with the lighthouse at its end. There are lobster boats and buoys. There are cormorants and seagulls and terns and crows of course. But the crows are behind you. They prefer the forest in the day mostly. There is the ever breathing sea and wind. There are the cliffs stratified with seams of coal and prehistoric rocks layering time in sediment. It is all there.

Do you see why I’ve brought you here now? It is all there. All you need to know. The words are all around you now. In this place. There are no crowds to watch you or to play to, to adore or abhor you. There are no others to judge you or tell you or confuse you. There are no voices you did not ask for. No opinions that break or make you or take you to places you do not want to be. The words are not lettered education. They are not convoluted explanations or rationalizations. They are not demands nor entreaties. They do not operate from guilt or shame or pain or fear or the needs of others. You have nothing to prove to anyone. In this life anyway.

Do you see the sediments of time layered there that places you so infinitesimally small inside its vastness, its eternal vastness? Can you sit quiet on the rock while the eagle waits and the foxes dig? Can you see the world, the whole world in the far-flung ships of trade, the far horizons, the light that guides from the island? Can you feel the breath of time and the hopes dancing truth to lies? The feathers in the wind? The scent of pine forests cradling? Can you see the way the waves break on that point of shore? The way it parts one side to the left, the other to the right? Rolling. Constant. Eternal. The sweep of the human condition broken on the rocks but it is not the waves but the rock that endures.

You are there with the wind and the words that have found you. They are the words of your soul. Heed them well. In this time. In this place. Find your way here when you need to. To think.

We are each alone but not alone. We will answer one to another when the wind dies down. Until then, remember that the rock endures. It endures the wind and the water and the sharp scratches of eagles at its edge. And you will be that rock. Go now from here, until you need to return. I will walk with you then too if you like. We’ll watch the lighthouse at dusk.


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