I have just moved into my room, and acclimated appropriately to the New Orleans lifestyle, if you’re picking up what I’m setting down. Needless to say, I’m not in the appropriate state of mind to be writing in—however, I was too excited not to publish this. I got the idea on the airplane over and finished it just now. Expect this intro to be edited in the morning if I remember I wrote this.

In short news, I’m safe and happy to be back home.

In this story I use several extended metaphors—but despite my eagerness to express my thoughts on my own writing, I’m much more eager to read what you think they mean. While unpolished and perhaps … etc. I’m not in the mood to explain. I’m just happy to have written again, despite my claims that I’m down with short stories.

With affection,
terry.

P.S. I’m working on ideas for a novel. Please leave your ideas on what you think should be included in the next great American novel. Move aside East of Eden!

P.P.S. Please read and leave your comments on what you think! There is nothing more disheartening for me to write without feedback. Don’t write me telling me good job, write me telling me what’s wrong—or what made you think, or a thousand other things that don’t have to do with stroking an ego that’s entirely too big for its own good.

The Woodsman.

When I was young, I came upon a place empty and void, but with the mind of a child, it had the potential to be anything. Unsure of what to do with this sacred place, I left it barren but moist; ready to bloom when I returned. I sat alongside the other children and listened to the history of my family, the land, and learned to smile with the same chant. Memorized, I said many great things and mesmerized, I knew there was none greater than the world I called my own.

My thoughts drifted through this world and back again many times before I remembered that empty place. Now, I knew what I must do— I would return and plant the seeds of my father’s land, and bring this world from the emptiness. I was proud and confident, for I could see what I must build, and it was beautiful.

I set off but was three steps down the road when my confidence took its first blow. The beautiful vineyard on the edge my father’s land had always been my favorite place, yet just beyond the wall I could see the wild bloom dying. The very vineyard that I loved was choking the land just beyond, ignorant of stifling the world outside the walls.

There was patch of flowers so blue that it appeared the sky itself had fallen and graced the land, but the slow march of death towards it ensured that yet another miracle would go by unnoticed. Helpless, the inevitable passed before me, and I feared. Feared what? I wasn’t sure then, and still I wonder what gripped me so violently, but it hasn’t let go. I knew that those vines would have no place in the world I would make, and I burned seeds until precious few were left from my father’s land and I took the seeds from the dying sky.

Beyond the walls of my father’s land, I saw many things that I didn’t understand. I spoke a great language yet could not communicate with some I met, even if I felt they too watched me behind eyes that knew better things. I traded seeds with many I met, and along my travels I kept only those I knew would make my patch of emptiness full. My pockets always felt light, but full, and I’ve never felt richer. Many times I traveled back to that sacred place to plant those seeds and watch fields grow, the trees stretch skyward, and thicken with pride. I sit many mornings in the sky, watching those blue flowers’ slow dance with the wind, and wonder how I ever thought I could build my father’s land here but leaning against the tall trees I brought from my father’s own birthplace, I feel a great sense of belonging and strength, and realize being great can mean many things.

Although I may have taken the long road away from my father’s land, never once did I feel sadness in leaving it behind; I think back to the day I left confident that I knew what the world was. Even with my world in full bloom, I was naive and young. There came a day when I met a pretty girl, who said many things I didn’t understand yet wanted nothing else but to. I took her to see my rapture, my world, and nervously watched her stare blankly around, unimpressed.

She said little, and even walked past my patch of sky without notice. In the coming weeks, she would ask many things— many terrible things. I would dig up the fields I loved to sit in to clear the land; I would carve up those trees that lasted all these years to build her a home. I contested with myself, declared it for love, and knew it was for better. Days would pass and more she would demand, and more I would slash. Soon there was little left of what I thought was heaven, and in its place was a new vision that was for us, for love, for practicality, for her.

Yet, the more I carved to gain, the more I seemed to lose. Her beauty faded into greed, and I gave in even more because there wasn’t enough left to keep, and I was scared of losing her after the price I paid. When the wells ran dry, and the trees were gone, and fields had returned to the emptiness whence they came— she left as well. In a fiery blaze of passion for someone else, some better man, she burned the home I had built from myself to shelter her, to please her, and left but charred ground.

I asked her but one question: not who, but why. Her answer stunned me so soundly that I did nothing to stop the fire. She had said from the doorway as she left:

“You are nothing but a woodsman. With your axe you hack away— I want a gardener. I don’t want to build something; I want to grow with someone.”

After all the years, I stared at the empty place I had found as a child so fascinating, the place I had filled with the greatest parts of the world I had seen to keep with me forever, to make me the man I wanted to be— the place I had carved at, slashed at, and watched burn to emptiness. I walked for miles in the ash of what could have once been something more, stared horrified at the end of the same slow march of death upon the bloom of my blue sky; the mistake I swore would never taint this place.

Among the wilted, I sat quiet and shaking. I felt young and inexperienced. I thought of home and felt an aching. I knew both that I could return and would not. The damage had been painful but not fatal. I sifted through the ashes to find the remnants of myself growing back. I gave it time and I waited patiently, eventually I watched the world rise forth from the emptiness. Different, though close, it was less bright and I built a wall of hard stone as a tribute to the memory of vulnerability.

I waited a long time for my patch of blue sky to come back, but it never did. Some cuts go too deep to heal, but never shallow enough to forget. I woke one day to accept this, and lived many after. I tended to what was left, what remained, what I could keep to hold strong. When I had the courage that my garden could once more weather any storm, I carefully stepped beyond my walls; I peered into the same world with wearied eyes. I didn’t speak to strangers to hear great things, and I ventured to my father’s land on occasion without fear of childhood impressionability. Ill-advised, I kept my eyes sharp for the sight of a patch of fallen sky, no matter how small.

I returned one day from my travels to see a stranger in the bare fields on the outskirts of my land. Beneath the hood revealed a beautiful woman, which made me immediately suspicious. Some cuts go too deep. But she asked for nothing but a conversation with the keeper of these lands, so that I gave her. She said many kind words for what she had seen when she had roamed my roads and gardens, but said, “It could use but a touch of color.”

Before I could protest, she kneeled down and plant but a single, bright blue flower.

Tears swelled up in my eyes, and I’ve never forgotten how hard hope is to find.

 

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What I do when I don’t write.

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