By John Thomas Tuft

“It’s on you,” she said, with a casual smile and a light toss of her hair. “Yo’all study yourselves incessantly. It’s like you believe life is all about you. There’s a whole universe out there that really doesn’t care if you’re loving Guccis or guppers, you know?” Tessa stood in front of the opening to the small cave, the one locals called The Grotto. She gestured toward the interior. “I’m almost finished with my anagama kiln. That’s Japanese, from China by way of Korea, now mind you. Small world, right? You put your clay pots inside for firing, stack the wood just right, and light ‘er up. You gotta figure where the flame is going to go and then stay there for three days and three nights, tending the fire every five minutes or so. That’s real dedication.”

Tessa threw her arms out wide to take in the sweep of the tree covered hills that crowded around the hidden spot. “Like everything else, when it comes right down to it, it’s what you do, much more than what you say, that counts. Talk true, act true. That’s what I go by. It ain’t quantum physics, if you know what I mean.” She threw back her head and let out a hearty laugh. “Or, is it?” she added with a wink. “This whole world, hell, this whole goldarned universe, is what? I’ll tell you what.” She sat down on a nearby stump, rolled up the sleeves of her flannel shirt, and picked up a piece of firewood.

“I’ve learned, watching yo’all, that you are…how shall I put it…sometimes very indulgent of ignorance. Can you tell me why that is? I’ve been here nigh on two years and I don’t understand.” She nodded to the anagama kiln. “That right there is my ticket home, but that’s neither here nor there.” She pounded the piece of wood on the ground. “It’s what’s in this chunk of a log.” She got a mischievous look in her eyes as she pointed to her head. “Same thing that’s in here.” She studied Jason for a long moment. “Little pieces. Little pieces of whatever. Particles, and energy. And a whole lot of what?” she challenged.

Waited a beat. “Space. A whole lot of space. The world is nothing more than little pieces of whatever, some energy, and a whole lot of space. Every last thing. Any where, any time.”

Jason shifted uneasily from one foot to another. “Take the weight off and sit a spell,” Tessa insisted. Jason obliged as she continued, “What do you suppose all that space is for? Believe me there is lightyears of it out there,” she indicated the sky. “Little pieces, energy, and space. You know what I think? I think it’s the space that holds all the rest of it together.” She leaned in close. “You think that might be what spirit is?” She sat back, surveying the stacks of firewood waiting for the anagama kiln, thoughtful. “You know what I think some of that space is for,” she tapped on her head again, “in here?” A faraway look came into her eyes, as though viewing distant worlds. “Do you know about event boundaries?”

“Talk true, act true has consequences. You ever go from one room to another and can’t remember why you went there? That’s an event boundary. Your brain saying, ‘okay, we are done in here, through the doorway means something new, forget about the last room.’ So you go back to where you started to try to jog your brain, am I right? Maybe jiggle the pieces and energy of your brain, trying to rearrange the spaces.” Jason mused on that for a moment or two. “So how’s that spirit?”

Tessa smiled. “Kinda reminds me of what yo’all call forgiveness. It’s like an event boundary. Somebody does you wrong. Or say, you do somebody else wrong. Sometimes you let it fester. You go through another door, lose track of that wrong, so you turn around and go back to find it again. You talk a little less true, you act a little less true because the spaces in your head are knocking into each other. But what if you ask someone to forgive you or you go to them for forgiveness? If you actually walk through that door, the forgiveness doorway, and keep on going, it is gone, forgotten. The little pieces and the energy sit well in all those spaces. Talking true and acting true makes it easier to stay that way. In everything. Because the spaces are in order. Your spirit is at peace.”

“You got all that from a hunk of wood?” Jason asked, bemused. Tessa shrugged. “Talk true, act true. It could affect the whole world. Who knows, even beyond!”

Words are magic, and writers are wizards. (from the notes for Midnight Shepherd)