BY John Thomas Tuft

Beside a stream, he watches the shadows of the leafy trees and darting insects draw a diorama in the wrinkled glass of the water. The frisson of the dreamlike state turns the sounds into a lullaby of late summer, the staccato of the tree frogs accompanying the swell of cicadas and the solo of a wood thrush invoking the melody of creation. His thoughts become an enjambment of feeling and sensation, no pause of comma or comity of semicolon. The kingdom of the pebbled brook’s path, contained within its banks yet feeding the biosphere of beauty, wears the bejeweled crown of the sun, invisible light revealing mysteries untold. A solitary spider has managed to span the flow with a single thread of silk from which he hangs precariously, suspended in midair, dangling as though lost in thoughts which prevent his completing the task he set himself to accomplish. A young doe dips low to take a drink, ever watchful lest a predator spy her fawn resting in the shade at the edge of the woods.

His thoughts are kestrels hovering in the thermals of regret and grief, high overhead looking down on what might have been, as memories bleed away into the lengthening shadows. Soon he must gather himself up like the remains of a picnic hastily eaten on the side of the path, retrieve the detritus of his meal of routine dreams and cheap hope in order to leave no trace of his passing. He stands up and in a fit of petulance swipes at the weed alongside the stream which anchors one end of the spider’s strand. To his amazement the spider remains suspended over the water, unfazed. Such are the invisible silken threads of true hope. The spider is prepared for such uncertainties and has already spun another anchor while the man sulked. The doe retreats from the water’s edge to the protective shade, placing herself between the intruder and her baby.

As he follows the path beside the stream he comes upon a fair maiden stirring a pot of stew over a fire. “I have emptied the sky,” she says. “All of truth is here for you to taste.” He looks in the pot and sees potatoes, carrots, peas, onions, and beef in a thick broth. “I can find that anywhere,” he complains. “Exactly,” she demurs as she drops balls of biscuit dough on top of the steaming pleasure. “But do you taste it? Do you take it in until it becomes a part of you?” She pauses and looks deeply into his eyes. “A man who knows what is best for the spider must surely drink deeply of all of life’s wisdom. He must have intimate knowledge of all of life’s wants and needs and purposes. Is this true?” He is vexed and impatient. The smell of the cooking pot of truth is sorely tempting. “I am hungry. Feed me,” he insists. “First,” she insists, as she dips a ladle into the stew and brings up a helping of steaming sky with a doughy biscuit floating in it, “tell me the name of the fawn who rested nearby.”

And the man cannot so he must journey on. While picking his way over the rocks resting alongside of the stream he comes upon an old man sitting on a boulder. “What are you doing?” asks the traveler. The old man turns his rheumy eyes from the diorama of the water, blinks slowly. “I am missing.” The traveler is puzzled. “Are you lost?” The old man blinks again. “Are you found?” he asks, then continues, “I used to be a god drifting in the sky, but now I find myself here. Can you put me in a book, or somewhere safe like a shelter, or something like that? I’ll gladly be the god of spiders and deer, but I need someone to tell me. Make it so, my good man.” The traveler considers this. “What is in it for me?” The old man seems strangely sad. “Why, you will have created a god. You will have created a purpose. You will have made answers where none existed. You will be remembered, my good man. Is that not enough?”

And it was not enough so he must journey on. In due time, the traveler comes upon a meadow. In the middle of the meadow a child sits crying. “Why do you weep?” asked the traveler. The little girl looks up. “Can you rise up a tree for me?” He is puzzled. “I’m not in charge of trees. How does one rise up a tree?” She stands and puts her fists on her hips. “You take all of your lonesome, all of your wishes that never came true, all of the love that you hoped you would have but couldn’t find, and all of your secret hurts and put them in a burlap sack. Then you tie it closed with a single strand of the silk of a spider’s web and plant it where the baby deer rest. Have you not been paying attention? Life is poetry in motion.” And, unfortunately, he had not…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.