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Phonetics Part I: Plosives


Yesterday here at the Hermitage, all and at once the birds stood still. Little silhouettes on tree branches posed midalight and lifting. Silence rolled forward and heavyheaved its body onto the here and now. Is the end of time the end of movement?

Standing in the high stone tower of the Hermitage, forehead pressed against stone, l squint my eyes toward the silent courtyard below. One more revolution around the sun has brought us to another spring, and the birds have build their nests in unlikely places. I found one under my bed, inside my slipper.

During my daily hours of solitude I experience a diminishing sense of reality. Thoughts intrude. Strange and vaguely sinister plants sprout here and there in the garden, and when we attempt to pull them out, so as not to be overrun with them, they show a fierce resistance. These tentacled plants have come from the south, the local farmers say.

It seems our piece of earth has changed before our eyes. Once these dirt roads were lined on each side with beautiful maples that formed a shady canopy, great living tunnels of green through which we walked. Sometimes we would see a toad in the road before us. Toad, we would say. Come and walk with us. And the toad would lead us down the road a bit. That was long ago. I have not seen a toad in twenty years. 

Three days ago I saw a snake slither through the orchard, where the trees were barely beginning to hint at green. The birds were still flying then, and their sound filled the silence, or so I thought. I hadn't yet realized that silence is not the absence of sound, but a presence of some thing. Something I had not noticed before the birds ended their conversation.

I felt the first bite of the future as a sharp little pain on the back of my neck at my hairline, while at morning meditations. Reaching up, I felt something hard and small, and pinch-pulling it down through my long hair, took it to the light, where I recognized a familiar deer tick. A little insect-being that had hungrily hopped onto my clothing, began its long climb to the summit, and was feeding on my tender neck. I trapped it under a glass on the kitchen counter, hoping for a better look after I had completed afternoon chores. That night, the number of ticks trapped under the glass had grown to ten.

Train yourself to not react negatively toward the ticks. I admonished myself. Practice loving-kindness toward all living beings. Listen to the silent earth. I carefully carried the glass of captive ticks to the edge of the nearby enchanted forest, turned it upsidedown and gently tapped, tumbling them out like dice onto the earthen floor. There, they transformed themselves into fairies, once again.

We plant trees, but later find the saplings pulled from the ground and carefully placed seductively-posed against their once-protective fences. Life drawings, so to speak. There are serial killer artists among us. We place our stools on somewhat level ground and prepare our paper, pencils, paints and small canning jars of turpentine to clean our brushes. The drawings are dark, full of shadow, and the paints sweet tasting, like money.

We begin to question our motives and wonder if we are here for an awakening of sorts, or perhaps we are here to view the ending. Some people come to the Hermitage for solitude and the contemplative life. Some come for protection. They are running away. Some have come for answers. These are the seekers. Some have come for us. These visitors have taught me to reconsider the fleas. Slow and steady, deliberately climbing the fibers of clothing, inching up toward tender skin, toward life.

A man who came here drove a small cart rather recklessly. A young woman took a ride with him. I watched as they sped away, and all at once the cart hit a bump and tumbled forward over itself. The woman folded neatly in half, within the bent and folded metal framework of the cart. A crowd began to gather, and some of the men struggled to wrench the metal apart from the motionless body. "Just get up," said an onlooker, and like an empty-eyed and frozen marionette, she obediently did so. She was bent at the waist and unaware of her predicament. I drew near and cupped my hand under her elbow to steady her stiff jerky movements.

I wondered at whether she would make it. One onlooker said she may have been a mother.


"Ever and always" the fairies said. "Ever and always."


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