What to do with the dead things watching all around like shepherds abiding in the field? They watch from inside the walls, from inside the car and living room sound systems, from inside the stains on the carpet and the shoes still under the piano. They watch the decorated tree, the absurdity of glass balls and colored lights on a pine tree inside the house. They make it seem bizarre, like the sky filling with fearsome lights and hosts of angels announcing babes in swaddling clothes. And when we go to the manger to look, we find only dead things watching there as well. From the stark white field they watch blankly over the sad, empty barn, the unused sawdust still in the corners of the stall, the untouched hay still dangling in the net.
What to do with all these dead and watching things but to ponder them in our hearts? When will they go away? And if they won’t, how many dead things watching can one person hold? How many, before a person goes insane or dies themselves and begins to watch from inside the things they used to use, from the air within the places they used to live and visit? Even the deer who walked solitary across the lawn in the night, leaves between the long shadows at noon some sad part of itself inside its tracks. Ordinarily, that would not be so, had not so many dead things been watching and whispering the story of the deer into the receptive ears of my imagination.
The deer, a buck it turns out, he came from Wolcott, spread his seed heavily around the region throughout his twelve long years. At three years of age, he’d lost his left eye to one fierce male challenger before establishing himself the superior one in strength and will. There was no mistaking this one-eyed buck for another, for the damage to his face was distinct. Around the blank, sunken place where his eye had once been, and on down to the corner of his mouth, it was dark and furless and the shape of an upside down tear. He’d been identified so many hundreds of times by so many hunters in their seasons of killing, that he’d garnered the nickname “Achilles.”
He was a favored topic deep in the woods under naked moons, in beer- and liquor-soaked hunting lodges all over the state. Hunters who dared to believe, swore they could hear Achilles’ name sizzling from the fires as they pissed them out on their way to drinking their long day shut. And in their fitful, drunken sleeps, they saw Achilles with his garish tear and his great misshapen rack—five points on the right side and three points sprouting myriad other points on the left—trampling them under foot and snorting back laughter over his massive backside. But in the broad daylight when the telling of tall tales resumed and the hot air of them wisped from mouths and froze white on beards, it became a joke to take aim at Achilles’ heel, for surely then he’d be felled.
Achilles was scarred from arrows and bullets that had grazed and glanced off his hide, but he was either too intelligent or too blessed to be killed by mankind. “It was a great grey wolf king that did the honor,” whispered the dead, watching things. On a biting wind that swirled down and up from Achilles’ last tracks in the snow, I heard it was not so much his body, but his will that’d got old. It seems it was more a fight between his will and his survival instinct, than it was between him and the wolf king. And Achilles’ will was just strong enough to win that last challenge that freed his deer soul. He gave his life up quickly and with grace, and the meat of his gigantic body gave the strength of life to a pack of wolves, fattened the bellies of their yearling pups.
The next summer, I saw a daughter of Achilles come out from the woods pushing time, looking back. A big, spotted son of hers followed reluctantly, daring the scent of danger, mistaking it in ignorance for a less evil thing. She pressed the point, and she made a large circle before going back into the woods, to buy them some time. Sure enough, a bit later came the danger, a mangy, dog-like beast running full of purpose, nose to the ground, following exactly and quickly the scent found in the otherwise vacant steps of the mother. When the beast got to her circle, it was stymied for a time, made its own determined, small circles until it zeroed in on the mother’s large circle which it traced back into the woods.
That was the only answer the dead and watching things gave to my question. Only that spring will come, babies will be born, new things will happen and it will be more of the same only different and so profuse that it will overwhelm our senses, overspill our time, and push the old things out the top of our overfull brains. It’s no easy thing, all that goes on, all that washes over us when the tide come in, and all that washes away from us on its way back out to sea. It’s wearing, all this perpetual giving and taking, heating and cooling, flooding and receding until we’re bleached out by the sun, white and waterless, cracked dead wood on battered beaches. But until that day comes, in the meantime of our lives, the dead and watching things, they dare us to live.
My “Achilles” is Julie Zickefoose’s buck, from her blog.
Click here for more on prompt “#194 – Dare” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.
These are footsteps across a wide field, snow-strewn: we’re asked to consider each of our steps, ponder, step with utmost care: so much to reflect upon in the pacing of this piece. What to do with them? I was thinking that is their question to us: what to do with us, reminding me of William Sloane Coffin’s quote that he doesn’t much worry about our belief in God; he worries about God’s belief in us.
While southern boy is all giddy in his Xmasmaxwellfoofoomess down here, I like this take outside of it all, outside all our little spirit houses, out there.
Thank you again for the blessing you continue to be, from the coffee smells all the way through the radioactive wonder. Much love to you.
I got a chuckle out of the WSC quote. But I’ve got a feeling there’s nothing to worry about in that regard. Ever’body gets the love, and therefore the value, whether they want it or know it or not. And you can get a chuckle out of that because what do I know? LOL! Same as dead watching things daring us to live, like they’re on that God side of knowing, and if they are, then we’ve got nothing to worry about—we’re gonna live ‘til we die! Fucking profound, I know, and what do I know, again, and LOL, again!
Yeah, I took a peek over at your Jesus’ Birthday landslide, and whoa! talk about sensory overload! Professor, compared to me, you’re ADHD. You go! I tell you, I admire you’re efficiency and brainpower like you admire my radioactivity.
so glad to have found your blog!
Well, good! Thanks for hopping here. I took a look at your place and it’s happnin’, like the Professor. I like the type, colors, layout—the black of it, the three column challenge of it, the Holga effects of it…
@fickle…great-looking blog. you should make short films, if you don’t already.
A great surge of emotion and wonder emerges in the beauty of bambis who seem to carry far more of human dna than chimps and bananas. Superb, superb!
Hahaaa, you never know what you’ll find here! Maybe my moods are ADHD! Double thanks for the superbs : )
The center point fulcrum of this piece is, I think, the pissing on the fire, “Those who dare to believe…” sums it up. The snowy field must believe in foot prints as much as the foot prints believe in snow. And then come the poets, like you, following the scent !
Hey there, Bass! Good to see you again. I think you’re right. Whether you are or not, I’ll take that mutual belief like a shot of Zen comfort and be eternally happy inside as always. Outside’s a different matter. It forgets. Good thoughts. Nice compliment. Poet… OK : )
Wonderful! I never thought of it that way, and I especially like “How many dead things watching can one person hold?” Wow!
I’m glad you came by, liked this, and left me this nice note : ) I’m still chuckling over your raccoon story and it’s perfect ending: after the baccoonalian rampage, the unwitting elderly lady asks her logical question…
My my. How apropos, I was just listening to Achilles Last Stand in my car at lunch, and then I come here and read about ole Achilles himself, in all his odd-point glory and gruesome teardrop scar-eyed magnificence! Here, have a listen to go with:
I love this kind of generational tale of nature. You’d do Jack London proud with this kind of stuff. You’ve taken us on a few trail runs before, and I like it every time.
“Only that spring will come, babies will be born, new things will happen and it will be more of the same only different and so profuse that it will overwhelm our senses, overspill our time, and push the old things out the top of our overfull brains.” And so it is. Life. Universal. The complete and unending circle.
Keep on jogging. And jogging our minds by articulating the shutter of your wonderfully photographic soul.
Excellent, music man. Exactly what I’m needing at this moment. Actually, I loves me some Zeppelin anytime, anywhere: funerals, weddings, church services, especially graduations… Thank you. I will keep on, Lord willing, so you can keep on leaving me these cool notes : )
Yes there is love here. Love and wonder and the weight of all that. You are the queen. From Val shaking her ass to Achilles reminding us of the trails we all leave behind and who do we follow and who follows us. “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” wow and wow.
Love, yeah, for sure. I’ve been beat up over the losses of 2009 and I sat down to receive my answer and this piece came and did the trick. Just like “The Sunshine Vignettes” came to me and explained the first of the 2009 losses in a way I could understand. I love the lightning rod effect. Ask and you definitely, oh yes, definitely will receive : D Thanks for this note, Dee : )
What a captivating phrase – ‘dead and watching things’. I really enjoyed your piece and beautiful pictures. And thanks so much for the thoughtful comments left on my piece. Jae
Thanks, Jae. I’m so pleased you stopped by and liked what you saw : )
This was just a smash, boffo blast out of the park. The pace, the description just wonderful. You capture things so wonderfully in this. Bravo.
Whoa, did I ever love this comment! The energy in it, talk about a blast! Thank you, T : )
Me and my friend were walking
In the cold light of mourning
Tears may blind the eyes
But the soul is not deceived
In this world even winter
Ain’t what it seems
In our lives we hunger
For those we cannot touch
All the thoughts unuttered
And all the feelings unexpressed
Play upon our hearts
Like the mist upon our breath
But awoken by grief
Our spirits speak
How could you believe
That the life within the seed
That grew arms that reached
And a heart that beat
And lips that smiled
And eyes that cried
Could ever die?
Here come the blue skies
Here comes springtime
When the rivers run high
And the tears run dry
When everything that dies
Love is stronger than death
–The The, “Love is Stronger than Death” (Dusk)
Hello Walter, you lyrics-quoting guy, you! Highly appropriate for the subject matter, yes. And *bonus* I learned about The The, a band I had never ever heard of. I looked them up and enjoyed the heck out of the video of “Love is Stronger than Death.” So thank you. I only need you to try to put into words what love is in the context of this song : )
Hello there, Lady A! I’ve been checking in on you as well, lurking at a distance. Your writing always stirs me up, makes me think & feel in different directions, and this piece with its weight of life & the dead and watching things– such an amazing phrase — sent me reeling again. Your portrait of Achilles & his descendants was just beautiful. Thank you.
Hi Anno! I’m so glad you came by and left this nice note for me. It’s good to have you here : )