These stones had been here for almost two hundred years, maybe more. Cleared by a farmer’s hand, he laid them atop another much larger one he could never move, to clear his pasture land for grazing Ancon sheep. These short-legged, wooly animals were a genetic aftermath of some Massachusetts mistake permitting low stone walls and shallow fences around the countryside to be built. These stones I had found here and there about these woods were leftover afterthoughts of some greater task. No Giza in the desert. No Chichen Itza. No Stonehenge. Just a practical doing away with a bit of solitary labor. For me their anonymity was a great relief. Unless some reckless body troops through these woods again long after I am gone, they were there. Unless a Wrecker of Mead Halls, some outlandish, wanton arm of purposeful carelessness comes by, these rocks must remain lovely and pointless as the backside of the illumined moon, dust upon some forgotten shelf of being, a pair of wings fallen off a nameless angel. Long after we ourselves had been allowed to fade away like nothing, like that hard-working farmer’s breed of sheep, all our sunken thoughts were still awaiting some rising of the great Ocean’s long forgotten seas.
Several years ago, or, as I’d say, a few years back, I had glanced upwards and saw a lone deer making its way down the steep half-wooded hill behind my house. It did so holding its broken left back leg up, the hoof never touching the ground. A pretty big animal, it slipped and skidded down the leaves and scattered snow there. Once I saw it had crossed my yard, I next saw it crossing the iced-over road, where it fell. It scrambled on the slippery asphalt before it rose. Lame, hobbled, damaged I watched it disappear into the forest on the other side. And I thought about this poor beast’s days being numbered. Despite pain, injury, and hopeless winter survival it did not give up. We of course do. And when we foresee coming despair, we sometimes do strange things. We have ourselves tied to ships’ masts lest singing voices carry us away. We have ourselves anesthetized lest we drive far off into the night and accuse our forsaken lovers of fistfuls of treacheries. We half-booze ourselves to death lest we feel the Earth’s own sorrow. But the will and pacing of this deer was something else. It was more than symbol, and more than sign. It was the very breath of life, whose only certain destiny was to one silent day stop somewhere in the woods alone.
I’d given the usual pint of blood every fifty-six days for the usual half-known reasons. It was something I’d done since high school and had forged my father’s signature over for parental permission to do so. And so long as I was nearby a local Red Cross and wasn’t sick or going to be stacking wood later in the day or conducting a symphony in the evening, I’d go. I think what I like about it was the unknown effect of doing something that’s good to do. That’s all. Once I was sent a post card that named the hospital about forty-five miles away from my house where a patient had been helped out by my unit donated, and that made me feel uneasy and squeamish. I’d rather not know if my blood saved the life of a criminal drunk behind a wheel smashed into a tree, or a little baby with a congenital heart defect under surgery. And afterwards, there were the usual snacks and donor chatter at the snack-and-chatter table where people snacked and chatted about cholesterol and their weight and about the new owners of the local meat market in town we all knew. And I didn’t say a word myself to be clever or prescient or knowing much about anything at all. I didn’t even remember to say how I’d been walking down the mountain just two days before and had crossed the path of another hiker going up who’d warned me about a rattlesnake along the trail she’d seen. And in our chatting about what to do and what not to do when faced with natural dangers or dangers in nature, she said, as for mosquitoes, “Big deal. What’s it to me to give a mosquito a drop of my blood? A little itch.” And I’d said back to her, “When that happens, I’m flying!” She laughed, and wandered on. “Happy descent!” she hollered over her shoulder. “Happy ascent!” I hollered back.
The painted stone reliefs of Arcadia will already have been vanished. Whatever had looked upon these walls will have long disappeared. Still, the lichen will grow and exist as it did. And somewhere else, the horseshoe crab, with its strange bluish blood, will crawl upon the sea floor. And somewhere else, too, the louse. And somewhere a beetle. Adamantine reality will not call to us. Though another had once said that the stars are there because they needed us to see them. And still another yet because we had imagined them to be. But we can see today that these boldings are over. It is not very difficult to see that now. Whatever was our tenancy here, it was had briefly. At times it was most spectacular. And glorious. At others, not so much. From a leftover bluestone quarry that was completely abandoned 150 years ago, it is still important for the few passersby who come here to walk through last season’s fallen leaves along the footpath and pass by this silent, earthly beauty.