t h e t e l l i n g
b y A n d r e w L o v a t t
[for Sarah McDermott - excerpt from work in progress]
He slid into view as if out of nowhere or some other
hidden part of reality. A moment not, then there, and looking at me suddenly.
He had the smell and aura of the West upon him. Something in the rugged,
wrinkled face like the smell of the sea and the relentless blast of the
Atlantic winds. Leaving its mark on him, like a bogwood tree stripped
of pretense. Carved out of the natural suffering, existing gloriously
in his place, as if rightful. Full of being. Resonant with the hum of
a song, pursed on his lips. His eyes flashed mischievously as a wry smile
"How could I begin the telling when it has no beginning and is always
waiting to be told to ears who have the wax taken out of them? This story
you've asked for is the one you know. I saw you ask for it by the
way your body gestured, as if it was ready to hear it once more. You know
it already, and have forgotten it so many times. Do you not remember?
Somewhere in the dark beginnings, where things are born in secret corners
so that the clever people of day won't see what's really going
on, somewhere there is where your story of the birth of the wolf child
comes from. It could be a woodsman's tale, but is just as likely
a fisherman's or some old crone who started the telling. And I've
told it to you many times, when you weren't listening proper. Ah,
you've all lost the art of listening, and the sadder you are for
it anyways. And yet you yearn for the breath of our stories to bring wetness
to your dry souls.
It was the days when the land was filled with forest, from coast to coast.
Thick deep forest. Green and brown and wet and warm. Even the west wind
couldn't get into it. We had no sun in those days, but the sky was
a canopy of green filtered light that rested the soul and brought out
the magic in people. There were no roads and no signposts, and yet every
opening was a path to somewhere and something to be learned from every
All was made out of the things of the woods. Little clearings where folks
cut trees and put up cabins and huts with branches and leaves for roofs
and chimneys for burning a little wood to keep them warm at night. You
could find others by the smell of the rich smoke or the tiny flicker of
candlelight. For folks in those days knew how to keep bees happy and had
plenty of wax, and honey for eating too. It was by the flicker of beeswax,
sitting on the floor of the old woman's house after a full meal that
I first heard of the wolf boy.
There was once a woodsman who grew to maturity carrying this special gift
around with him. Something he knew nothing about, only that in his stomach
he yearned for the soul of another and yet could never find it. This strange
gift caused him to wander through the forest in search of his answer.
He was as if born with a riddle written into him. And in those days there
was no end to the woods and you could walk forever and never find it all.
And so he did. He became known to many. Would come and stay awhile and
do his work. He built good houses and knew how to sing with the birds
and hum with the bees, so he was handy to have around. But everyone knew
he carried this unspoken sadness and yearning about him. Like a halo of
grief and longing. Not that his face betrayed. He always smiled.
The mystery, said the old woman, began when the old ones caught first
sight of him. Amongst themselves they talked in whispers that were so
subtle only they could hear. Yet as quiet as they murmured still they
could hear each other clear across the island. They spotted him when he
was a young lad, some said they'd known about him from his own birth,
which had also been strange and telling. Anyway, they knew he was afoot
and looking. And so they lead him at times, hinting things to him one
from the other, guiding him through the forest on his long journey. He
had to ripen they told. And until that time much he had to learn about
the darkest corners of the world and the twists of seeming fate which
turn a person about like a piece of wood in the making of something useful.
These old ones were kind to him, knowing well that his fate would be unkind
in the making. They were faithful to the seeing of his purpose too.
So he wandered, not aimlessly and still not with fixed notion, but drawn
by a hidden yearning to understand why it was that he felt things so strongly
and saw things so strangely. As if the world were upside down or he was
one who didn't quite fit. Settled and happy lives were everywhere,
he thought, and only he a wanderer amongst the living forest people. And
so his route took him through many learnings, at first how to grow trees,
make houses and farm the honey bees; and often he found himself under
the tutelage of old men or women who knew a thing or two. He could smell
it in them. But the lessons were often anything but clear, as if they
purposely lead him by suggestion and image and dream rather than by clear
work in progress - newbridge 25.07.02