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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 hinted.

"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 journey.

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 direction.

[]

work in progress - newbridge 25.07.02



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