And so I found myself here, motionless. The ground had rushed up to meet up to meet me with its arms wide open. After so long fighting the pull of gravity I had relented. The lights trickled down through the shadows I had left, the bare canopy above me shaking with an eternal motion.
In front of me stretched flat plains of white. Ice and snow, ash and sand. My lips were parched, my stomach empty, and yet here I lay, so full of thought and feeling that I had to room for water or bread.
The cold came then, enveloping me. My head stopped spinning. Bells rang in some far away place. What had I left now as my legacy? A handful of textures, a few good memories. A trail of disappointment, a pit of self-loathing. I searched ahead of me, now pulling myself across the endless plain. Seeking that crystal heart, the one I had seen in dreams.
Asking where I had gone wrong was a pointless exercise. I could think of many times that would qualify. It wasn’t that uncommon. I suppose the question I had leading up to those moments was, where was the point of no return?
As I dragged myself on, my mind wandered further back. The snow began to fall, and the ash with it. The endless white plains began to fall into shadow and yet I was still looking ahead, seeking crystal spires and endless ocean to envelop me.
I realize it sounds strange, to be looking for these things, but that is what I expected. Some final sight, contrived or real. No choirs of angels, no endless tunnel. I certainly did not expect this endless, freezing sheet of white.
Then I saw it, a black spot looming in the distance. It stood proudly on the horizon. I pulled myself onward, dragging my broken legs. The white was barely moved by this, covering the crimson trails I left with disdain. I crept closer, slowly, haltingly. The spot began to twist in front of me, the closer I came. Tendrils stretched out, gnarled with age, sagging with the weight of a thousand years.
The great tree stood. Snow and ash fell around it, filled with deference for this ancient thing. I crawled there. Minutes turned to hours which turned to days and the everlasting white still waited, removing the evidence of my trail as I pulled myself with broken, freezing hands towards the tree’s embrace.
I pulled myself up, twisting around to sit in the shelter of the ancient thing. Nestled in the crook of undying roots, I looked the way I had come. My trail was not apparent, and the white seemed to stretch for an eternity. How long had I been here? What was happening where I came from? Did the sun still shine? Did the wind still blows through the branches of a thousand pine trees, playing that delicate song?
Unanswerable questions. I thought on what had brought me here. So a story began to form in my mind. My last story. The only thing I had ever been good at. The story to end all of my previous ones. Bookends for a life that might now be ending.
Our lives are like strands of thread. This metaphor isn’t new. A strand of the finest yarn, a crude length of hempen rope, our strands are all different, but share a similarity. Mine I always considered a simple blue strand of dyed twine. Inelegant past the coloring, frayed in places. Uncomfortable but sometimes effective. Along my strand things ran, a knot here and there marking important events. My first moments of self-awareness. Sometimes another strand would cross mine and just touch it in the barest way, informing some future choice. Sometimes we would be tangled violently. Occasionally there would be a strand that met mine. we would tie ourselves together in a knot and run alongside each other over several feet of our lives. Inevitably, they would end, another knot, frayed with poor choices and failed chances marking the terminus.
High school sweethearts, former friends. Lovers, family members. Sorrow, joy, bewilderment.
Along a stretch that ran for many years, stood several crossings and knots. A purple thread, made of soft, subtle yarn. In the beginning we often crossed each other. Sometimes the crossings would be gentle, sometimes not. Across a few feet, near the beginning they separate, and my thread stands there while the others turn at wild angles just to avoid crossing it. Then purple and I cross again. Tentatively, we come closer together. Then purple draws away again. Blue follows, rashly, foolishly perhaps. It tries to latch on. There is a series of knots then. Some large, some small. Other threads crisscross the pair at some of these points, making the knots messy, or in some cases pulling them apart.
Those were difficult times, and I made many choices I regret. They have informed much of my life, and I have learned from them, but learning is one thing. Using what you have learned is always a challenge.
Eventually blue and purple were tied together for what seemed like an eternity. We split again, flying far apart years later, but soon after we find ourselves once again entwined.
Then other threads come in. The threads of coworkers and overbearing bosses. A shining red thread that dances around the blue teasingly, though blue tries to avoid it, in doing so he joins the dance. Eventually they drift apart, and so blue finds himself imperceptibly further from the long running, straight strand of purple.
Concern, whispered conversations. Nights of drinking and general foolishness. Blue resolves to close the gap. Perhaps the time is come.
He closes it. Their paths run tighter than before. Then purple pulls away, alarm and uncertainty meeting blue’s fresh determination. Here the other threads surrounding him pull apart. Purple stays running nearby but as the months pass blue treads further and further, leaving all else behind. The sun sets on purple. Sometimes they meet. Blue tries, but feels distant. Then one moment in time purple leaves. The thread vanishes after a short hesitation, seeking another thread.
This was the first lesson. Blue and purple did meet again, of course, but things were never the same.
As time passed a white thread, fashioned of strands of silk, began to come closer to blue. Around that time, the red thread I mentioned earlier approached cautiously (at first). Their dance from before had long since ceased, but red closed the distance with determination. On the way, she became entangled with another thread, though blue did not know the extent of this. Blue saw red coming, one person who he truly trusted. He let her close. They intertwined. Both were vibrant. The old dance had finally found an ending. During this time, the white thread circled around, ignorant of patterns that red and blue were drawing.
Red and blue gave each other gifts, professions of favor, if not love. Stories told, nights shared. Songs were sung. Then, in a flash, red was gone. Blue knew it would happen, but he had hoped otherwise. Some certainty in him that he had relied on had somehow betrayed him. Closeness does strange things. It muddles the mind and makes us different from our true heart. Red was never out of sight though. The connection was still there, if strange and uncertain.
Blue moved on alone, and all the while the white thread came closer. Blue did not know what to think. Granted, he had ideas, but after purple and red, he did not know what to think. He let her run alongside him in the spring sun despite the concerns he had. Then one day, their strands were tied. Not in a jumble, not yet. In an elegant knot. The twine from blue had not frayed, and the silk from white was strong and true.
They journeyed far and wide, but were often separated. In these times, white continued on determinedly, while blue would fade into the background, isolating himself. He dug holes for his happiness and love when they were apart. He became so involved in his sadness. Still, when white and blue met their connection was undeniable. Blue hoped it would last forever. More foolish idealism. His happiness was unending, or so it seemed. Still, when they ran together, he felt a growing sense of uncertainty in his stomach.
She would go sometime. If he asked her to stay, maybe then she would and things would be alright. Perhaps this part of the story would not be for naught.
She went, and he tried to follow. Where she went though, was not a place for him to be. He sung to her, told her stories, sent her gifts. You could not deny that the threads were drawing further and further apart. The last knot they had been wound together in had long passed out of vision.
He told her. He asked her. She blamed him. He blamed her. She tied her knot with another. He continued on alone.
The lights were dim and blue soldiered on. Threads came and went. He tied loose knots but pulled himself out of them before too long. He traveled in spite of things falling apart around him. He shut himself off. Emotions like a storm, but the reserves he had for more tender feeling were filled with cynicism and frustration.
Before long he found himself in a new place. He gingerly approached threads. They crossed and ran together. Soon so many ran alongside that the time of this thread became a shining collection of color. Sometimes blue would pull himself free, as he was now wont to do, but inexorably he would drift back into the fold.
He was rebuilding. The cynicism and frustration was still there, but those things were slowly draining. A deep love for all of the strands alongside him lessened the concerns he had. Still, periods of relative calm are frequently upset by unexpected turns. With regret, he found himself pulled away from the threads he had started to run with. On the way he found others, but they merely crossed with him, almost as a courtesy.
Soon he was in another place entirely. The twine had been frayed by the journey. The blue has faded and the knots don’t tie very well, or sometimes tie to tight to compensate. So he marched on, not content in his solitude, though he had made a sort of peace with it. Then this strand crossed his path along with several others. It was like before. A feeling so long distant he had ceased to think of it as real at all. They danced, a short dance. Their knot was tied. And then the fraying happened. The knot was not sturdy. He was impatient. She was worried. In his excitement he makes grave mistakes. He isn’t used to this. He alienates the other threads that had slowly begun to gather around him. Perhaps some filaments of that new thread remain lodged in the twists of the twine somewhere. He can’t shake what has happened.
He regrets his mistakes. He thinks that the tug which pulled him away from his home in the story should perhaps have been resisted. He second guesses himself. The blue fades to a drab gray. The strength of the twine lessens. It is rough to the touch. It pulls itself away. It goes forward, alone. It seems something in the distance but dwells in the past. Perhaps that knot was tied tighter than originally thought.
He is weak, and uncertain. He pulls hard against what has come before, and the twine gives, expanding into countless blue filaments, barely holding on to each other.
The tree sits patiently, cradling me in its arms. It seems to grow stronger as I become sleepier. For a moment, I think I see something far in the distance, from the direction I came. A white railing floats in the sky. Doors on the other side, painted blue. Blue twine dangles from the railing, the ends frayed and long disconnected from the rest of the string. I hold a hand to my face. The skin under my fingernails shows the unhealthy purple of frost embraced flesh. My chest is covered in a deep, shining red, darkening as it dries. The white snow and ash falls around me. For a moment, an otherworldly sun pierces the endless cold white. There is a moment of warmth as the endless fields of ash and snow reflect shades of blue and black. Stunningly beautiful, and strikingly sad.
My lips have become so dry that the mere movement of them cracks their purpled coloring, creating fresh streaks of red. My skin is white and dying. I close my eyes and in those moments I see that final thread. It is strong and determined. This is enough.
I open my eyes and I see in front of me a vast web. Threads of all colors and types run across it, meeting others. Knots are tied, untied. Threads snap. Some stop. Others change color gradually. The complexity is staggeringly beautiful. I cannot help but smile as I close my eyes one more time.
This started as a whole other idea but it wasn’t coming together. In the end it is simple. Barely even a song at all. It teases a melody. The melody leaves. Really what is left is echoes of all the sounds that played before. It isn’t a happy tune, and it isn’t wholly sad. It just wonders which part came in where, and how it affects the rest. Please enjoy.
I thought last night that I had a lot to say here today. Using words. Stories and worries.
As I sit and type, this seems to not be the case. There are uncertainties, there are concerns. There is music in my fingers again, and my contrived demeanor of good-natured nonchalance is nearly impossible to maintain these days.
Nothing specific would be appropriate here though. I appreciate the concerns, the frustration. I apologize for them.
Now, what will today bring? I do not know, but in some ways I fear the twists that might be coming. Certainty is a luxury I do not have as of late.