In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “New.”
He was used to the wind. He liked the way it buffeted him, challenged him to a fight. Often he fought it and won. Right to the top of the mountain, he’d battle against the wind, wiping the ice from his eyes, footstep after footstep in the snow. And he’d stand on the summit, leaning into the wind, and savour his achievement.
And then one day, he lost. The wind was stronger than him and it knocked him down and each time he tried to get up, it knocked him down again. After a while, he didn’t try to get up anymore but lay face down in the snow, understanding at last that he would never beat the wind. It was there when the world began and would still be there at the end. His victories over the wind were as nothing; little quarrels the wind had let him win because it couldn’t be bothered. In the vastness of time, the wind would always win.
He lay in the snow, dug his hands deep, and closed his eyes.
A long time passed. Long enough for him to visit eternity, or for empires to rise and fall. Or perhaps it was just a few minutes.
He awoke in the sand, face down. At first he didn’t dare believe he was alive. Then he heard the sound of waves, and of children laughing, and he felt the warmth of the sun. He lay there motionless. Just the slow, regular heave of his breath and the zigzag jumps of his eyes: sand close up, sharing his view with the blue of the sky and a belt of green trees further off. Bits of wood scattered along the beach. People. Smoke from a barbecue. A little boat in the distance.
He lay without moving until he was part of the beach. Deep in the sand, his fingers took root. A cool breeze came in from the sea, danced the length of his body, teased him towards the light. The bumps of his spine turned into buds, each one a tingle of life, a new awareness, a new place to be. A pathway stretching from the centre of the earth to the sun.
The wind, he knew, would be back one day, ripping him up, destroying him. But he had no quarrel with the wind anymore. You don’t fight something to which you belong, of which you are a part. Death and renewal. Combined in a single lust.
A brief explanation
The text is intended to stand alone as an elegy to life. But being a contribution to the Daily Post’s photo challenge on the theme of ‘New’, a comment on its origin might be helpful. The tree is a baobab on Ngouja Beach in Mayotte, where my wife and I have just moved – a new beginning. Felled by the wind, it’s growing again, and I took that as a metaphor for life and rebirth: how we adapt and start again, both as individuals and as part of a living planet. The picture inspired me to write a text that might be enjoyed on its merits alone because that’s what I generally try to do when I write. So it’s an example of what this blog is about: on the one hand are texts I write, and on the other hand, somewhere, there are potential readers. The blog is my attempt to connect the two. It’s not a typical example (for that, see One Green Bottle), but it’s indicative of the process. But for me it’s not just a matter of finding readers who then become abstract figures – readers are real people with lives of their own and a blog is also a way to interact, exchange ideas, get to know them a little. And of course to thank them.