I have lots of words but don't know the right order for them.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

How To Get There

Two men were walking along a forest path late on a midwinter afternoon, in search of a particular village, when they came to a division of the way into three separate directions without any indications.
‘Which way should we go?’ said the first man.

'There’s no sign of a sign to help us,’ said the second. They pondered for a while.  ‘I know, let’s spin a stick, and we’ll follow whichever road it points to.’

There being no better plan, they each went off into the forest to find a suitable stick to spin.

‘I’ve found one!’ cried the first man. ‘So have I!’ cried the second. They met up and compared the two sticks.
‘I found mine first,’ said the first man.

‘Maybe, but mine is straighter.’
‘Which shall we spin, then?’


‘No, I think mine actually.’

By now it was beginning to get quite dark. Suddenly they saw that a stranger, warmly clad and bearing a lantern, had joined them. 
'Can I be of assistance?’ he asked them kindly. The two men explained their predicament. 
The stranger thought for a while, toying with the two sticks as he pondered. At last, looking up, he smiled and said:

‘Yes. I come from the village you seek, and so can advise you with some certainty.’

‘Advise us, please,’ said the two men.
The stranger smiled again and raised one of the sticks like a wand.

‘This stick is surely the truer, and will spin beautifully.’

Thus saying he bade them a good evening and continued on his way.

[I blogged this story a few years ago, and its origin goes back much further.]

Thursday, 2 February 2012


I don’t go into the forest except to hunt.  It’s a rule of survival.  Not only the creatures but also the vegetation, it can snare you, drag you down, entwine you in hard flexible tendrils and devour you, at its own slow pace, rotting you until you become its compost food.  I have seen this done, even by vegetation I like to eat.  So I don’t go, except when I must.

But today, as it is getting light enough to see a little way into the trees, I hear a sound I never heard.  The forest is never silent, of course, and I cannot claim recognition of all its songs, but this is new.  I have to go and investigate.  I find a skin and put it on.  My spear is where it always is, two arm lengths inside the cave’s mouth.  I learnt that a long time ago – give yourself an advantage.  At the beginning, after I made my first spear, I left it propped right by the entrance, but then a snake taught me to be a bit more clever.  If the snake, or any creature, can reach the spear, I can’t.  You have to be more clever to ride the rules of survival.
Outside, I don’t hear the new sound any more.  I turn each way, as always, eyes and ears catching every direction.  I’ve learnt rules for survival – step three paces that way, stop, look, listen, step three the other way, look up, look down, repeat.  Look down is the easiest to forget; a snake (not that same one, I’d killed that!) once almost grabbed my ankle with its huge open jaws, would have swallowed me if I’d not been quick enough to fall over backwards.  That was a clever trick!  After that snakes became easier to deal with, I learnt their ways and even how to trick them into letting me follow them.  Sometimes they could lead me to good things without knowing.
When I catch creatures, using my spear or my snares, as I drag them back to the cave to eat, I sometimes notice that they are different.  I mean, they are the same but different to look at. I don’t know how to think this.  They are the same but different, two sorts of the same but different each from each.  I don’t understand this, and I don’t care, I just notice.  I think this as I hunt with my ears for the new sound.  Maybe this is just a different sort again, three sorts of one creature, but I don’t think so.  That sound I heard was too different.  Same creatures always make the same sound, more or less, even the different sorts of them.  This sound I heard was not like any other, too different.  This is a new creature.
I go forward some more.  That way, stop, other way, stop, up, down, repeat.  The sun is higher, so the trees have shorter shadows.  A little creature, I know it, I know its song.  It looks at me, frozen, wondering if I’m going to eat it.  No, though I am hungry.  I pick it up and have a look, it’s one of the other sort, not like me.  I wonder if it wonders which sort I am, I don’t think so but I can’t know for sure.  I haven’t thought enough about this.  What I think is: some go in, some go out.  I don’t know what this means, and I don’t care.  I still haven’t heard the sound of the new creature again.  I go forward some more.
Then I hear it.  It’s definitely a new sound, not like any other, and I can’t read it.  It could be a new kind of wolf or cat.  I get confused, and almost trip over a dead stripling tree.  New things are invading my head.  What is making me make up these labels, wolf, cat, read?  I don’t know if I’m hungry or not.
I know a sheltered glade up ahead, and I know this is where to go.  I hear the sound again as I run there, forgetting all the rules.  My new creature will be there, he will.  I stop.  What is this new label, he?  I start again.  I enter the glade, and as I do either the tops of the trees shift, although there’s no wind, or the sun comes out from behind a cloud, or both, and my creature twin is standing there.  He starts to make his sound, but I hush him.
I point at my mouth, hungry.  My creature twin does the same.  A snake drops its head from a tree.
“I know a good place.  You can have a chat.”