Wax & Bottles

Two travelers walk the woods at night. Rain pours through the canopy of leaves, drenching clothes, obscuring sight. They lower their heads, determined to arrive safely at mountain homes. 

One traveler relies on the flashes of lightning to get him home. It comes in spectacular streaks of luminescent brilliance, staggered over time, their patterns matching their intermittent arrivals. The light of lightning inspires a sense of awe every time, and the traveler stands and marvels, eyes seared by the perfect image, a sending from heavenly places, unable to be controlled or explained.

Blind and groping before, the intense flash of pure energy fills his vision with swimming spheres of light, after-images accompanied only by the answering thunder.

For one brief moment, as the bolt arrived, he could see! The world of the woods, with its roots and snarls, its brush and mysteries, illuminated perfectly in searing white! Yet for all that clarity, for all that crisp detail, he now stumbles again, worse than before, the roots and the snarls, no longer framed by lightning, jump from the earth and grab his ankles.

If only he had a bottle, or some container, something to catch the perfect transcendent lightning with so he could carry it with him always, to guide him home. But alas, he does not- - he wanders, tripping, unable to see the woods and wondering, when, oh when, will lightning strike again?

The second traveler reaches into her pocket and pulls out an ugly nub of a candle, wax clumped in misshapen forms, like flooding rivers captured in still as they left their natural beds. She sits on a wet stump, striking well-worn tools with practiced hands, waiting for a sputtering spark to catch the wick of the tiny wand she holds. She does not move from her spot, but simply waits for the ritual to run its course, knowing in time it will light.

It does light, giving birth to the smallest of flames, the dark wick sheltered by cupped hands, growing into a steady but shifting brightness, one she can walk by if she holds her body protectively and does not move too swiftly. Her eyes focus not on the candle itself, but on the ground the light bathes, defining it with detail she never knew in the midnight darkness.

The roots have texture and purpose, twisting and turning like otters at play, feeding the massive trunks above them with food transformed magically from sun, soil, and water. She no longer fears the roots as enemies of her journey, but  delights in their unheralded complexity. . .as she steps over them smoothly.

She continues this pattern, traveling slowly by her faithful and flickering waxy companion, appreciating the wonder of the world as her mountain home grows steadily closer. When it fails her, she finds another stump, sits, works, and waits for the flame to appear again and then proceeds on as before. . .

Two travelers walk the woods at night. One worships the lightning strikes and wanders tripping and cursing through the forest, hoping to arrive at the place he seeks. The other walks in intentional deliberation, by the light of an imperfect but illuminating candle, seeing the woods, marveling in the detail, and approaching a place called home.

Matt O.