Wax & Bottles

There are two travelers in the woods at night. They both wish to arrive safely to their mountain homes. Rain falls steadily through the canopy of leaves, sheets of droplets drenching them, running into their eyes, adding irritation to their already lost sense of sight.

One traveler relies on the flashes of lightning to get him home. They come 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, the traveler stands and marvels, eyes seared by the perfect image, a sending from heavenly places, unable to be controlled or explained.

He was blind and groping before, but now, with the intense flash of pure energy gone as quickly as it came, his lack of sight is full as well with swimming spheres of light, after-images accompanied only by the answering thunder.

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

If only he had a bottle, or something, to catch the perfect transcendent lightning in and have 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, and strikes her 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, simply waiting for the ritual to run its course, knowing in time it will light.

It does light, the dark wick sheltered by her hands, giving birth to the smallest of flames, 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 that which the light bathes, defining it with detail she never knew in the midnight darkness.

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

She continues this pattern, walking slowing 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. . .

There are two travelers in the woods at night. One worships the lightning strikes and wanders tripping and cursing through the forest, hoping that he will one day arrive at the place he seeks. One walks in intentional deliberation, by the light of an imperfect but illuminating candle, seeing the woods for what they are, and with a steady gait towards home. . .

Matt O.