The place is deserted. No people walk the banks of this stream, nobody labors in the nearby fields digging or cutting or harvesting or planting, no animals, either wild or domestic, singly or in herds, predator or prey, walk, or graze, or lurk, or slink, behaviors depending on their sizes or roles or immediate needs. Only those white elongate blotches that might be dragonfly wings, or, alternatively, reflections off water, hint at the presence of animals. But the plants tell a story without talking. They stand in groups: two, close by, on the left; three, also near, on the right, although it’s possible two of the three are just separate shoots from the same trunk; fifteen, a little further away; five in a clump beyond those but on the left; ten or eleven, it’s hard to tell exactly how many from this far away, straight ahead. Like a place you visit again and again, the trunks seem to be repeating this tale, begging you to listen and understand what they’re telling you: we’re new, as trees go, and we’re all about the same diameter.
Don’t you know what you’re seeing?
Don’t you understand what the landscape is saying?
Don’t you understand the larger lesson, the timelessness of these observations, the overriding generalities manifested in the highly specific?
Don’t you know that your eyes are functioning like ears; your brains giving substance to our voices?
No; you don’t; so here it is, the story, our history, laid out in plain words: if you know what to look for, and how to interpret your visions, then you can see ghosts. The ones who lived here before, they are gone, washed to the sea. We all came here about the same time. We started from seeds left over after The Deluge. The waters came and stripped everything clean. Then the clouds drifted away, having done their damage, and the sun warmed the wet mud, and the crabgrass started there, quickly, sending out those runners, grasping, competing with neighbors, lying flat, reaching, always reaching and going as far as they could reach and going while the sun got hotter and hotter, and steam started coming out of the ground, and sandpipers landed and walked along the banks, poking for worms, defecating out parasite eggs, then flew off without stopping to somewhere far in the north. Crabgrass is like a Devil; it comes and takes whatever space is there for the taking; an idle mind, like idle mud, is a perfect place for crabgrass. But even one runner suddenly makes the world a little more complex than it was before, and casts a tiny ribbon of shade where once was only hot clay, a break, caused by the Devil, in homogeneity delivered by a “cleansing” Deluge—the tiniest hint of this timeless contest between good and evil.