Whispering Wind and the Old Man

The old man was angry. Everywhere he turned he saw bush after red-berried bush of these weedy plants taking over the landscape! People! He shook his head in disbelief. Really, they were too much. Some planted them for the silvery grey foliage, so beautiful they’d say. Others planted them as hedgerows, privacy screening, and how nice that the berries fed the birds. Then they’d pat themselves on the back for this! And then:: it went on like this . . . the old man just couldn’t understand the ignorance that motivated these – — – – these people!! It made him angry though to see all the plants of his boyhood, those ancient plants being overrun and endangered by these aggressive bushes! He’d seen how they came back with ease, you could cut them down to the dirt and they’d regrow, stronger and sprawlier than ever. So now he had decided, sitting by the creek one evening, yes, he was going to kill them by poisonous means. He’d heard of a new concoction, guaranteed or your money back, that claimed would take down these bushes, down to the root, for EVER!! No less than they deserved, he thought with satisfaction as he looked at the bottle in his hands. The Lord knew he was doing the planet a favor, he had never in his life used any of these chemical mixtures to kill anything::dandelions grew in his garden, white clover he left in his flower beds, he composted and manured, he planted flowers for the birds, the bees, butterflies, he had done his bit of stewardship and he felt that this was an act of righteousness. It was an act borne of judicious thought, yes, the longer he thought about it the more certainly he knew that these bushes must be purged one way or the other, and he would do it himself! He would go about the country roads, the back roads, the ditches, the gardens in town, and he would cut them down and paint on the poison for them never to grow again. Then, then his beloved natives would have the room they needed to regrow and thrive in, once again, as they once had, once upon a time.

Whispering Wind was startled to hear a car door slam shut from where he was picking berries. This road was always empty during the day, hardly anyone came this way at all; who could this be? Someone stopping to pee while on a long drive? He watched from in the bush, and was surprised to see an old man wielding a chainsaw approach the bushes nearby. He couldn’t be, why yes he was! He started up the chainsaw and began cutting down the bush!!

Whispering Wind didn’t stop to think, he rushed over and yelled, “Hie! Stop, stop!” waving his arms wildly to catch the fellow’s attention over the sound of the saw. The old man spotted the movement and turned off the chainsaw. He was equally surprised at the sight of the boy, no more than 12, waving at him, hot in the face, screaming “Stop”.

“What is it, boy?” he asked, with some degree of irritation at being disturbed.

“I say sir, what in the world are you doing that to the bush for?!”

“Well now, let me think, hmm::I’m cutting it down boy, what does it look like?”

“Yes well, you’re killing it . . . surely you aren’t intending to kill it?”

“Boy,” the old man said from behind gritted teeth, “Step aside, this bush is a noxious weed and I aim to remove it from our county for ever, do you hear me!”

Whispering Wind was stunned, though not for long.

“Sir, this weed as you call it provides berries for the birds, a place for their nests . . .”

The old man cut him off with a wave of his hand, “Yes yes, I’ve heard it all::keeps the soil from eroding, no doubt you eat the berries and make jam with them, drinks perhaps, syrups, oh wait, they’re high in nutrients and so good for having around as living fences,” he rolled his eyes and continued, “Boy, heed me and stand away, I have work to do this day and I aim to do it! These bushes must be taken down, they’ve run rampage long enough, crowding out the plants true to this place. Endangering them! Since there’s nobody managing them, I will! The good they do while it may be true is outdone by the harm; if you even have the vision to see it, which I see that you do not.”

Whispering Wind was nonplussed. He couldn’t let the old man kill all these bushes. He’d seen the earth after the road crew went through with their sprays, nothing grew in those spots afterward, nothing::insects, worms, plants all dead. The run off from rain and snow went into the creek, where the fish were affected. He lived here, he knew. He’d spent all his years watching and learning from the wilderness he was born to. This old man and his anger were puzzling to him, but he knew how to watch, and how to learn. From what the old fellow had revealed he could tell his anger was directed at the bushes but was rooted in the waning away, the ebbing displacement of the other plants that once occupied the spaces that these now grew in. Whispering Wind shifted his sight and he suddenly saw something new, something closer to true. It was the old man. He was dying. He was the old plant being overrun by the new and he knew it, deep down inside he knew his time on this planet was drawing to a close and something new was replacing him. It made him sad, he was not accustomed to feeling sad and so he was angry instead. It was easier to be angry, to be mad. He could find something outside himself to direct his anger at. Take it out on. Do something with all that energy. In this instance, destroy the threat: the new plant. The plant represented what was making the old obsolete, rendering him:the old man:part of a dying species, a changing shift that he would not be part of, so he sought, in preserving the old plants, to somehow preserve himself. Wind shifted again and saw further down the tunnel:in his actions the old man would slow down the endangered plants being in danger of extinction, slow down but not put an end to it, and the result would be neither old nor new would survive, neither would thrive, none would benefit. He was cutting of is own nose to spite his face and the consequences would be felt by bird, bee, human, animal, plant, earth alike to every body’s detriment in this galactic space.

He put his hand on his heart and spoke slowly, in a changed tone now.

“Sir, I ask this of you: will you be so kind as to let me finish my task before you carry on with yours? I was collecting these berries to take home to my mother. She feeds some to her unicorn, who enjoys them as they have sparkly gold flecks. We make jam with the rest. If I could gather them before you cut them down and kill them, I’d appreciate it greatly.”

The old man snorted. Unicorns indeed, the boy must think him senile! But it wouldn’t do any harm to wait till he collected the berries, after all he was taking away a food source from this boy and his family, so he could give them this last picking. Yes, he suddenly felt generous and nodded at the boy to go ahead. He put down his chainsaw and sat with his back against a fallen oak; watched the creek for a while. It was very quiet on this road. Come to think of it he’d never been here before, very peaceful it was. The sun felt warm and he felt cozier than he had in a long while, soon he began to doze off. What an odd place he was in, in a field filled with an abundance of flowers all buzzing with the sounds of bees hard at play. Oh but he felt happy! He loved bees; they too were in danger he knew. He frowned in his sleep, but then he heard them buzzing again and knew that here in this place that he was in they were thriving. How odd! He looked closer at the bees, yes there were honeybees galore, bumblebees too, but the honeybee was unmistakable. He followed one with his eyes, and tracked it to a shrub covered in flowers, oh how sweet the smell! He breathed deeply of the nectar, this fragrance like none other, it came from the hundreds and thousands of honeybees on the bush. The bush! It was that obnoxious weed! He frowned to see it feeding the honeybees. For the first time he felt a pang at what he was undertaking. He settled back into his dream to enjoy it, his waking hours were nothing like this!

As he dozed he remembered a time long, long ago when he’d felt this deep sense of peace, he was a boy then. A boy climbing trees, jumping ditches, getting muddy catching frogs, digging streams in the backyard, scrambling under blackberry briars and cramming them into his mouth by the handful. Oh what a time it had been! And what was this coming toward him now? From in the meadow, a white horse glimmering in streams of light, a mare, and what a beauty! She was coming toward him, he sat up a little straighter at her approach. She had flowers braided in her hair, a wreath around her head, and as she passed by him she bent her head and a shower of sparkles fluttered out of a single horn upon her forehead, dusting him on the forehead. Then she walked past and began to eat: gold flecked ruby berries from the bush . . . . he woke up and rubbed his eyes, sparkles speckled his hands. It must have been the boy playing tricks on him, he thought, and where was the boy? He looked around for him and spotted him walking back with two full baskets, one in each hand, from further up the road.

“Well, I’m done!” he called, “Don’t usually pick as many as this, but since you’re cutting the bushes down, I figured I might as well! I say, you wouldn’t want to come back and try some jam and fresh bread would you? Before you get to work you know, you must be hungry . . . I know I am!”

The old man was in fact hungry and the thought of fresh bread sounded wonderful to his ears. It had been a long time since he’d eaten fresh bread. He couldn’t remember what that smelled like.

“Hmm, yes, well thank you. I daresay I accept your invitation,” he said, “Though don’t think this changes anything.”

“Come on then,” said the boy, “My name’s Whispering Wind, mostly I’m called Wind. May I call you Grandfather? I don’t have one, and you could be so you know, if you don’t mind that is . . .”

“Yes yes, that’ll do just fine,” he said gruffly, “Though my name is Logan, Logan Bell, should you choose to use it instead”.

Logan picked up his chainsaw and put it back in the trunk of his car. Then he locked the doors and followed the boy, Whispering Wind, back to his home. It was a very long walk, over a lot of rocks and roots, and an especially ditchy driveway. But he saw rabbits ducking off under the brambles, a flock of wild turkeys in a goldenrod filled meadow, and a fox dashing up a pine needle covered slope. He heard birds singing and smelled mushrooms, a sweet damp earthy smell that made his lungs expand and swell to almost bursting. By the time they got to the house he was feeling more energized than he had in ages, and the first thing that greeted him::the aroma of bread, warm out of the oven, ah but he felt so good! He stepped into a comfortable kitchen behind Whispering Wind, who was hugging a woman by a wooden counter full of stacked loaves of bread.

Follow to the second path.

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