A bit of shadow, a sum of light
July 20, 2014
A VG Serial: Jory Sherman’s Hills of Eden
Lisa walked on the night. Walked on the night itself, like a prowling cat padding across dark lawns, invisible in the tall grasses of empty fields. Where there was hush and silence, soft lights of stars and endless distances stretching quietly, Lisa gazed from her porch and was young, but wiser than those who stayed indoors, who sat and chatted, shuffled cards or accustomed themselves and their minds to images flickering like colored shadows on boxed-in screens.
Twelve, and not so very twelve, but twelve and almost thirteen, but misty-eyed with thoughts of twenty and such, Lisa danced among the splendid ballrooms of the daft and the dear, saw herself beautiful inside a thousand shrouded mirrors, lost herself in velvet, diamond-studded heavens beyond the shadowed tree-tops of the woods around her Ozarks home.
Lisa, beloved of stars, then, and silent things: the trees and echoes of chattering insects, the high flights of wildfowl haunting the dusk, searching after quiet fields o August-tall corn and the late finger shadows slipping into the gloves of evening, the light wind whispering about the prairie flowers left behind by the ghosts of her ancestors, and the migrant skulks of quail searching out the quiet safety of their nightbeds. Was like those things, her hair flaxen as the sun touching the tops of shorn wheat, her eyes azure as the hovering chapel of afternoon sky over the hollow’s rising ridge beyond the summer garden, her skin as pink as the dawn quivering at the edge of a delicate and morning cloud, Lisa was herself, as serene and contemplative as the fading sunset, as pretty and promising as the budding bloom of day spilling gold into the creek behind the house at the end of a county road.
But so unhappy inside was Lisa, now that her world had changed. A month had passed; promises had been broken, broken at the end of a girl’s special summer, the kind that only comes once in a lifetime. Leaving school in May, a mere twelve-year-old, returning in August, practically a teenager; well, it was supposed to be a very special time, a time of changing, of growing, of being happy as the meadowlark singing in the goldenrods, flitting over the greening hayfields, perching on the weathered fence post by the old wooden gate.
All in clouds, the days kept winging, winging away, and July stunned the Ozarks with heat and husky winds that blew from the southwest, brought the summer storms that made the flowers grow. Lisa loved the storms, for they lit the night she walked upon, made her skin tingle in the rain, made her sleep soft and sweet as they pattered on the asphalt roof above her second-story bedroom.
Deep in books by day, sitting under a water oak tree or a sturdy hickory beyond sight of the house, Lisa was content in those other worlds, too.
“She’s one of the special ones,” the people said of her when they were being kind.
Others, not so kind, called her “dummy.”
But, Lisa knew who she was and she did not care what people said of her. Because she read books, she knew how people were supposed to be and she knew that she was different, somehow.
“Why is she so quiet?” people asked her mother. “She doesn’t talk much.”
Her mother would say: “She doesn’t have to talk. She knows what you’re thinking and Lisa is a kind person.”
Lisa told her mother once that she could hear other people’s thoughts. But, then she explained that she could not actually hear what people were thinking. “I listen to the spirit in each person. That is what I hear.”
And, one day, when she was reading in her room, her mother walked in. Lisa looked up from her book. “You have to water the plant at your office,” she said. “It’s dying.”
“How do you know that?”
“I heard it calling to me.”
When her mother went to the office, she saw the dying plant and gave it water. The plant perked up and its dark shriveled leaves began to smooth out and turn green on that same day.
Another child asked Lisa why she read so many books. “So I can find out about things I cannot see or touch,” she said.
Lisa lives among flowers and trees, hears the singing and the music no one else can hear. When she looks at stars deep in the night sky, she hears that music, too, and knows, as few souls do, that she is part of all that is and she tells her mother that one day she will write a book about all the secret things she knows and then everyone will know how beautiful life really is, how truly beautiful is the world around them. Her mother said that Lisa told her once: “When I grow up I’m going to write about the colors of shadows on the snow; the silver heartbeats of stars; the shining orange glow of the harvest moon; the sibilant whispers of ocean waves in a seashell; the soft songs the wind sings when it rustles the leaves and grasses; the melodies of sunken stones when the creek is running in spring; the paintings a sunset daubs so delicately on the western sky; and the pastel harmony of a sunrise as it splashes color on the still mirror of a lake rising from the slumber of night into the dawn.”
Some say they have seen the deer and the squirrels come up to her when she is out in the meadow, wading through flowers and grasses. And they say they have seen the way the animals look at her and the way she looks at them. Others have seen the crows fly down to strut back and forth by her feet, chuckling to themselves, until they have made her laugh, when they fly away, calling to all others who will hear.
There are many mysteries in these Ozarks hills, many stories that the old-timers tell in whispers. Lisa is a ballet dancer among those who walk the land, a creature close to the spirit of all that is living, a part of everything ever created in the universe. She is not unique, or strange, she just is as she should be; she just is, like everything else that is.
In another time, in another place, Lisa would have been called “teched”, or “gifted,” perhaps. In these modern times, she might be labeled “autistic”, or “retarded,” and, over the course of evolution, she might have been considered a mystic or a witch. She should not be labeled, nor defined by any of these terms. Lisa is, like all of us, a creature of evolution, and her evolvement is merely a leaf on another branch of the mysterious tree of life.
Yes, Lisa walks on the night and, during the day, is the graceful ballerina on the miraculous and marvelous stage of lire.
Whenever anyone questions the existence of spirit in the universe, you can tell them about Lisa, who grows through reading and will one day write her own book filled with wonders and enchantments beyond imagining in this small finite world, a mystic world painted with a bit of shadow and a sum of light, some of us live in for so brief a while.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.