An everlasting vision of the human soul.

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A VG Serial: Hills of Eden

Episode 16

If  I were asked someday to talk about these green hills, what language would I use to describe them?

If I were asked to write about the Ozarks and their effect on me, which words would describe those quiet journeys the heart takes on certain summer afternoons when the wind hums in the deep woods like the air resonating in the bass range of a pipe organ?

If I were asked to sing a song about the rivers and streams that course this land and these hills, which notes would I use, and which key would I sing in with such soft and shining words that all would know my meaning, from the smallest creature to the most intricate?

If I were asked to paint all these places, the shadows in drowsy hollows, the gray deer tiptoeing atop the ridges when all the leaves are turning, the chittering fox squirrels and the grays, as they scuttled through the crackling fallen leaves, the flickering play of golden light as it shimmers in the woods on an autumn afternoon, what colors would I splash on my humble pallet, and which camel’s hair brush would I use for such delicate and elusive strokes to cover my canvas?

They fill me, these green hills, and memory percolates up through the thick layers of civilization in my mind as I recall my first glimpse of dogwoods in April, their white blossoms like ermine flowers amid the verdant cedars southwest of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, bright white lights floating on a sea of green along the slopes bordering the winding road.  And the soft sanguine presence of the red buds sprinkled in the woods like roses floating on the air, and the yellow butterflies dancing ballets through the trees like little scraps of sunlight sent fluttering to earth from some gilded star far out in space.

Those first images of the Ozarks have stayed with me all these years, etched in my mind so deep they can never be erased in the longest lifetime.  The hills that first morning arose out of a thick mist like some Brigadoon stage set that appears only once in a span of years, then disappears until another generation spawns.  There was something mystical about that mist, because it hid the hills until I passed by and then it wisped into gossamer shawls and scarves that floated away, gradually revealing the muscles of the earth, those rugged cords of hills rising like islands from an ocean of clouds.

Mystical, yes, and magical, as if the green spring hills were being born at just that moment, as if they had lain dormant beneath a low sky full of heavy clouds, waiting for that first kiss of sunlight, waiting for me.

All the dirt roads lead somewhere, and I have followed many of them since that first morning, a wanderer and an explorer, never expecting anything, but always finding something of great value, whether it be a diamond-strewn creek in sunlight or a midnight river full of dancing stars, or a verdant woodland glade, or the grand bluffs that thread these Ozarks hills like veins of silver and gold deep under a mountain.  Those bluffs.  So full of magic, bursting with intricate waterfalls after a rain, or frozen sculptures of icy beards in winter, sometimes majestic, sometimes as homely as my face in the shower-steamed mirror.

And do we not see something of ourselves in all these wonders along these dusty back roads?  Our dreams, our visions, our hopes, our longing, our family, our loved ones, our homes?  I do.  I see the Osages who once lived and hunted here, and I see those intrepid pioneers who rumbled here in covered wagons from Tennessee early in the 19th century, who flowed into the promised land with empty purses and high hopes and stayed under the spell of these hills and grew into them, even as the hills grew into them.

I discovered, long ago, that it’s not the things that last.  It’s not the things we see and touch, which endure in reality, but the images of those things that are important to us, that seem to mirror memories in the soul.  The myths, both ancient and modern, that underlie each vivid event in our lives and the lives of others.  The images are those intangibles that we can summon from some deep place inside us and relive and enjoy again and again, though we be far from home, far from these hills and hollows that we have journeyed through to find our own truths, our own personal mythology.

Images.  Images in the spiraling violins of a classical masterpiece.  Images in the fine painting of a scene long since gone from the world, but existing outside of time, imbued with the earthly vision of the artist and the everlasting vision of the human soul.

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.

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