Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Presence
When I was six, we moved to a house down a lane, near a canal and Stony Brook. Across the lane was a beautiful pine wood where I went exploring for hours. One summer morning, I came across a pool deep in the woods and had what I would now describe as a mystical experience. I remember the details vividly, and a few years ago I used the experience in my novel Samara the Wholehearted. I had been seven when this happened; Samara was 21. “She pressed on. Abruptly she was there, at the source, a round deep pool. The place was as dark as evening with the spruce coming right down to the edge of the water. The woods here were very still. She hung her knapsack over the limb of a tree and squatted down beside the pool. It was alive with tadpoles. A spring must be feeding this, she thought. There was something not quite right, not quite real about the place. She inhaled an earthy smell and another smell too, like the odour present before it rains. The air thickened; she knew that a presence was there. Her skin crawled. She stood up. The presence was good, she felt, but frightening too, as if a specific personal responsibility was implicit in it. The water and the tadpoles were transfigured into worthiness.” In the novel I changed the pine woods of Massachusetts into the spruce forest of New Brunswick, and I think I added the part about the odour, although I now can’t really be sure. I don’t remember if I told my parents about this, and they are now both dead so I can’t ask them, but I don’t think I did. The encounter made sure that I would always know that there was a presence out there, that the presence was good, but that it also required something of me. Years later when I first read the sentence in the Luke gospel, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” it hit me hard.

1 comment:

Miriam Jones said...

I remember similar moments from childhood, moments when the senses were all firing and everything was seen for the first time. The smallest things could fascinate, things that we now step over or around without a thought. I usually feel that we adults have lost something, but perhaps that intense being in the world is a stage we need to go through, and we have not completely lost it, but have internalized it? It is always there, to be recaptured when we give ourselves the time.