It was in the field.
The knee-high grass was golden, sweet, smelling of wild grains and
seed; smelling of the morning dew seeping deep into fertile, sometimes rancid
earth, drying under the straight-down glare of a glaring, August noon. Smelling
of fresh sweat as I became nature’s fertile transport, pods and little tufts of some
unknown species clinging to my heat damped clothes. Smelling of green and
yellow crickets buzzing lazily in the swimming heat, rising and falling in some
mysterious non-pattern of crescendos and ceaseless buzzing rhythms. Smelling
of grasshoppers chirping in some foreign code, untold secrets passing in the
intervals of their silence.
The first time, it was that human compulsion when two strangers meet
in an unknown place that compelled me to say anything at all. That instinctual
subhuman urge to communicate with something even remotely familiar in the
face of all those bizarre species and testaments to diversity. A driving need to
maintain our spot in the great multitude of life in a simple field; to rebel against
nature’s message of plenty. Nature laughs when two strangers, neither of who
want to say a word under the hot beaming sun, stop to make a feeble gesture
against Her secure foothold.
“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” I said stupidly, my eyes squinting against
sweat and sun to make out the simple cottony summer dress that is standing in
the field here, between the pond and me.
“Aye,” she said, simply. “Fine day.”
The connection made, I should have continued walking. Our moment of
communion as a species in the scheme of nature was established; our monument
to the everlasting presence of humans amongst the plethora of creatures in that
“Alex,” I said, holding out my hand instead. Perhaps it was her
indifference that compelled me to pursue; she had not seemed to wholeheartedly
share my desire to stand united against all those creatures. Perhaps it was
hormonal; all I could see was that cottony summer dress.
She did not turn; nor acknowledge in any physical fashion my presence.
I stood for a moment, considering the options for a conversation.
Already the weather had been exhausted, and there seemed very little opening
otherwise. The barrier against the encroaching hum of nature’s cricket legions
had been formalized with a name pact. What else was there to pursue, then, if not
hormones? So I stepped gingerly forward through the grass again, shucking my
leg of seeds.
“You can feel it here, even in the day... you can feel the loneliness,” she
sighed into the gentle breeze. I didn’t want to hear that cryptic whisper, and so
instead I pretended to lose myself in the variety of bugs and plants as I continued
walking, engrossed by the nature I had just scorned. She did not call after me,
and oddly, that relieved me.
I spent at least six hours at the pond, casting a hopeful but lazy line into
its still, pensive surface. Each time the leaves of its skin danced and spiraled into
some crazed frenzy of colorful undulations, until finally the ripples stopped
lapping against the muddy shore and the images on its glassy top settled again to
their deceptive, perfect mirror. I dozed on and off, and once woke to the tickling
fuzz of a caterpillar making its slow, ponderous way across my bare chest. Its
body stretched, bulged, leapt forward, bulged, stretched, tail pulled, stretched,
bulged, leapt forward. With dim annoyance I brushed it aside mid-bulge into the
leafy brush of the pond bank. Stretch. Pull. Stretch. Bulge. Leap. Then it was
gone into the shadow of the shade of a blade of grass or a prickly leaf. I don’t
know because I had stopped looking; the lake was humming. I thought, at first,
that it was just the crickets again, their constant thrum registering oddly in my
brain. But across the pond’s delicate quicksilver surface danced tiny, tiny
ripples. Perhaps, in them, was some pattern like the chirping of the grasshoppers;
a secret mystic rhythm to their peaks and troughs. It stopped quite suddenly, and
I merely lay back against soft, loamy earth. The sun was warm but not as
abusively hot as it had been; the earth cool against my neck. I fell asleep again.
When I decided to leave the pond the sky had ripened to a deep and
swollen purple. The pond sat reflective, reflecting, perhaps, on the inconstancies
of the sky. A streak of grayish puffs stretched near the horizon, at right angles to
the sun; some stray cloud lost on its way home tonight, straggling to find its
brothers long gone. By the time I had packed the small rucksack and returned to
the field by which I’d come, the first few stars were pricking through the blue
luster of the summer sky, bustling for position to herald the moon. I stopped
short at the near side of the field: she was still there.
It wasn’t merely that she’d left and returned, I know now. But at the
time it was an oddity, nothing more, and so I approached her through that
inciteful grass, bound by some past acquaintance to once again make greeting as
I passed this fellow human. The coming darkness, however, seemed to play
against her mood, as if her soul could only be lit by the sprinkled specter of stars,
or the cratered face of the moon. She spoke before I had even halved the
distance across the field to her.
“Do you see them?” she shouted mildly, her wheaten hair dancing
against the flower patches of her cottony summer dress as her arms gestured
expansively upwards, fingers outstretched yearningly.
I hunched my shoulders reflexively before looking up, as if weathering
some unseen rainstorm. Finally, dimly perceiving her meaning, I replied, “The
“The stars...” she echoed softly, her hands falling again to her sides, her
throat bare and stretched as her head tilted higher, skyward. Her eyes were
closed, now, her mouth slightly agape. Her neck vulnerable -- sacrificial.
I was curiously concerned by this point, taken aback by her
disconnected air, so I offered, “How long have you been here?”
“How long....?” she began to echo again, her stare still skyward and
twined with rapture. Then, snap, her head down again, she looked through me.
“A long time.”
Still concerned, I ventured, “Are you OK? Do you need help getting
back?” motioning in the direction of the town nearby. I was considering placing
a hand on her shoulder to guide her back, her state distraught, but was
interrupted by a shocking sound before I had the chance to consider the option
fully. At first I thought the crickets had picked this moment to come raucously to
life; a harsh, scratching thrum of noise that pierced the marrow. With a start I
realized it was from her, from her throat and mouth. And she was... laughing?
The sound cut out as quickly as its brazen sandiness began, and she was
once again peering skyward; starward. “Back?” she whispered softly; the breeze
through the grass sighed with her. “Can you see the way back?”
I was a teacher on sabbatical. I had never dealt with an obviously
disturbed student; much less some stranger. I coped, and paused to be sure that I
would not induce more confusion, and in my delay to answer I found that the
grass... that she was already speaking again, sighing cottony.
“The way back through the stars....” she reached heavenward again.
“Oh how lonely they are!” she exclaimed vehemently, lonely grasshoppers
chirping. She turned again, with effort, to look through me. I don’t know what
she saw when she looked at me. Perhaps just the grass. “There are.... ways.
Paths, in the stars. We are but motes on a speck on these great paths. Imagine
your mind the infinite expanse of our galaxy -- trillions of blazing conflagrations;
blistering against the frigid, infinite space. Imagine...” she sighed with the rustle
of stems. Then, swept her hand across, leveling, the staccato struck of crickets.
“Nothing! Immense clusters... paths in that darkness... millions of galaxies so far
you cannot imagine a number high enough to cross them... immense clusters so
large that our galaxy aches against the empty expanse in which it blazes
futilely... clusters of millions of galaxies blazing emptily... huge but nothing...
just blocks in the walls of these paths... these paths!” she exhumed vibrantly. The
cricket hum quickened. Then a chirp, and the sigh of the sea of grass. “These
For a moment I was moved to do something, but my eyes seemed to
catch the glint of light and I looked skyward unwillingly. The stars were
emblazoned across the sky now, the sun fully on its way around the Earth, the
moon just peeking its bloated, orange head above the blue horizon. From here,
the sighing grass seemed to nudge me to look upward. Then, suddenly, the
sounds were gone. Silence; profound, complete, dark. I looked again to her.
“Imagine the... essence of what would travel those paths!” she marveled with the
starlight reflecting in her watery, wide eyes. “Gods to a god of our god!” she
prophesied violently, grasping, sighing towards the stars.
Then, wrenching, a sob tore her chest and flung words at the dark,
damp earth. “Gone! Gone... long, far, distantly gone!” she shouted, tears now
streaming, sprouting from her clenched lids. I stood watching, rapt, uncertain,
scared. Finally, “The stars are alone now... oh god are they alone!”. I almost felt
the earth sigh under my feet, then. The repercussion of a star sighing. The mud
slishing away as the grasshoppers chirped their sorrowful song, the silences
conveying some strange, sensual meaning that I could not conceive.
I woke up, fully dressed, in bed at the hostel where I had been staying. I
don’t know how I got here, or why I would have abandoned her, alone and
disturbed, out there in the field. I don’t think I reported her to anyone; as far as I
can tell I merely walked into my room and went to sleep. I felt exhausted, as if I
had slept only barely enough to make up for some immense loss of energy or
soul. I breakfasted and packed another days worth of supplies in my light
rucksack, wasting as little time as possible. Was she still out there, perhaps, in
the field where I had miraculously left her?
It was but ten minutes to that golden grass field where the crickets hum
and the grasshoppers tell secret tales. I could not see her, from the edge of
brushy forest, but I worried that perhaps she was laying somewhere in the knee-
high grass, collapsed from some unknown exertion in the night? I could not seem
to remember exactly where I had left her, nor where I had first met her, and so I
scoured the field systematically, searching in a simple pattern from end to end,
until satisfied that she was nowhere to be found. Returning to something akin to
the spot where I was most certain I may have first seen her, I stood, dazed,
wondering what could have become of her. Worried, even scared, that perhaps I
had been somehow involved? My memory was faded, who knows what may
have happened? Or had it even happened at all?
Then the grass sighed, caressing my calves. The field rolled in the
breeze, waves of air sweeping across its golden skin. I became sure that she
would turn up, now, if I would just wait here for her a while. I knew she would
be back to this spot; who would want to leave it? Soon the crescendoing hum of
crickets was thrumming under the glare of the hot, August sun, singing me
company while I waited for her. Occasionally a chirp would break the cricket’s
monotonous melody, and I would wonder what song I was missing between
those lonely calls. The sun began to cast a shadow again, and fell as the sky
turned its pinkish warning of dusk. The grasshoppers were talking to the stars
now, consoling them, sharing in the sorrow of their brethren. Even now, with the
sun hours from the horizon, the grasshopper’s chirping only haltingly, you can
feel how lonely the stars are. They will come tonight and sing of their loss and
sigh in lamenting melodies with the grasshoppers.
The sun is set, now, and the purple ripe sky is breaking through with
glints of starlight. The grasshoppers’ silence is no longer dark; I can smell the
song between chirps, and feel the rhythm of the sighing grass and thrumming
crickets. The stars are here, now, and you can see the majesty of the paths!
Great, wondrous paths in the sky! Sweeping stretches of pure, magnificent light
across that sky! Longing, sighing for that great essence that would travel those
immense and sweet paths!
But they are empty... and oh! how the stars are lonely now.