The woods are lovely, dark and deep

I woke in the dead of night as the fire was dying. Body full of sleep in the deep deep dark, alone. Strange noises on the wind. This used to be a deer park. I know bucks drag their antlers on the side of trees at night and make a heck of a sound. Maybe that? The trees seemed like they were communicating too. Even the shrew – or rat – in the logs near my head was emboldened by the darkness, shuffling and hoffling indignantly.

We are the firekeepers. With knowledge and care we can guide this primal thing to bring us light, to bring warmth, to transform one thing into another. If I’m to share this wood I need to do my job. Plus it was cold.

I banked up the fire but I wanted it to take quickly as I was still clinging onto sleep. Into the tent to get some cardboard from a packet. Then back out and was it a dream or did a little voice somewhere in the dark say “It’s coming back out!”?

Sleep until morning and blearily wake to find that a horsefly has come to my warmth. Buddhism or no Buddhism it wanted to eat me and I’ve already got some nasty welts from them or Lyme’s disease. Morning Al is going to kill this horsefly. They slow down as they seek a landing pad, so I hold myself still, standing arms and legs apart, coiled like a spring, watching it choose a spot. It will land on me, test for penetration, and move if it’s on clothing. I’ll have about a second to strike while it tests. A decisive whack, from directly above, and no more horsefly.

I’m not much good in the morning.

It lands on my balls.

Reader, the horsefly is dead. I struck fast and hard, unthinking as the spring I had coiled released. As I fell to the ground next to it, howling with something that was pain and something that was baffled laughter, I took comfort in the fact that right there – that’s the Buddhism in action. Kill a horsefly, punch yourself in the bollocks. Done and done.

Once the pain subsided, that fundamental pain, we went for a walk. Country lanes and coppices eventually give way to roads and then to Budgens, where you go for your plastic straws and microwave meals if you live out here by nature. I probably should have bought a plaster for the suppurating bite on my hand, but it’s on my right hand. I’ll only knock it off or set fire to it. For now I’ll just have to let the air work and pour Florida Water on it, which hurts like hell but probably stops infection since it’s basically just smelly alcohol. And understood pain can be medicinal, so long as our understanding is that it’s a warning signal for something minor.

Time is strange out here. I’ve been hunting mushrooms and gathering wood ahead of another night doing my job. Jethro will arrive at some point this evening though, and join the circle. One more night in the woods.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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