catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 9 :: 2006.05.05 — 2006.05.19


Thin place

My third place is the thinness. I stumbled upon it, ardently throwing my body and soul through brambles and pathways of a strange forest in an attempt to get lost. I wanted to be anywhere, but where I was stuck and hopeless and angry. I didn?t want to be found, to be held or discussed or asked anything; I was desperate for no reference points, nothing that gave me away. No antecedents. I wanted to throw away my identifying papers, my licenses, burn my car, shred my clothes, and rip the skin from my bones. I wanted annihilation?oblivion now God now! Hundreds of miles away my parents?both of my parents?grew thin and sickly; their voices changed to dust and rattles; they couldn?t sleep, they couldn?t eat. Eye sockets turned to coal. Their wasted bodies bored down on me. Surgeons had opened their flesh, dug around their bones. An aortic aneurysm here, a stent there: My parents were packed suitcases being riffled through. I couldn?t run fast enough.

I ran from my car frantic, silently screaming, through the briskness of the late, brilliantly bright afternoon, down the limestone path, past the shelterbelt evergreen sentinels; scrambling the meandering dirt bike paths strewn with knobby tree roots and pine needles amid the twitter and chatter and racket of birds and twaktwaktwak of twigs lashing my body. Dirt filled my mouth, my nostrils and ears. Tears streamed from my stinging eyes and my chest burned with exertion as I raced away from whatever was chasing me. Desperately I thundered over fallen limbs, through wind-tossed glades and over boulder, rock and bramble. Show me a sign, Lord, show me a sign, I screamed, aloud, far enough in the heart of my darkness. Show me?kill me kill me kill me kill me take me take me take me? Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

A small wooden arrow. There.

I stopped.


This way.

Down the tumbling hills of verdant grass, across the fallen fence posts and over several trails I moved my way down the grade to a landing, a curtain of trees through which I could see an incredible light, almost the color of yellow gold. I felt dizzy, excited. Sweat soaked my thermal clothing. Clamor subsided in my bones while my heart continued its cantus firmus; my pulse thrummed. Gulping in air and composure I advanced on the curtain and through the thin trees to a valley fenland of bulrushes; acres of stark ochre grasses alive with reptilian aria and bird concerto. To the west, a yellow painted sun burned; to the east a banshee of a moon rose. The air was cool. My nostrils filled with the marsh?s fecundity. A rickety jetty of bleached-grey boards wended through the blonde Scirpus and I wandered through their startling beauty and over tea-color waters of limitless splendor. Slowly: The world was waiting. I drew breath and closed my eyes and let the waning sun warm me. I calmed my heart by the fleshing out of the moon. I opened my eyes to the imminent gloaming, but its mists veiled unhurriedly; there was light enough to see high up on yonder majestic ridge, a lone standing stag. It regarded me as I look up at it. There was little between us, save physical escarpment, and it was clear; whatever it was it filled my heart. What did it have to do with my parents or with mortality I don?t know, but it said something in a whisper that God knows, but waits to reveal.

Back through the thicket and its mud and crushed limestone trails I walked, unconcerned about time or place, or hope of avoiding either. I felt giddy and loose in my bones, like I?d been thirsty and had been offered a drink from a cool ever-flowing fountain. Blue darkness fell by the time I got back to my car, nighttime was a just a shade away. I stripped off a layer of clothes and got behind the wheel. I looked through the windshield and out over the trailhead, its portal mysteriously, increasingly, blending with path and tree. I knew this place after all; it was a thin place, where the holy becomes visible. This is a third place, a place not mine, not yours, but for us all.

I go back there, I take Dyan, my wife, and I retrace my steps. Of course my folks are now both recovering, and of course I cannot compel nor conjure up on yonder ridge a lone stag and its desperate seeker. But the sun is there, the fens, the moon and a path, well worn wending through the bulrushes, there for me if I should need.

A sign: There.

I stop.


This way, I say taking my wife?s hand, this way.

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