He had not gone far down the quiet rural road before he heard the cawing cry that grabbed his attention so forcefully and seemed to reach his very bones. He knew no bird that would cause either the shrieking, or the bone shivering reaction. Again came the raucous sound from the trees lining the edge of Glower's Swamp. Leaving his thoughts and the road, he felt impelled to follow.
Treading cautiously, ever watchful of water moccasins, as snakes being the only beast that caused fear to cause his blood to course faster, he placed his feet firmly in the dank enclosure of the forest. The first step, he reminded himself, was always the most difficult and he boldly accomplished that without a hint of fear. And why was he telling himself that, as there was no sign of danger? He had simply acted rationally to satisfy his curiosity after hearing a bird cawing from the trees. As doubt began to form in his mind, the cawing began again, and close-by it seemed.
Pushing the brush aside he began to creep toward the sounds, and just as suddenly stillness quieted everything, except the gently wind whooshing in and out between the thick cypress. Yet, he could feel no breeze on his skin. Slowly it weighed heavily as if a wet quilt was laid across his shoulders. His labored breathing was the only sound reaching his ears! Why? As quickly as the words tumbled from his lips he realized that again he was talking to himself.
As the cawing stirred up once more he forced himself to follow. He stumbled, falling into the trunk of a giant cypress. Pushing himself upright he saw that he would also need to be aware of the cypress knees that emerged from the soil at the foot of the great trees. He snickered to himself at the thought of trees with knees!
Close now, he told himself, as the stillness seemed to shroud him in heavy dampness. Foreboding. The word just popped into his thoughts. He began to realize now the meaning of the tales, almost forgotten, from his childhood. They were no longer fairy tales to keep children safe in their beds at night. They were warnings. Cautions to be fearful throughout life, for the danger is always lurking in the dark places we encounter as we move unsuspecting, clueless, unaware of our surroundings!
It began again: "Caw! Caw!" He shook himself of the goosebumps, trying to loosen the bindings enshrouding his spirit. It was drawing him in and he edged forward, toward the cry. "Caw! Cawf! Cawf!" Again he froze in mid-step, the coughing sound was closer. The word now showed terror in his eyes. Coughing? Many animals cough, though not birds! Urgently, he realized, his mind was telling him to face the road, his life was there, there among the others. Also, there among the chatter, the petty needs - the selfish, vane, cruel people of the light. He understood now what life had been like, back there.
Again the dark quieted his thoughts. He stood stoic, listening. A muffled thumping rose from the darkness among the branches and vines and, reaching his throbbing temples, was now the beating of his heart. Within. Yet, also, somehow the thump-thumping of his heart was rising to a crescendo in his being, now welling out, pouring to the dark spaces between trees. Louder the beating now, the pounding, as his soul, deep-hidden in the self, joined the heart and the dark woods into one. And now the sobbing within and without was overtaking the pounding, returning his thoughts, and the welcome feelings of his feet rooted in the dark, rich soil.
Then the quiet. The peace restored as the balance returned to his surroundings. The caw-cry now was faint, muted as if from sadness. Again the caw startled him. Nearby. As he opened his eyes. The beauty was everywhere and he was, well, everywhere, and nowhere. Slowly the raven-cry reached him as his eyes searched, and found, the source. The eyes and mouth were all that was left to form the sounds from the thick tree trunk. The vacant eyes pleading, the dark pupils, crow-like. Again, the cry, yet this time the caw, he realized with increasing terror, fell from his own lips! Struggling against his bonds, he began to see the cypress knees were his own toes, and his arms, the branches. An uncontrollable cry rushed from deep within and was heard throughout the swamp. A last clear thought crossed his mind: the cry could be heard even on the road he left behind a lifetime ago.