For you alone
Nam soli Deo speravit anima mea in silentio
He was a very elderly man in his early 40s, sitting so still even the deer did not notice, although the red-tailed hawk had him in her sights.
Sitting on the now branchless trunk of a long ago fallen elm tree that must have remembered some of what he remembered.
Rugged and battered grizzled sophistication, lip swollen, still bleeding from the mugging in which he lost most everything except that which mattered.
The log of repose rested eternally on the edge of a wood that sloped away from the winding dirt road down towards a creek below where frogs could dance and sing harsh lullabies of prognostication.
To say the road was sparsely traveled would be an understatement. One or two passersby a day at most.
Like the bangers who took his wallet.
Like the occasional merchant plodding along with his cart, unaware of anything but the steady rhythm of hooves.
Like the kerchiefed woman, infant on her breast, basket of vegetables balanced on her head.
A specter drifted by on the breeze. Stately, stunning, robed in the stellar heavens, moonlight glowing from her face, long black hair drifting behind – she alone smiled at him, but did not stop.
To the cadence of the snare they marched past him to the battlefront where their lives would be wasted but mythologized.
Herald on his horse, racing, stirring up the dust, horse panting and sweating, determined to arrive nowhere with nothing to say.
Ragged children, happy in spite of faces smeared with dirt and empty stomachs, skipping into grudging survival mode.
Prancing steeds, gold-studded carriage, curtains drawn to preserve the falsehood.
Coachman, footmen, imagining superiority.
Giggles of gaiety, forbidden whispers, bantering maidens skipping happily to early graves.
Silently, the old man watched each go by, observing with awareness-awakened sadness.
No one stopped. No one spoke.
Which was fine with him.
He took some hardtack from his rucksack and washed it down with stiff cold coffee from a pitted canteen.
The sun was warm but waning – the breeze fresh and zephyr-like gentle. Clouds slowly morphed into fantastic shapes of unicorns and Qilin.
The old man leaned back against a maple tree whose leaves had only just begun to blaze with reds and oranges. A wolf howled in the far distance.
He had lived a hundred years before his 40thbirthday.
Now it was time to wait.
The ragged stranger shod in worn sandals and threadbare robe, matted dreadlocks, tangled beard, paused, smiled at him in spite of missing teeth.
The old man gestured and the stranger sat next to him on the elm log.
Two wrens sang their exultant song back and forth to each other, each taking a verse, both joining the chorus.
The red-tailed hawk pierced the sky, announcing approval from on high.
The rugged ragged ageless stranger took flatbread from his pouch, broke it, and together, in silence, they ate.
Still silent, they passed the wineskin back and forth.
And all was made whole.