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Michael Dooley


—Literature is the wanderings of the soul.  The written expressions of those wanderings are for others to see and evaluate.  Do they agree or disagree or do they simply find pleasure in the journey. --

1996                                                                                                    Woodstock Farley



            I stood gazing out the back door into the mist that rose from last night’s cold earth.  Rising, it greeted the warmth in the east.  First light.  Early morning risers are privileged in the first light.  They see the beauty of creation as it was intended.  Sparkling dew clings to the intricate spider webs spun the night before.  The air is fresh.  My breath mingles with the mist to give credence to the reading nailed to the tree.  Slowly, I close the door to secure the remaining warmth diminishing among the ashes.  Rinsing my cup, I allow my eyes to wander throughout this dwelling one final time.  Every detail is carefully memorized and securely stored within my mind in case the path becomes too difficult.  Shouldering the nylon bag of needs and wants carefully, stepping outside I turn to lock the door.  Why secure something that is intended to be destroyed?
            First step.  Stumbling, I reach back to the solid walls of my soon to be former heritage.  A hermitage I had built.  Built with materials that were meant to last.  The morning sky understood.  Come away it beckoned.  Let go.  Try again.  Rallying my resolve, steadying my resources, I released the past and begin my journey.
            The gate was much closer when I first came here.  Each step increased the distance.  Click.  The sound of the lock brought with it a sense of reality.  Finality.  Somehow reality had mixed with the morning mist and was trying to evaporate.  Turning and looking back up to the fortress, I stood mesmerized as the silent explosion threw timber, mortar, and glass into the atmosphere.  Settling in a cloud of dust the heap remains as a monument of false security.  Tapping me on the shoulder, I turn and bow to the morning sun.  A deep breath, a final adjustment of my load and a tentative step followed by another.  The sign on the gate reads, “Gone for a walk.  May not return.”
            As in all journeys towards heaven, the wind began to oppose/  First wind.  Any forward resolve only encourages the opposition.  Bending in to lessen the yield, I reflect back upon the fortress that was constructed with the intent to keep out the wind.  Question.  Is opposition something that can be restrained?  Can we really refuse access to the wind with things built by hand?  There always seems to be a crack left somewhere.
            It appears the wind has abated, or is it that I have grown accustomed?  An occasional gust becomes an albatross reminding me there is a price.
            A sense of foreboding.  First fear.  Trees so immense that the clouds appear hard pressed to stay out of their branches.  The sun waves good-bye as I enter in.  I miss the warmth.  First apprehension.  The only movement, the only sound comes from my feet as they push on in the journey.  Steps become miles and there seems to be no end to this forest.  The silence is broken by the soothing cascade of falling water.  Enough for today.  It’s time to meditate and repair my resolve.
            First night.  The fire hums a lullaby as I stare into the coals.  Funny, no wind.  I didn’t notice it before, but there is an opening above that exposes the stars.  It can’t get any better than this.  A warm fire, a twinkling of the stars, and a bubbling waterfall.  Ahhh!  Sweet sleep.
            Ever notice that somewhere between dreams and waking that the noise you hear is always hard to write off as just the movement of the forest.  Sitting up, I stirred the embers and added a few branches to promote security.
            His frame was slightly bent as he stood at the edge of the trees and offered his greeting.
            “May I join you by your fire?  It’s growing rather cold out.  I offer no harm.”
            “Please, friend.  Come and sit.  I’ll build some coffee to warm us up.”  My answer was verbal evidence to a lessen apprehension.
            As he approached, I noticed his staff was as crooked as his back, but it was meant for steadying, not for violence.  The firelight deepened the creases of wisdom upon his brow, a brow that nodded an approval of coffee that began to boil.  With smiling eyes, he extended an aged, calloused hand that I expected to be cold, trembling, and weak.  Instead, surprisingly warm, steady, and experienced in labor.  Perhaps, a carpenter?
            “One so far from home must have a lot of questions.”
            Raising my eyebrows, I peered over the rim of my cup and studied him as he sipped cautiously.  How did he know?  Could it be only those with questions journeyed this far in.  Had others shared their fire?  Suddenly, I blushed as my thoughts became naked.
            “You know it’s a lost art building coffee,” he said with a smile putting me at ease.  “Many try but just can’t seem to get it right.”
            “Do you think it is the same with a journey?”
            “Journeys often start with good intentions; however, many turn back when opposition arises.”
            He knew about the wind!
            “If you persist, come further in; you will find a calm that will give birth to a strength before unknown.  Look at the stars; listen to the water.  This is the calm.  Breathe deep; the strength is about to deliver.”  As he spoke, he looked longingly towards the heavens as if he were intimate with each star.  They twinkled back in reverence.
            “But can the strength answer my doubts and fears?  Can it hold back the wind?”
            Laughing he responded, “The wind is powerless against the strength, but you must trust.”
            “How can I trust in something I can’t see?”
            Leaning towards me, he spoke quietly, “Do you see the wind?”
            “No, but I feel it.  I know it is there.”
            “So it is with the strength.  We can feel it.  Sense it within.  Have you ever see love?”
            “ Yet, you’ve sensed it.  So does it exist?”
            “Often we must live in this life believing in what is unseen.  Trust your instincts.  If you are honest in your search, they will find the strength.”
            Reaching for his staff, he stood and I knew without asking that others were waiting for answers.  Smiling, once again he extended his hand.  Something was imparted.  “Thanks for the coffee.”
            Looking deep into his eyes, I questioned, “Are you the strength?”
            There was an awkward moment of silence as I waited for his reply.  I half expected him to stand up tall and straight, but he only leaned heavier on his staff and whispered in reverence, “No, I’m only its messenger.”  And with that, he was gone as quietly as he came.
            The journey back was not as hard as the leaving.  My load was much lighter now that I had the strength.  Suddenly, I stopped and noticed out loud, “Where’s the wind?”  It’s funny how a new day is so much more beautiful than the rest.  The sign was still hanging on the gate as I unlocked it.  Now only one word hung in greeting.
            “Returned.”  First day.