There is a story I need to relate while I am still alive and coherent enough to tell it. It is a story of a man that has been passed down over many generations by the males in my family. I cannot be sure of the man’s name or how many greats should go before the grandfather, but after the same qualifications, my father told me that his father had then said the man has become known as Fletcher. So, Fletcher it is. This Old English name. I am told, means arrow maker. The story, as it is repeated, tells that Fletcher was not very successful at his trade, for he rarely crafted a straight arrow and, it is added, he never lived as one either. He had taken to drink in his youth, and the ale had aged him well beyond his years.
The story really begins with Fletcher setting out for a neighboring town, but in a drunken state he wandered from the beaten path and became hopelessly lost. To make matters worse, his eyesight was failing and night was rapidly closing in around him. Since Fletcher lived alone and was often absent from his shop, he would not be missed if he failed to return home. In fact, it would probably be weeks before the barmaid in the town’s pub would realize that he had not come in for his pint of ale.
That night, Fletcher slept curled up on a bed of stone under the rocky overhang of a cliff he had never seen before. During the night, it is said, he was visited several times by those creatures that own the forest in its darkness. No doubt, several wolves sniffed at his shaggy hair and ragged clothes, but let him sleep undisturbed for, as the story goes, he was saturated with alcohol and no self-respecting night creature would have dared take a bite. In the morning Fletcher arose to find a heavy mist hanging low in the trees, and this made seeing his way even more difficult.
As the morning sun had begun to burn off the mist, Fletcher stumbled into a clearing that surrounded a crystal clear, spring-fed pool. He had dropped to his knees and, with cupped hands, was about to scoop up a cold drink from the pond. Something caught his eye. Something had moved on the other side of the water, and Fletcher squinted in an effort to see more clearly. It appeared to be a young deer lying in the tall grass. Fletcher was curious and, wanting a better look. As he walked slowly around the pond he expected the deer to leap to its feet and bolt into the dense forest. The creature, however, did not stir. Now Fletcher was even more interested in discovering what this was.
My father, in telling me the story, hesitated at this point as though to build the suspense. I pleaded for him to continue.
As Fletcher drew closer, he to realize that it was not a deer lying in the grass. In fact, this smooth-skinned creature had no fur. Fletcher was startled when the naked woman slowly lifted her head and looked directly at him. Although she did not speak, nor did Fletcher, he somehow sensed this woman wanted him to approach. She had been curled on her side, but now rolled shamelessly onto her back. Miraculously, Fletcher’s eyesight cleared and his heart raced as his gaze swept over the naked body of this young woman. She looked familiar, but he did not know her. He felt he could call out her name, but he had never met her.
Still wordless, the woman opened herself to him. The only sounds were the sounds of the birds that seemed to have gathered in the surrounding trees to celebrate the meeting. Fletcher was never more sober, and it had been years since he felt the excitement that raged through his aging body, now growing ageless and youthfully responsive. He lowered his mouth to her, an old hunger had stirred in his loins. The taste of her abundance nourished him, and this nectar was strangely familiar to his pallet. He knew that this had happened before.
My father was now leaning close to me, his words carefully chosen, his tone serious. It was as if my father was talking of himself, of his father, and of his father’s father. It was as if my father was talking about Fletcher and in telling me of my past, was telling me of my future.
The story continued with the woman expressing her pleasure, her sounds harmonizing with the love song of the birds. Still without words, she had then brought Fletcher full-body against her nakedness and without guidance he had entered her with the firm shaft of a young man’s arrow. He was home, and he knew this woman – not from this life, but from countless lives before. Her warmth surrounded him as it had repeatedly in the past, and he was drawn back to where he had begun. This was his soul mate. He had now completed the circle and he was one with his destiny. Tears formed in my father’s eyes as he told me that Fletcher never came out of the forest.
I asked who the woman was and my father sobbed openly. Gaining a little composure, he told me that she was God, she was Mother Earth, she was at the same time the beginning and the end. She was my great grandmother and generations of her grandmothers. She my grandmother and she was my dear departed mother.
My father has now been gone for years, and it is my turn to tell you this story, my son. My eyesight is failing and my memory fading and I will soon go to the pool where your mother awaits me. Do not grieve my entry into the dark forest, for I am but a part of the endless cycle, and someday you will tell our story to your son.
© 2004 Robert W. Birch
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