Saturday, 21 February 2015
The Writer's Field
Once upon a time there was a man, and he was given a field, and it was in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by trees, which made it private at least, and it was his secret. The man scooped up a handful of soil and found it to be dry, stony, and full of weeds, but the field was his, it was all his, and he vowed to find a use for it for all of his life.
Day and night he ploughed the field, with no plan or vision, and when he looked back, tired and aching, his hands sore, he found the rows to be uneven and broken. But he sowed his seeds, anyhow, for his passion had no end; he would produce a crop, no matter what. And when the sowing was done, he left the field alone for a while, until it was time to return to see how his crop had faired.
Tears ran down his face. His crop had not faired well. It was a mess that he could not make head nor tail of. He cursed. He kicked the ground and walked away. He decided that the field was not for him. It could sit there, on its own, and rot.
He would not be coming back.
There were dreams, though. Dreams of people, and places, and events that would either damn those people or bless them. They all seemed so real to the man, and they would not leave him alone. They begged him to return to the field to plough it once again, to sow his seeds. He ignored them. But every night they came back, and each night their voices became louder, until he could stand it no longer.
He went back to the field. 'You'll not beat me,' he told it. 'I will have my own way with you.'
This time, before starting, he planned how best to plough the field, although he understood that even then it could all go wrong. But he thought it would still give him a better chance than no plan at all. Then finally he began to plough, and when he looked back, he saw that the rows were neater, straighter, than they had been before. So now he sowed his seeds, and the sowing took a while, but every night he returned, never skipping his duty, until it was done. Then he went home.
There were days of rain, many days of rain, but still there were days of sun, too, and on those days, he believed the field might actually yield a crop that would in many ways be better than the one before.
It was. When he walked through the gate, he saw a crop that in places shone with gold, and the gold was hope, and hope was what the man needed. Still, half the crop was useless and could not be saved.
'What good is half a crop?' he said. 'It only ruins the half that shines with gold.'
He walked away and closed the gate. But this time there was hope, all right, and he told himself that one day he would return and try again.
Other matters stole his time, though. He made a woman his wife. He sowed seeds of another kind, and those seeds brought forth a crop of children, and he loved them in their heaven, and he loved them in their hell, for they were his, and he understood that he could be heaven and hell also. He thanked God for his job, because his job put bread on the table and kept the wolves away from the door, although sometimes he wished those wolves would come in the night, snap him up, and drag him away. The years past. Many years. He became ill, and it was a terrible illness, a blackness in his mind, and it drove away his joy. Drove away the people, the places, the events, too.
Then one day he decided to go for a walk. He thought about the field. Wondered if it was still his. He came upon it, and yes, he found that it was. It looked strange, though, and full of folly. He went back home and went to bed. Out of nowhere, he dreamed of those people again, those places, those events. And those people, just like before, begged him to return to the field, to plough, to sow.
He got out of bed and found himself standing in the field. 'I told you that day, many years ago, that you wouldn't beat me,' he said. 'That I would have my own way with you. And I will.'
He planned, he ploughed, he sowed. Just as before, he left the field and went home, to let the rain and the sun do its work. When he returned, he saw that the crop, all the crop this time, shone with gold. He walked through it. He picked out the weeds, the stones, and shooed away the birds that cast the odd shadow here and there. Then he went to the market and invited the traders to see his crop.
But most declined. They had enough of that crop, they said. More than enough. Still, a handful of traders accepted the invite and came to see. They walked through the crop, all the time casting their gaze over it, even stopping to smell it and to take a taste. They told the man that the crop was indeed a good one, even a beautiful one, in places. They told him he could plough a neat furrow, and sow a wholesome seed, but all the same, they doubted the crop would sell. That it would just sit in their barns and wither away.
'Why would that be?' the man asked.
'We don't rightly know,' the traders said. 'A crop can be lush and flavoursome, and with it, a fine loaf could be made. But still no one will buy it. In our time, we have seen crops that hurt the eyes and leave a bitter taste, and yet they have been put between two stones, and ground, and made into loaves, and those loaves have sold so fast, that we have run out of stock. It is a strange thing, so it is. Even to us. But don't let that stop you. What would happen if you didn't plough and sow?'
'I would wither like those crops that no one wants to buy,' the man said. 'The blackness would return and I would be ill.'
'So you would,' the traders said. 'So now you know what to do. You plough, you sow, you let the rain fall and the sun shine, and the crop will be gold, and it will be your gold. You should be proud of that. You should be proud of that alone. Take your gold, hold it against your heart, and it will keep the blackness away.'
'But I will starve,' the man said.
'Better to starve in the belly than in the mind,' the traders said, and with that, they turned and went back to the market. And so the man was left standing alone. In the field. But it was his field.
And he smiled.
Yes, it was his field, and the crop was gold, and the gold kept the blackness away.
And the field was private at least, and it was his secret.