We came to an opening in the trees, a sun-bright glade in partial bloom. You went on ahead to greet the flowers, I paused at the forest edge to muse — not on nature’s wonders or the beauty before us, but on something you had said as we walked under the shadow of trees.
You asked if all the time we spent would lead to anything of substance. That’s not how you put it — you remarked on how we don’t make things — but that was the gist of your question.
All the answers I could muster sounded too simple, so I remained silent a while and listened to the woods instead, pausing as you crossed the glade. Then I followed you into the sunlight to say: “You raised a good point.”
“Oh? Look at this foxglove. I’ve never seen colors like this.”
You stood by a tall leafy stalk topped with a drooping cluster of flowers, tubular and flared at the ends, light orange outside and lavender inside, though lacking the typical pattern of dots in their throats.
“They’re shaped like hearts,” you said.
“Not like trumpets? I see a horn section here.”
You ran a finger along one of the soft flowers. “It would be a quiet orchestra — only bees could hear it.”
“Perhaps only bees deserve to hear it, as a reward for their hard work.”
“Because with all their flying about they manage to make honey.” Another hint of your concern.
“We have planted trees,” I said.
“But we didn’t make them. Or even grow them from seeds.”
“We had a garden once…” No longer. We were too often traveling — chasing rumors, encountering danger, flying about — so we let the ordered rows fall into disarray as nature reclaimed the tiny plot.
I leaned down and sniffed the flowers, to no effect. “We do things, and see things. We saved a whole mountain once. People hire us to go places.”
“And in all our adventures… what?” You plucked a leaf and spun it in your fingers. “We’re not creating or building anything, or making pieces of art… or baskets… figurines… toys…”
This notion arises in you at times, caused I suspect by a tidal pull when the moon moves into its nesting phase, aligned in some planetary beam, stirring an instinct I’ll never feel. I knew better than to offer solutions — we could take more pictures, collect souvenirs, write a book — that wasn’t the point.
“Even this plant can be made into medicine,” you said. “All we can do is tell friends about our travels, and they say ‘that’s nice, wish I could do that’.” You waved a hand in dismissal.
“Our friends who stay home because they have jobs and hobbies and kids in school…”
“They have something.”
“Yeah, safety. We’ve been attacked, abducted, and nearly killed more than once.”
“I admit, we have some good times.” You cupped a delicate flower in your hand. “But what do we have to show for it all? Nothing we can hold.”
You were right. Even the least-skilled artisan produces tangible objects that can be admired or cradled or put on a shelf to be dusted. Yet in time everything breaks, or wears out, or gets weathered down to sand and washes away to the sea. I tried to remind you of this.
“Still,” you said, “somebody made them and they existed, for however long.”
“We’ve talked of building a cabin.” That had potential.
“We’d never be there. No…” The moon slipped from the planet’s alignment and ticked into its next wavering phase. You shrugged off the waning effect. “Maybe someday.”
Our adventures and travels would have to suffice, for a while longer.
I didn’t mind. The thing about any experience is, it’s forever etched in the timeline of the universe, an entry in the Book of Existence. It will always have been. Even if we have nothing of substance to show for the hours we spend, tonight we can look back to the morning and say: We have lived this day. Often, that’s enough.
We both regarded the silent foxglove, enjoying a moment of watching the bees.