Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Fort

for my nephew Carter

Let us commemorate the building of the Great Fort of Weatherly, Pennsylvania, erected in the woods on the day before Easter Sunday in the year of our Lord two-thousand and nine. (Carter, you should know that our calendar is based on the approximate date of the birth of Christ, who was born in Nazareth in 2 B.C.(E.), but that there have been and will be other ways to measure time, which itself is beyond measure.) Building forts is important, as is a. Singing rocks songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s out loud in a moving car on long or longish road trips; b. Going on long or longish nature walks during which you take your time, smell flowers, and try to learn the name of a tree or two along the way; and c. Ever so slightly embellishing your life-stories when telling them to other people so as to imbue both you and your listener with a sense of life’s greatness as well as the ultimate dignity of each human individual, yourself and your listener included. Our fort was most excellent, its thick log and central beam stretching from the ground to the V high in the tree, the smaller logs and branches leaned against the central log at appropriate angles so as to create the fort’s basic structure, twigs and leaves thrown thereupon for further shelter from the elements. We sat in the fort and told secrets and stories. Telling secrets and stories is very important; the former, because we would perish without the disclosing of our secrets, which eat at our innards like mean, slimy pond bugs; the latter, because the very space we live in is made up of stories, so to tell a story is to create space, if that makes any sense to you. (Carter, don’t let them tell you the world is made of matter, or molecules, or subatomic particles, or any of that scientific gibberish—the world is made of colors and shapes and sounds and stories, end of story.) You told me your secret, that you “ripped off” your sister in a Pokemon card trade, and I want you to know that I forgive you, and that if you ask Selah for forgiveness, I imagine she too will forgive you. I told you the story of the lonely Indian boy, who used to live in those woods, and who was unbearably lonely because his father hunted in the forest and his mother worked in the garden all day, but how the little boy, with the shaman’s help, eventually found friends first in the woodland creatures, then in the crazy creatures of his dreams (“Pollywags!”), and finally in his newborn baby sister. After we finished with the telling of secrets and stories, our fort was sacked. It was a terrific onslaught. We tried to fend off our attackers, but they were too strong for us. (Do you remember our attackers, Carter? Do you remember why we left the perfect peace of our fort?) We said that we would have liked to stay in the fort forever, to sleep there, to eat there, to live there, to tell our secrets and stories until the sun rose and set a thousand million times. But in the end, our attackers won, and our attackers were on the inside, as they always are. (All battles are inner battles, buddy.) In the end, our attackers won and we left the Great Fort of Weatherly behind because our hunger and restlessness were too much to bear, so we went back up to the house, where it was warm and where dinner was waiting.