a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
When the hiker set the glass jar of honey on the rock and walked away, the honey warmed and opened its eyes. It saw the baseline of trees through golden sunlight. The honey considered its jar, cool, sturdy, and impersonal. The honey examined the stainless-steel white lid, its scratches of rust. It sighed.
Meanwhile, the rock was waking to the weight of something new on its surface. The rock smelled some aroma that reminded it of a woman with a perm. She came with her friends, two chocolate Labradors, a checkered picnic cloth and hair as fragrant and wild as flowering plum.
The rock felt the honey sigh and he sighed, too. He felt the thing above him grow warmer still, all of him warmed, but the heavy, alive spot especially. The rock cleared its throat. This moment was very important–this first chance to establish the relationship and boundaries. The rock hesitated. The rock dominated very little. Only two White Oak saplings beneath him. Quercus Garryana. The rock held power apologetically, trying to shrink so that they may grow. The rock sensed the trees surging now and then—the nudges light. A fragile being attempting to press 200 pounds.
“Say, you haven’t seen a woman with a hoodie on, have you?” murmured the honey.
Like the rock, the honey sensed the aliveness of the thing below it. A vague organized buzzing that happens when living things come in contact. The rock didn’t know what a hoodie was and was also hesitant about letting the thing know it didn’t. It felt too dangerous.
“I have not seen her. I mean. Someone was here earlier, but not too long ago, because before today, I’m pretty sure you were not here, and, therefore someone was here, but they are no longer here,” he paused, testing the air. “No. I think we are alone.”
“Well, it’s okay. I liked the new things to look at every day from the woman’s pack, but I guess that was bound to stop sooner or later.” The honey relaxed its shoulders when it realized it no longer had any place to be. If the hiker was gone, there was no need to hum for her, since humming can rarely be heard from more than a few feet away. The rock sensed this might be a hard time for the thing, so the rock offered it a persimmon. The rock summoned the persimmon sagging off its west face and channeled its cozy sweetness skyward to the warm thing taking up space on top of him.
“My! What was that?”
“Diospyros lotus. The fruit of the gods. The wheat of Zeus. I’m sorry. Was it too sweet?”
“Well, marvelous, tangy, it’s as sweet or sweeter than me.”
“Are you a fruit?”
“Am I a fruit? Hmm.” The honey thought. It housed a long history, complete flavor indexes. Some of the data was in Latin, which the honey had recognized by ear when the rock spoke it, but the honey couldn’t speak it itself. The honey immersed itself in sensation. It knew it was once flower, had a hazy memory of the experience of being processed inside a maze of friendly compartments before getting forced upward. It had hurt a little, this becoming. But immediate pleasurable feelings had followed. Honey was, in its heart, a hexagon. “I am a hexagon.” Honey said.
The rock was excited. He loved geometry.
In the nearby town, Ardenvoir, a lumberjack arose before his dogs. The kitchen was still and lit by the light from the stove. A cast iron skillet clinked as it heated up, expanding. Otherwise, the morning house was filled with the quiet sounds a person makes when they are alone. He cracked two eggs in the skillet, drank orange juice from the carton. He urinated in the cool predawn bathroom. His dogs moved like sleepy children towards the smell of eggs. Their nails giving them away as they trod across the tile. The lumberjack filled their silver bowls with kibble, turned off the porch light and tossed his antique chainsaw in his cab.
He couldn’t seem to remember how he got here. This town. This house. This job. His blue jeans were cutting into his thighs as he dangled thirty feet above the earth, amputating tree limbs. There was one moment, right the hell now, and what the hell are you going to do with it. The lumberjack adjusted his harness and slid down the pine. Bark flaked under his harness. The tree was defenseless except for its sap and stubborn knots. Sap would turn the blade into a Playskool toy. He had lost a few fingers years ago to sap. Truth was the lumberjack hadn’t paid attention to his fingers until he lost them. Now he noticed their absence every day, everywhere. He was never alone.
The honey and the rock scarcely noticed the lumberjack cutting away the forest that surrounded them; they were absorbed in their own stories. Honey taught rock about partial differential equations and the flight paths of queens. Rock spoke of a memory of the constellations–the overlay quilt of stars that covered us all.
Christy Hartman works for the medical humanities program, Medicine and the Muse, at Stanford University. She is a podcast producer and mentor for the Stanford Storytelling Project and is currently at work on a master’s degree in ecopsychology at Viridis Graduate Institute. She just built her first house (for birds).