John Briscoll was out for a drive, alone, to take in the autumn scenery as the leaves changed. He was getting older and wondered how many more autumns he’d see. Just a moment before he’d been shaken when some idiot had cut him off. Now, on nothing but a whim and to calm his nerves, he turned off the parkway – shun-piking he’d heard it called – and followed an old road that lead toward a large stand of trees; red and gold leafed maples, but also white birch and, deeper in the wood, some very old oaks which rose above the younger trees.
He neared the wood more and more slowly; the road passing through an enormous field of dead corn stalks that some farmer would soon plow under. Dead and soon to be buried – and maybe to be reborn as something else. John wished he were more sure of the last. Otherwise what was the use of anything anyone did. If there was nothing, then his life was as meaningless as had been that of some dinosaur, whether it had been good or bad, or productive, or not. Mere procreation could mean nothing. Neither could humanity’s pride: its so called progress, if it led nowhere. Then all life would always be nothing but “a searching after wind.”.
In a few minutes his old Chevy entered the wood. The field had been bright sunlit, the sky without clouds. He expected nothing but near darkness here but was surprised at the dappled look inside the little forest. Where the sun shone through the canopy of leaves it was just as bright as the open field had been. There was just a little underbrush and here and there were clusters of wild flowers, not just the little things that could survive without a great deal of light, but real gardener’s flowers whose bright colors competed with the sun.
The ground was not at all flat but bumpy with many boulders left by a long gone ice age, and with tiny hills, none more than a few feet high. Much of the ground was covered in moss; in fact the whole scene reminded John of a Japanese temple garden. Not one of those stone gardens carefully tended by Buddhist monks, but a Japanese moss garden with tall trees like these and an occasional Shishi-odoshi to take the flow from a tiny rivulet and scare the deer with its thud … thud …thud..
No deer would be frightened here however. Nor was this a wild wood. As John drove the winding road which had become not much more than a one lane path of very black and uncracked paving, he came across a house in the woods; then further on, another and another. They were neither very close nor very far apart, perhaps just a few acres. Nor did they abut the road but were at different distances and angles, all large though not mansions, and of different styles. One was white Georgian, several others wore ancient gray or brown cedar shingles, others might have been from some New England post card. All were clean and neat. There was a small pink scooter on the porch of the Georgian that reminded him of the present that he had given his grand daughter on her third birthday, just months before she died. He shook off that memory on this beautiful day as he knew he must. There was no grass and the moss needed no mowing. Perhaps, John thought, that was why no one seemed up and about doing chores or just enjoying the day. He himself would take a moment to enjoy the sunbeams and the calming melody of rustling leaves. Could the sun ever set over such an Eden-like place? Would night here be as splendid? Would there be a dawn? He did notice that there was writing incised on the boulders that lay about and decided to stop the car and read one:


Janet Briscoll
Beloved Daughter
2004 – 2012

John Briscoll
Beloved Father
1950 – 2013