Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Hills

The early morning air is crystal clear. Overhead the sky is stretched smooth, a cloudless robin’s egg blue. Underfoot the earth is a patchwork of dirt and wild grass; in some places it is soft and springy like short green shag carpet, in other places it is long and brittle like tufts of wily yellow hair. Little wild flowers poke up here and there; dainty white blossoms no bigger than a pinky finger nail speckle the green grass, tall gangly sunflowers thrive near the yellow grass and occasionally jut from patches of parched dust. With sunny yellow petals and centers the color of freshly ground coffee, they flaunt their resilience and the freedom it grants them by growing almost anywhere, even among the clusters of slate boulders that build the hillside.
Upon the hills crest, near the chaotic configurations of stones, a ram grazes on the tender blades of green that have managed to thrust up among the rocks. Its hair hangs like a silver drape obscuring its short stout legs. With horns spiraling low and near its head, everything about its physique seems to pull it closer to the earth.
Brief valleys separate this hill from its siblings. The colors of these mammoth mounds leap forth with startling vividness. The clay top soil of one is a deep warm red, almost too ruddy to be believable. Its surface is littered with the charred remains of burnt oaks and chaparral. They stand out like black runes etched upon the red background. It is almost as if they could be read, their shapes and configurations seem wrought with a hidden meaning which seeks to burst forth. The right eyes could divine their secret message.
Similarly, another hill, mostly swathed in the green of grass, is ornamented by winding dirt paths and mounds. At a glance these seem to be Neolithic glyphs, painstakingly carved out upon the hills face. A second look suggest that they are but roads, and yet a third will seem to affirm that they are yet both, as if roads and the signs of common human habitation have been carefully traced directly on top of something older, deeper, and subtler. They form shapes riddled with mythological richness.
The noises of small birds can be heard coming from the underbrush; the rustle of leaves as a limb bows ever so slightly under the small feathered body that has just lighted upon it, an almost insect like trilling punctuated by a chirp. Now and then they can be glimpsed, a blur of movement that leaves an empty branch quivering, or a yellow and black head, slightly cocked so that beady eyes may glisten inquisitively from behind a thicket of waxy green leaves.
Butterflies disturb the stillness of the air with the gentle flittering of paper thin wings. As a population, they are predominately bluebell blue, but occasionally a painted lady passes through, orange wings palpitating through the ethers, looking for all the world like a beating heart floating adrift in an invisible sea. Those of the blue variety congregate sociably upon the clusters of wild flowers. A well trained ear might be able make out the whispering of their wings and glean some significance. Their dance through the sky, their configurations upon the flora may be read like the tea leaves at the bottom of a bone china cup. The context of their message shifts with each dying moment, so that in one breath it is profound and in the next it is vulgar.

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