A world full of stories
You won't live to tell
But going on is all we know
Like rivers always flow
It seems the years just fly right past
While the days go by so slow
-Lowen and Navarro
Obsidian is used in cardiac surgery, as well-crafted obsidian blades have a cutting edge many times sharper than high-quality steel surgical scalpels. Even the sharpest metal knife has a jagged, irregular blade when viewed under a strong enough microscope. When examined under an electron microscope an obsidian blade is still smooth and even. A obsidian knife is one of the most ancient of weapons, with a blade as dark as death, and as sharp as life.
As a gemstone it possesses the peculiar property of presenting a different appearance according to the manner in which it is cut. When cut in one direction it is a beautiful jet black; when cut across another direction it is glistening gray.
I grew up in a small logging town, one of dozens nestled around beautiful, forested mountains in the West. Ever present was the noticeable rotten egg smell of the pulp mill that I never noticed as a child, but is as constant as death and taxes. There were no malls, simply a main street, a roller rink, a movie theater and only two fast food restaurants. It was a town where my best friend and I could ride our bikes over streets unconfined and unhurried, until darkness or hunger for family dinner around the table brought us home. It was a town where you could raise your family in relative comfort and safety. Life was routine, life was predictable. You graduated high school, married the first or second person you ever slept with. Had several kids, a mortgage, a dog, a cat. You retired and got a gold watch and watched the next generation take over the positions in the mills. The incredible open sky and mountains notwithstanding, it was a flat landscape of life, and one that I knew, probably by the age of 12, that I had to escape from.
I had never really fit in. I had skipped several grades, starting college at 14. I was outgoing, yet painfully shy, and though I usually had one or two girlfriends, the majority of painted, attention seeking girls hated me on sight, making cruel, catty remarks if ever I stumbled, when all I wanted to do was to go to organic chemistry unmolested.
I could not wait to leave.
At the time, and still today, the biggest employers was the factory and mills, and the majority of my graduating class, attracted by pay an 18 year old can only dream of, were working the green chain or in the pulp rooms right after high school. It's honest work, hard work, and dangerous work. It stole the youth from your bones and the hope from your horizon, for by the time you were 25, you have a modest home, kids, a bass boat and the prerequisite four wheel drive. College and a distant city are beyond thought and the pay that was incredible at 18, required more and more shift work and overtime to provide for your family.
Visiting Dad one summer I ran into someone at a grocers with whom I played with as a child. She's been working the register as long as I remember, and although she is as pretty as she always was, there's a roughness to her, like a piece of beautiful fabric that's become worn and frayed over time. "How have you been?" she asks, but the question doesn't reach her eyes - beautiful eyes fragile and the color of tea, the color only deepened by the wrinkles I already see around them. I don't think she recognized me either, age and life has its ways of changing us, but she saw the name on the credit card. She asks what I'm doing now and when I tell her, I might as well be telling her I was just abducted by aliens and returned, my life so foreign to the life she leads. "Well you have a nice day" she says and I nod and take the receipt for Dad, not knowing what else to say. We're strangers, and though as children we shared bike rides and ice cream, now we are looking at the world from completely different places.
I left that life, as quickly as I could. Left in a trail of exhaust from a small airplane that would as soon kill me as carry me forward; leaving it perhaps a bit worse for wear, but alive. Flying out into a night as black as obsidian, senses sharp, and ready to jab at whatever life threw my way. Yes, it's been a life of changes, of mistakes, of tears, but it's brought me to this spot, here today.
In this small town in which I keep to myself, I am mostly a stranger but it doesn't bother me, as those who do include me in their circles do so for who I am now, and not what they expected me to be. Those that judge or prejudge aren't those I welcome in my life. My group of friends is small, but true; people like me, those that share that same elemental feeling of living that seems to have escaped so many. Last time I was back there I couldn't help but notice that the huge field back behind my Dad's home, where once we hunted for shiny black arrowheads, is now the parking lot of a Walgreens, and the forested hills behind me are crowded with homes, hills I could still see if not for the large Burger King sign that blocks the view. As I walked back from the store to my Dad's house I searched the once familiar sky for the clouds that fueled my dreams and strained my ears to hear the beloved sound of a log train. But the train no longer runs along that route and I only hear the clatter of traffic.I don't really belong here any more. Somehow today, I don't belong anywhere but here in this place, now, but here, I am at home.
Would I change my past, even the most profoundly painful parts of it, knowing I would not be the person I am today, in this moment of time, in this place? A past that, had it been less stressful, might only have ended diminished and foreshortened in it's outcome. For without all of those tears and struggles and changes in landscapes, I would not have ended up in just this one spot, in just this one moment, breath teeming with promise. Alongside me in the truck, the touch of soft black fur against me, my lab Barkley, my companion. Like me, he is ready for today's play as we head out into the countryside, resting up against my own arm, my skin smooth as obsidian, yet strong as steel, muscles taut with the excitement of just being alive.