The happy people with big hips and watery lips pulled up by the river and sat down, spent. There trout bubbled at them, trees shaded and grass waved. It was time for a smoke. They sat in a circle, passed the smoke around.
They did not like where they came from, what was, so to speak, behind them. But they were all fond of one another, loved the birds and other small creatures. They also liked caressing the flora. With the ancient art of solemnity (a kind of grace, but very hard to pin down), they dedicated themselves to seeds, to the new seed. Here they would make the new thing. With their own hands, with their toenails if necessary. They were even happier then . . . fell off to purple sleep with green dreams after laying out the mats, pitching the ropes and tents and passing bread around.
In the morning the sun trickled through the trees, it always does. Drowsy scufflings were heard, a dazed head or two bobbed up, dug the sun, the trees, stream, the breathing air, alive, sweet, intoxicating. After coffee, scouts observed they were in the middle of a bowl, surrounded on all sides by ridges, gashes, a circle of mountains. Grass valley: thin reeds waving, bushes shaking trees standing like pools. . . . Speculation went that the troupe was in the center of the universe. But the most insistent of the bunch, the philosophers, the neo-niphilifties, led by two, one Jed, one Job, reminded all assembled from whence they had come. Severe depressions sat in, the circle, passing around the burning log. Later in the day wood was gathered for the fires.
Each day the troupe assembled. The news, work schedules. A good time, something remotely familiar about it all, as though they could almost remember it from somewhere. At nightfall, another assembly. But, although few noticed, the troupe was only a group when assembled, in the circle, sharing the fire. When work-time came they were a scattering, a smattering, each like a wounded bird, something to be remembered, but what? The few that noticed this subtlety, Jed, Job and a few disciples, didn’t mind — they dug the company, the action, what little there was. They turned on to everybody, everybody turned on to everybody else. Good times were certainly whiled away. . . .
Sometimes, around the campfire, magnificent rambling tales were told of life in the silly drenched belching fuming cities. Unfree ways. Sliced-up land. Empty buildings, some all day, some all night. Empty heads, empty flower-pots. Closed markets, closed stores at stroke of nightfall, money traded for necessities during daylight. Roads that go nowhere damn fast. Bridges that sway, boats moored all week nearly, two or more cars in some yards, one hardly ever used. Papers shuffled that everybody admitted were useless, jobs deliberately made hard to get, people deliberately screened, walled, from, by and for, people. People daily separated by doors, windows, rooms; mountains of rubbish and food discarded every day. Outrageous! Incomprehensible! What a waste! Fantastic mountain . . . but not as fantastic as their mountain, if those beyond the valley only knew, and they leaped and danced and made music and made merry and made Mary, who created John, who dreamed Jill or Bill or fill; and they laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed while they leaped, as they sat or stood in the circle and passed around the smoke.
Only, sometimes, in the back, in the very back of minds, Jed grinning like a prickly pear, Job mouthing a smile through his crown of thorns which shimmered like a halo made of smoke, they weren’t sure: Where they were, who they were, where they were all going so slow (though they grew more certain from where they had come) — weren’t sure if they were sitting still or leaping high, standing or walking, running or flying, moaning or funning, living or dying. . . . But, then, who is, friend — who is?