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Better than Fiction (creative non fiction)


At one time or another wind crashes through the bushes but that is not all. The winter sun hits the world like a fire and down below even the regular paths, along the valley floor, four coyotes chase two deer faster and faster and the leaves throw themselves up not having a clue what has happened and a commotion can be heard. Nothing is caught yet — but what a race, what a piece of trouble for everyone, and how fast they all go through there. At one time or another. And at one time or another ice breaks and the walker's foot falls through the pond — he is then with frustration, mud, and a bruised knee to go along with the bruised ego. He has to get out of the quick-sand like vacuum the waiting mud below has created and still try to keep his shoe on his foot. He has to walk home, drenched, kind of throttled or sunken and the like. At one time or another the robust July day houses impossibly blue and red berries, a praying mantis, a snake that comes across the way of the yonder path and is old and wise and cannot be caught or photographed — no not that one — and though to tell the truth he is just a generic garden variety garter snake — there is nothing really prosaic about him upon closer look. He is beauty, he is life, and he is a representation and part of the real kundalini energy both. At one time or other these things and thousands more happen. At one time or another, anyhow and anyways and anytime. At one time or another the creek flows and the pond is still and black and silent and who knows what it houses. The fences run along and the clouds skate through the sky then slow and bob a bit like balloons leaving and full of helium. They leave just the blue sky and then this sky turns ominous and dark, grey and after that the world becomes outright lurid and I am callow compared to its age and sagacity but I am game, I am all in, I am alive, and I am down. At one time or another — I get struck by ground lightning minutes before the real storm, the lightning coming out from the earth and through the leg and out the back of the right leg leaving its charge, scarring and scaring with its burn mark. I thought a group of people had thrown a fast and large rock as a joke. But no joke it was, at one time or another.

The Silent Snow and the White World

It was really something, the way the snow wafted down so silently and nobody was in the entire forest then. Two large birds alighted on a tree became startled and flew the way they do in movies, the way they do when you are right by them and they sound like big sheets or rugs in impossibly fast wind. Then, there were two quite little birds; I don’t know their names, on a tree at the top of the valley when I came out from such. Unlike the large birds they did not fly away and I thought — Oh hi birdie hi. The forest then was sacrosanct and silent, a guiding force, a refuge and I was free inside of it. What would I do and where would I go? I saw some old red sumac that always seems not old but bright and new and welcoming. I think the sumac knows something, is aware of things — but non-linear, Gnostic knowings. I inhaled the air, pure and clean. I saw a squirrel, and the distant tree lines, and sand, pebble, bushes, leaves, hilly places and flat ones. The snow though. It came down everywhere like a silent song, like a wonderful waking dream or vision — millions and billions and more of flakes. Where did it come from? The sky, yes — but beyond that? Source. The great hollow empty source of all things, giving out snow on a Friday afternoon as I walked alone with the canines and we were again, so blessed, so imperial but humble also — so story-like. The forest is one of the world’s most interesting open secrets. Has to be. There is no way it is not. Labyrinthine shapes inside the logs where bugs made mazes under the bark. Valleys that perhaps house spirits. Shades. Colors. Contours. A well of delight and mystery. The snow intensified and the sky was white, the ground was white, the world, was, well . . . you know.


The farms and the fields tell stories even as you only pass by them in modern vehicles and well-made highways. Of course, there are smaller ways; dirt and asphalt, which are not as well made, that are old. My impressions were that all was well, as it was Saturday afternoon late and trying to be early evening, and evening. The dark would make an interesting place, but not great for pictures, or to see much. The best part of the dark was seen was when the CN came across the way with its lights and some yellow stickers and unique graffiti to take goods wherever they were going. And the greatest part of the light was the coyote and then, later on, the ice and lake.

I was driving along a back road when I noticed to my left the coyote. He was solitary, (he or she but I shall call him a he), and though he blended in with the field, I was close enough, (a few hundred feet), to see him. Many would miss him, and though no expert, I have trained my vision intentionally and unintentionally by walking through the forest for years. Suddenly you realize, or perhaps gradually, that you can identify something in the distance, or a slight movement in the landscape, that you would have probably missed before. And it makes you think, after coming a little way with this talent or learned skill or whatever it is — how much else is there, how much else one has missed or might miss . . .

In any event, the coyote. He was not like a city coyote that are sometimes with mange — no, he was full coated and roundish in around the body and looked healthy, stealthy, bright, and light brown or beige. What I should have done was slowly turn the truck around and quietly taken a nice picture from the window. He probably wouldn’t have been bothered or seen me — since he was used to the sound of the traffic. That is what I must remember to do next time. This time — I carefully pulled over, put on the hazards, and got out and went across. I took a few pics but my technology is not even good, never mind great, for far away pictures. And I startled him and we looked at one another. I knew I wouldn’t have long to watch this beautiful and interesting animal, so I just waited and enjoyed watching...

There was next a couple of long moments where we met eyes and just watched one another. He more scared of me than I of him. Quiet though. Timeless. Then he slowly turned around and pranced a few meters (I go from imperial to metric it seems) — and then kind of trotted into the woods. I know there are many of them there because I know of someone who lives there. I don’t walk there. It’s not accessible or allowed. I inwardly bid adieu to coyote and went and made my way.

For the next hour it was a drive to the more northern parts even if it was not the true and furthest north. There were many times when there was nothing but vast and empty space, below which the land went out in all directions flaxen, golden, and sometimes with a brown loam here or there. I saw some old barns — from the new to the medium aged to the incredibly decrepit and run down and abandoned. Many had no concrete forms it seemed, but instead large bricks or stones and boulders and then wood was built upon them. The sun came down and shone on what was left of the roofs and sides and surrounding areas. Horses, other animals also, were seen. I wondered what it must be like to go into one, two, three or even more of those places in the bright summer, in the robust weeks where there were little wildflowers and thousands of pebbles and some birds and hay and old locks, doors, windows. Old ways. Old windows and ways!

Later there were old trucks — somehow aquamarine believe it or not — and some other trucks on blocks. Small stores with quiet lights that I know cast an interesting and calm yellow glow all the year long. Signage, many pick-ups (which I am never crazy about). Some people flashed their brights to warn of the law up ahead — and we slow slow s  l   o  w………….and then do the same and the (for the most part) nice people ‘get it’ and gently raise a hand and say thanks.

Then the lake — myriad washed stones and pebbles and some boulders. And ice-jam of some kind or something close to it. That preternatural white out there that ice and the sky can be. Actually, looked at closely the sky had hints of blue — and the clouds were mostly white. Land, rock, little water flowering from a runoff from the dirt streets above — old trees on the shore line with barren branches — an opening where there is sand-dirt — nobody out there — rocks rocks rocks. Ice and ice and ice — it's quiet — the night is coming — some frames were taken — the others are waiting — the world is moving in its own way — even in the silence I suppose. We have seen it.  We know a bit of its way. It's good we went that way and have come this way. We made the right choices along the way and have made the right ones currently. We have seen into it. We have been given a window. We received a bit of grace. It knows what it does — it goes where it goes — and speaking of going —stand up from crouching position and take one last look as its time — time has come to the timeless — and it’s time to go.

The Industrial Corridors and The Mother of God

They are the same as they ever were. Something crestfallen waits always in the air there. Inside one of the shops there is a card, saved, and it depicts Mary and her son the Savior. She is adorned in blue. Somehow this card, its secondary part or opening part torn off in order to keep just the depiction of the painting, has lasted decades. Maybe the divine mother herself is guiding, protecting it. If you go out of that small area you are met with industrial presses, welding machines, huge sturdy brick walls that have watched everything for over half a century. I remember when the bread makers, the bakers, were next door, and then a welding shop that made truck chaises, and now an automotive repair shop. I saw all those rewind shops and bearing shops. Pictures of naked women, of bikini clad women, of Saints so-called such as Sai Baba. Sai Baba for some reason was always the biggest on the street if you looked closely — something to do with something — heck if I know. I had a picture of Osho in my locker — I am the only one I think on the street of the industrial corridor that admired Osho. What else? Hundreds of cars, barbed wires, sometimes and people kept actual junkyard dogs for protection. There were other dogs around — and sometimes strays. A ravine where the water glistened with oil and chemicals. A homeless lady that drank that water and we tried always to stop her and give her fresh water. The snow coming in season to, for a moment, blanket the area — make it tolerable. Summer thunderstorms did the same thing. Eighteen wheel trucks coming and going. Steel. Lots and lots of steel. Tools. Smoke stacks. Testing pits. Aluminum. Hoppers. Copper. Varsol. Priming paint. Welding beads. Tanks. Lockers. Greasy windows. The sounds of fans and motors all the time.  I met the truckers — back in the days when they were a bit more special — when they were more truly the guardians of the roads. And I also spoke to them on the CB. My handle was Small Fry, and they would say, What’s your twenty? And sometimes warn of cops or accidents. A1A, I95, I75 in America, and the 401 in Canada. Those were the days as they say. Buying fireworks at the side of the road in Georgia. Having lunch in Florida at stops near Alligator Alley. Watching the sun actual set while crossing State Lines, or pulling into the strangely soulful motels with their small stucco pools and neon signs just like in some good independent film. But back to the corridor. Perhaps in the oil and grease, the grind and toll — all the days and weeks that learn to be months, years, decades — a soul needs a picture of something to remind one of an individual dream or future or past day. Sometimes it’s Miss July from a 1980 magazine, as politically incorrect as that would be these days. Other times it is Sai Baba with his crazy hair and miracles, clad in orange, bestowing blessings. And then there is the Mother of God adorned in blue, representing all things ‘good,’ from nurturing to compassion to divinity itself. Things are the same as they ever were out there along the corridor and its shops and factories and large bay doors that bang up and down on chains. Yes things are the same and you can take that to mean whatever you want.

Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer, poet and photographer. He is the author of Chalk Lines (Fowl Pox Press, 2013, cover art by Virgil Kay), and is currently at work on the written and visual nature narrative titled Pastoral Mosaics, Journeys through Landscapes Rural.

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