It was still raining and cold when I came out of the grocery store. An overwhelming desire to see the Med again drove me to the other side of the hill instead of driving home. I parked by the stairs to the calanque, ear bud in place, watched raindrops meander in wet trails on the windshield, letting music soothe the ache… Then I shook the melancholy and stepped out.
The Med was alive, bouncing on the edges of the calanques, spraying and playing in shades of gray-green. Off in the distance Porquerolles and Port-Cros stood like harmless ghosts islands …One foolish sailboat was tacking against the wind, going nowhere fast.
Amorphous clouds owned the world…
I removed the ear bud and let the Med sing to me. I stood there a long time, breathing in the cold salty air, mingled with a hint of eucalyptus.
Something hit my head and fell to the ground. A eucalyptus pod; I was standing close to a sickle –leaf eucalyptus. Another one hit my shoulder. I looked for a mischievous animal, but saw nothing. I ducked the next one coming at me, and looked harder at the curled bark strips…and there she was, a sprite, playing possum, hanging over a branch.
She laughed at me as she propped her head on her hand and she said “See? Not everything is quite as it seems.”
“What do you mean?” I replied defensively.
“You were looking for something your mind understands; you didn’t see me until I forced you to.”
“You were hiding.”
“Really? In plain sight?” She was mocking me now. Looking bored, she added “You are so predictable! Getting all huffy and prickly when you don’t like what is… Oh! you are going to cry, now?”
“No”, I said wiping a raindrop off my face. “When the sun doesn’t shine I feel a little lost”.
“Whatever.” She shrugged.
“It’s true! You know I am all about feelings, love, living fully, and..”
“That’s the Valentine effect” she interrupted.
“The Valentine effect, you know, the love myth, the sunshine and daisies stuff, red hearts and chocolates, the love you forever nonsense,” she sighed.
“You are a sprite, you live magic and you don’t believe it exists?” I asked incredulously. She didn’t answer.
It had stopped raining. The Med was still singing her lullabies to the shore. From time to time a leaf shook as a raindrop fell off. I waited, staring at her.
The sprite stood up. Her skin, sienna and silver, shone yet blended with the tree’s bark; she was sublime in all her naked eight inches. As if getting ready to tackle a messy chore, she gathered her tresses and pinned it back with white heather; then leveling her huge cinnamon eyes at me she glowered and she just about yelled:
“Now, listen up woman, don’t be daft!” One finger pointed at me, the other hand on her hip, “Eternal passion is biologically impossible!”
“How can you say that?! It can’t be true!”
“Science says it is.”
“Well, Science has limits, it doesn’t know everything.” She was annoying me.
She shook her head a bit and quietly stated: “I know the biology of nature. I am it, I live in it, I feel it and I can assure you that nothing that consumes lasts forever.”
“But Sprite, poets have written about it forever…if it doesn’t exist, then why dream of it?”
“Precisely for the same reason people dreamed God, for a solution to the unexplained, unending loneliness of being,” she answered.
She plucked a sickle leaf, played with it a bit and wrapped it around her lap as she sat back down.
“I really don’t want to hear this. I am a dreamer and if Big Love doesn’t exist, then may be I don’t either,” I said as my throat was tightening.
“I didn’t say that love doesn’t exist.”
“Thank you very much! Well, what is love then?”
“A brain malfunction, a little insanity,” she quipped and added with a giggle in her voice “but you know that sanity is over rated.”
I didn’t feel like answering her smile. I just stared at her, willing her to explain.
“OK, here it is dreamer: what you call love is actually moments of positive resonance.”
“You really ought to read more science and less fiction you know,” she said dismissively, obviously exasperated by my ignorance. Then with pity in her eyes she went on: “To create moments of love, mirror neurons, oxytocin and vagal tones must work together and that, my dear, requires presence in order to occur… and the flow of oxytocin ebbs and flows”.
I stood there shocked. Seriously? Did I find the only scientific-minded sprite in the known universe practically in my backyard?!
“I don’t believe you. Besides you are an illusion.” I said defiantly.
“Oh, peachy! There we go back to square one. If you don’t like it, you dismiss it? Do you really want to trust only what you feel? What you perceive as true? Are your perceptions always right? … Ever heard a baby cry only to find out it was cat? Ever wondered what was that bird calling in the night only to realize it was a mechanical sound? Ever heard of optical illusions?”
I hung my head. The gravel under my feet was loose. The sailboat in the distance was still tacking the wind in the middle of nowhere.
“You think that boat is trying to get to shore but incomplete information and pre-conceived notions lead to faulty conclusions. That sailor is a dreamer too. He thinks he saw a sunken ship and is trawling back and forth looking for it.” She smiled at the sailboat with affection.
Then she turned those beautiful, sweet eyes to me and spoke to my soul: “There are lots of dreamers out there lassie; sometimes the dreams collide, sometime they link for a little while. It all is. It is all good. Don’t fret. Dream on, be what you are, but don’t let your passion ride you… or your imagination for that matter.” She chuckled.
My heart was beating with the waves below me. Too much information and yet not enough. Confusion settled comfortably in my mind. Is everything an illusion since I practically never have all the facts? None of what she said quieted the blues seeping into my bones with the cold.
“Are you real?” I whispered to her and to myself as well.
“Schrodinger’s cat. Up to you.”
And she vanished with a peel of laughter in a rustle of leaves.
Drawing: Wood Sprite by Loz O’Connor at Elfwood.com