Issue 10, Fall 1955
The property must belong to someone: I come upon berry patches and fruit trees in the general wildness, and tracks of cattle in the boggy grass by a stream, but there are no fences and the last farmhouse I passed was a mile away.
The ground mounts gradually, a mosaic of sun and shade, up slabs of rock, over tuffets of moss; the sky is a steady blue; the wind barely breathes in the treetops; only a sleepy chirp or a rustle, now and then, filters from above. There is such a spell of green-gold stillness on the afternoon that I, too, move without sound.
With sneaking steps I go up the shallow staircase of rocks and enter one of the many doorways of the trees. I do not feel like a trespasser, but like a belonger to the place, as if I had once grown here long ago, as a bush or tree, or been one of these dark, inscrutable stones in bedded in the hillside.
I come to a flat green spot full in the sunlight. I undress entirely, and stretch out, my cheek on a pad of moss, my body pressed into the warm, pricking grass. Beneath me I feel knobs of stones and spines of tree-roots, the earth’s skeleton under its supple flesh. The sun a great gold brush, comes down on my back, and a ground breeze whisks over me softly. I feel myself being woven back into the fabric and contour of nature. It seems I can hear, under my ear, ants dancing, the foreheads of worms pushing, and the seeds of all growth gnawing upward through the sod. My hand, flung out, touches the smooth, ringed trunk of a birch, its skin as white as mine. Should any human being pass, it seems to me, I would not be noticed where I lie. My clothes are a disguise I have abandoned, and my nakedness is suitable and comfortable as bark to a tree, as his well-fitting hide to an animal. Face down, hugging the earth, I am secure, invisible, sunk in the landscape.
When my back is saturated with sun, I turn over. And now I absorb a new sensation: Gaping, roofless blue above me, my body white as a fallen statue in the open green, I am all at once vulnerable, exposed. So an animal must feel, forced upon its back, its grip with the earth broken, its soft underparts bare to attack. But when caressed or scratched on these parts, of which the nerve-tendrils are so sensitive, the animal relaxes in a kind of ecstasy; and this I do as the sun repossesses me with its burnishing stroke.