Sketch by Sketch
These I have drawn: a hillside of moonlit clover; creeks cradled by swaying heather; crumbling stone walls and pastures; a surly jackdaw’s favourite oak. And all just to get home; I’ve been gone so very long.
You might find me in the green layers beyond the sunless core of town, sidestepping the coiled corpses of men’s dreams, crossing industrial rivers where mechanical beasts gnaw on adolescent hearts.
For here dwell the kith of my childhood: the salamanders, foxes, rooks, and deer; even the sheep—their dull eyes forever sliding along my heels. Old friends are the mosses and ferns, the spirits of pollen, the ghosts of tree rings. All under the watchful eye of Pan.
As a youth I was enamored with mortals, would sketch them on peeled birch bark and hardened flows of sap. I read book after book about their adventures, dreamt of their heroes and maidens, envisioned hordes of treasure behind castle walls. To me, the human soul mirrored romance and wonder. Man dared dream of anything; it dared dream of us.
O how I longed to dance and love and sketch wildly among them! To escape the confines of Pan’s wild domain—to possess a soul!
Such desires led to secrecy, to a thousand sketches wrought in the abandoned swamps where not even the banshee will go. And then, at the pace of a snail’s whisper, the leaves of my face turned autumn and blew away. My wings shriveled and fell. I had somehow willed myself, sketch by sketch, into the abrasive, mortal light of Man.
Alas, the humans were not as I had expected. Romance played almost no role in courtship or marriage. Foreign to me was hunger, pain, deep sadness. Strange and worrisome were science and religion. Hardship overcame me, and I was led to the snickering god of apathy.
Soon my eyes turned the colour of winter. I broke apart as a flower petal in a storm. I do not know if I ever gained a soul.
But despite my disappointment, one simple comfort remained: my ability to sketch. Yet I no longer draw man or his dead dreams. Instead I lose myself in the mossy wood and wild heath, desperate to reveal the music and landscapes of my youth. Always I am trying my best to get the details just right. It is all I can do. I am at the mercy of human imagination.
Jason Sturner grew up along the Fox River in northern Illinois. He is of European and Native American descent. Of his many jobs, those he most enjoyed were naturalist and botanist. His stories and poems have appeared in Space and Time Magazine, Star*Line, Tales of the Talisman, Mythic Delirium, and Liquid Imagination, among others. He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, near the Great Smoky Mountains. Website: jasonsturner.blogspot.com