The Alder of Intention
By Contributing Author/Artist Carl Franz
By Contributing Author/Artist Carl Franz
People have been taking the path through Howden Marsh and then cutting across to the meadow for years.
The last time I was there I saw a small wooden notice board had been put up.
It was hand written and nailed to a tree at the edge of the meadow.
PRIVATE KEEP OUT, it said.
Going by the hard packed trail around it no-one was taking much notice.
I still walk through the Marsh but I don't go to the meadow.
I'm not sure if the sign is the reason. Maybe I just don't need to go there.
My attention is elsewhere now.
The man in the alder tree roots would be laughing at that. It's our little joke.
I’ll let you in on it later.
Before the sign went up I regularly hiked to the meadow. I found a special place by an alder tree. There are lots of trees there, alongside the ditch. This one was quieter than the rest. So very calm.
I just stood there next to it. Sometimes I squatted on my haunches among the betony plants.
I wasn't really sure what I was doing at first.
After a few visits I began to feel the stillness wrap around me.
My thoughts hurried out like wild children to play in the countryside, leaving me alone at last. It became so peaceful the hoverflies gained weight and slowed down.
The betony plants were level with my head when I crouched down. When I did that the hoverflies thought I was tame and came closer. They pointed like fingers at the purple flowers all grown tall around my head.
One day a really heavy hoverfly stopped right in front of my face. It pointed at a purple flower with such intention that nothing else mattered any more.
The meadow behind it sighed and gave up trying to be real. It softened and melted away into another time.
In another time the meadow was a field. A field of gold sunshine woven into a full crop of wheat.
In the far corner of the field a faint red threshing machine remembered that same summers day.
The wood and metal hardened out into life and it began working.
After that I always waited for the red threshing machine. I forgot about the hoverfly.
The red threshing machine was always threshing. Always in the same place in the far corner of the field.
I got used to it being there and so it became less important, just like the heavy hoverfly had.
Just like the stillness had before that.
Layers upon layers were becoming invisible.
That amused the man in the roots of the alder. He was tiny like the small folk in fairy stories.
When he saw that I understood about the layers he grinned.
When the red threshing machine became invisible too we looked at each other for a moment. Then he held his long stemmed clay pipe steady by the bowl and laughed.
His laugh was a series of friendly wheezes.
His pale blue eyes threw out sparks under the surface of watery mirth. Then they relaxed, becoming bright gems settled deep into wise weathered creases.
He could talk but his eyes spoke for him.
They said he was glad I saw the layers of intention. Glad I got the joke.
We enjoyed the joke together. It was a good one because there was always another punchline.
The man in the suit was the next punchline.
He got my attention right away. He was a big man. Much bigger than me.
His body filled out his navy blue suit in a comfortable easy way without a single crease.
He didn't say or do anything. He just stood there sideways on, looking west. Waiting.
I felt I needed to ask him something.
I think he was waiting for me to do that.
I considered all the things I could ask.
Who was he? Why did he always face west? What did he want?
But when I did ask, my question surprised me. I don't know where it sprang from.
Of all the things I could have asked him I just blurted this stupid thing out.
I didn't say it out loud. I said it in my head. But it was loud.
As loud as a heavy hoverfly’s intention.
“What do I look like to you?” I asked.
Straight away I regretted asking such a dumb self-centred question. Only now, I don't think it was so dumb.
The man in the suit didn't answer. Instead he slipped his hand into his waistcoat pocket.
I thought he was going to pull out a watch to see what time it was.
To see how much time I had wasted.
When his hand came out it was holding a small round mirror.
He turned it towards me.
Then I saw myself in it. I saw the alder tree and I saw me next to it.
I didn't look like me though. My reflection was a translucent white globe splaying out all over with fine white hairs. It looked like a magical dandelion seed head wavering about in the air.
I stared at myself.
All the fine white hairs were feeling outwards in every direction from a sphere of starlight.
And I was beautiful.
Story and painting by Carl Franz
About the Author:
I am a retired engineer living in the beautiful countryside of Yorkshire, England. Often to be found striding along the country paths alongside the rivers, or ambling through the local woods, lost in my thoughts and happy as a lark. I enjoy painting and writing. Through them, I try to describe the spiritual experiences encountered during my daily and nocturnal travels. These experiences have always heavily influenced my life and now I have time to explore them and perhaps share my deep interest in all peaceful spiritual practices which celebrate and respect nature.
Carl Franz can be contacted at: