A position which after some time makes her head spin; she mustn’t straighten up too quickly; each time sparks dance before her eyes, glittering brightly on a black background; in spite of this she cannot resist the sound coming from above, still indistinct but nearer and more certain with every minute. Finally she looks up, but must quickly restore her threatened balance, propping herself up with her palm on the dampened, sun-warmed soil; she adores this touch, the warm, damp earth seems like a living organism, she thinks to herself: a soft, cosy primal mother body, on which you can always rely.
She is a little taken aback, uneasy – how had the thought of an eternal primal mother come into her mind at that moment (where in fact do our words come from and to what extent are they really my own words, to what extent do I speak with words and see with pictures, with whole networks of pictures that others have created before me;
(is there still any point nowadays trying to find my own words and my own pictures; can there be any such thing any longer)?
The sounds above her grow stronger, as if they wished to speak to her from those cloudy heights, as if they wished to address her in the midst of that autumn garden. Still bent over, her outstretched hands sunk in the soil, she rests her gaze on the spot where she senses they are, though not yet visible, at least she, with her short-sighted eyes, cannot pick out against the bluish-grey background the actual shapes of birds, although their voices are growing clearer, more pronounced all the time. She shifts her weight from her right foot to her left, at which almost imperceptible movement she feels a sharp prick on her finger, an unnoticed thorn has stuck in her flesh. She straightens up carefully, brushing the soil off her hands, with the back of one hand she wipes away the thin red stream on the fingers of the other; she is standing amidst the roses, in the middle of that long bed of rose bushes.(…)
On the other side of the fence her neighbor is digging up old strawberry plants, rather late; they always did things after everyone else, maybe out of laziness, maybe from a kind of indifference towards time, from tiredness or resignation so far as timed duties were concerned (maybe they have already reached the point where you realize that you cannot fulfill them all anyway, and certainly not to perfection, and therefore you should not let yourself be enslaved by them); he, too, has noticed the urgent, piercing voices of the birds; in a characteristic, half-sluggish way he waves his hand towards the sky, but then immediately bends over his spade again, just pausing in between to call in the direction of the house, where his wife is sitting on a bench, slowly, as if he were chopping the sentence into separate parts: put the water on for coffee, do you hear, it’s high time you put the water on for coffee.
She knows her neighbors, she knows that no answer will come from the bench; rather a strange couple, must be about sixty, shortish, roundish, slow in movement and in speech, they were rarely heard talking together; it was the kind of conversation where you have the feeling that your partner is not listening, does not want to listen, does not think what is said is of any significance, because anyway, all they needed to say has already been said, and perhaps even heard. Her neighbor slowly, slowly and too quietly calls out once more, please don’t forget the coffee, and not waiting for his wife’s answer – anyway, she may not have heard him – he goes on with his work: the spade cuts rhythmically into the ground, now and then clanging against a metal post in the fence, a stone in the soil; no matter how long they cultivate it, there is no shortage of stones.
The sounds above her are rapidly becoming so loud that she involuntarily turns her head once more towards the sky; this time she can already see them; at moments it looks as if the whole sky is moving, maybe they are swans, but by their voices more likely wild geese; on the fringes of her memory a recollection flutters of a fairytale, which for her in childhood had always breathed the mystery of destiny: from human to bird and once more to human, ransomed by a triple sacrifice (is it really necessary to pay for every transformation, for every return, and as a rule with that which is most dear?); the lasting burden of experience, as revealed in a fairytale.(…)
She suddenly remembered a poem by a famous Chinese poet, which had recently come her way, whose words were in the same spirit: the contrast of immobility, of being bound to a fixed point that will not let go, with, at the same time, the insistent call of distant places; pointing towards what has already been seen, experienced, known.
When wild geese fly southwards,
how I long for my cry to fly with them!(…)
The sky in motion: with bated breath she watches the serried ranks of the flock, making regular triangles, flowing unexpectedly, as if at command, into a new formation as strictly observed as before, with only a few birds flying beyond the shared geometrical design and keeping close to one of the rear tips of the triangle, while even these formed a smaller regular pattern. The change in the angle the birds had previously assumed happened several times in such rapid succession that she couldn’t even register the different phases, if she concentrated on one part of the triangle, she missed the regrouping of the other parts.
W s d
h y o r
e l u a
n f t w
w e h
how I long for my cry to fly with them, wrote the Chinese poet (may desires and dreams fly with them too, the woman now says, dreams that may take us beyond our finality, that may help us reach, mature to transcendence.
Translation by Heather Trebatická