Chapter 8: Communing with nature
Copyright © 2015 by Brian Bixby
I need to write this all down, as much as possible, before I lose it. It’s already a jumble in my mind.
I woke up early this morning. It’s Saturday, the first day of summer. I know that’s supposed to be in June, but all the summer places open this weekend, so it’s summer in Netherfield. Don’t let the weather tell you otherwise.
It was about dawn, and I was restless, so I threw on some old clothes and went for a walk. Out back a ways there’s a stream, and as you head into the hills it runs through a ravine with some small waterfalls. I decided to take a walk into the hills, and strike over to the stream just below the biggest waterfall. If it had been warmer, I’d have worn a bathing suit, but temperature-wise it’s not summer yet, so instead I threw on a light jacket. The sun was out, though. It felt like the day might yet warm up.
I got off to a good start walking and climbing up the hill, until I was warm and starting to sweat. Right about then was when I hit the path that leads to the waterfall. It might be part of the Appalachian Trail for all I know, I only found it two weeks ago. It comes out just above the waterfall, so I had to start cutting through the brush to get below. It’s steep, as well, so I had to be careful, holding onto trees and bushes, while trying to get down.
I got about halfway down, where I could see the stream, and saw something completely unexpected. There was this large, flat granite boulder in the stream. That wasn’t unexpected. It was what was on top of the boulder. There was a woman. And she was naked.
I must have stood there, just completely amazed, wondering if I was seeing this right. She was stretched out on the rock, lying on her back, her eyes closed. I had to wonder how she could do that when it was still pretty cold. I got to wondering just who she might be. Some nature lover, clearly. Maybe a tourist. But who would go around in the nude?
And then my stomach turned. I knew of one woman who had a reputation for such things: Miranda Milan. This looked like her, as near as I could tell. Same black hair, same skin tones. It was hard to tell about the face, given that I’d never seen her without her sunglasses, but it could well be.
Once I figured that out, I just wanted to get away as quickly as possible. No matter what Joy Barker had said, I did not want to deal with Miranda again. So I turned . . . to find myself face to face with Miranda Milan herself.
I froze. It was definitely Miranda, in her usual goth attire. I glanced down at the rock. There was nobody on it anymore.
I looked back at Miranda, wondering just what the hell was going on. She didn’t look pleased. All I wanted to do was get away. But before I could move, Miranda reached out and touched my forehead with one finger. Abruptly, my fear went away. The rest of my brain seemed to go with it. I just stood there, looking at her, waiting.
Miranda shook her head. “You are getting to be a real problem, Jane Harris. My annual communing with Nature, and you have to come and interrupt it.” She stood there, staring at me (I guess, since the sunglasses make it impossible to tell), and then chuckled. “But I did like the bit about the pepper spray, kid. You’ve got potential. So I’m going to go easy on your punishment. You interrupted my communing with Nature; you have to finish it for me. So you are going to go down there, take off all your clothes, and lie face up on that rock and commune with Nature. Once Nature’s through with you, you’re free to go. Now, get going.” And she pulled back her hand.
It was like I was hypnotized. I just did what Miranda ordered without even thinking about it, or why I was doing it. I just knew I had to get down to that rock, shuck my clothes, lie down and commune with Nature. It took me several minutes to get down there, but I never even considered why I was doing it. It was what I had to do, that was all. I took off all my clothes on the bank and walked through the icy stream to the rock without even considering that I was getting chilled. And then I laid down and waited.
So I was lying on the rock, looking up into the sky, which was getting brighter. If I’d been in my normal frame of mind, I’d probably have been wondering how I was supposed to commune with nature, or how I’d tell when nature was satisfied. But none of that occurred to me. I just lay there, not thinking of anything, just looking upward, listening, feeling the rock underneath me.
This went on for some time. At first, everything was normal. And although I didn’t think about it, the experience started to get more intense. The sky, framed by trees, looked so blue. I could hear the water; hell, I could hear birds and animals in the woods for miles around. I could smell the stream and the mud and the plants. And I could feel. Not just the rock, no, I could feel the air on every inch of my skin, and the sunlight in those few places it reached me through the trees.
It was all quite pleasant, and surprisingly intense since I wasn’t trying to do anything. And then it got even more intense. I could feel the weight of the atmosphere on my body. I could feel it touching every point, tickling my feet, caressing my breasts, brushing against my lips.
And then Nature wasn’t just outside me. It was entering me, penetrating me. It seeped through my skin, it invaded me through my senses, it came pouring through my body’s orifices. And Nature just wasn’t entering into my body. It was entering into my mind as well. Nature overwhelmed me physically and mentally, making me its plaything, making me part of Nature.
At least I think that’s what happened. I didn’t understand any of this at the time, or what followed. I was still aware, but I’d lost all control over my body and thoughts. But this is the best I can do to make some sense out of what happened.
I felt thirsty. I drank. I drank water. I drank milk, juice, wine, beer, things I had never tasted before. More and more of them. And I was hungry and I ate. I ate wonderful foods and crappy foods. But I had to eat. I had to survive; that is Nature’s primary imperative for living things.
And then it was as if the timescale slipped out a bit, as if I was living longer time periods. I didn’t just have to live, I had to reproduce. That is Nature’s second imperative. So I had sex. The first time with a man was a shock. And then there were more times and more partners and more ways in which we fulfilled our sexual needs with each other, many of which I never could have imagined before. There was pain, but I was buoyed up on a great wave of pleasure, pleasure I’d never experienced before.
And then the timescale slipped out again. I wasn’t just having sex, I was becoming pregnant. I felt my body demand more food, so I ate and drank even more, and my body began to swell. I could feel the child inside of me kicking. My belly swelled unbelievably. And then I went into labor, hard, hard labor that seemed unendurable. And then I gave birth, tremendous strain that was. And I suckled my child at my breast and felt tired and happy.
And I was pregnant, and gave birth, and breastfed my children, over and over again. And I was my children and my parents, and I went on from generation to generation, being born, growing up, giving birth, and dying, all the while eating, drinking, and having sex. Soon (whatever that means in this context) I wasn’t just me, but I was other women and other men, struggling to survive, obeying nature’s imperative to survive and reproduce, feeling pleasure, feeling death.
And then it wasn’t just people, but other animals. At this point things become hard for me to recall. I know I was other animals, but they think differently, and it is hard to recall what I thought and felt. I know at one point I was a rutting female of some kind, and fighting with other males another time. I may remember killing my partner after we copulated and some other bizarre mating practices, but I can’t be sure if those memories are real.
After that, I couldn’t really process the realities I was experiencing. I think I was now every living thing, plants included, that I was not just life but the world, and that I embraced stars. But I can’t recall that at all well. It was too foreign, it was too overwhelming, it did not stay with me.
And then I came to, more or less. I was self-aware again, but I still didn’t control my mind or body. I was still lying on the rock, and to judge from the sun no more than an hour could have passed. I could feel every inch of my body. My body reeked of its odors, as if I had been engaged in intensive exercise and repeated sexual encounters. (I wouldn’t have known what that smelled like until this happened.)
Nature must have decided that I needed to recuperate after that experience. Without even thinking, I just dropped into the stream and washed myself. I didn’t even notice how cold it was. I got out, and by the time I was putting my clothes, the winds had dried my body.
I started hiking back up out of the ravine to go home. I was still somehow part of Nature, and could sense all of it around me the whole way back to the house. As I approached the house, I could feel the inhabitants within. I could tell them all apart, especially my brother, because he was not yet old enough to participate in the sexual world. And while the others still slept, my mother was awake and in the kitchen.
I walked in, and she started talking to me. I have no idea what she was saying. But Nature wanted me to rest, so my mother wasn’t going to be allowed to interfere. I could feel me/Nature reach out and make my mom want to go have sex with Stan. She got a goofy grin on her face, forgot all about me, and headed off to the bedroom. Nature made sure Stan was ready for her.
I got to my room, took off my clothes, and went to bed. I slept until just after 1 PM. Then I woke up, just me again. So I figured I’d better write all this down before I forgot it. I don’t know what it all means, save that I had a very thorough communing with Nature, I guess.
There’s a knock on my door. I shut the diary, stuff it into a drawer.
Donna comes in the door looking cheerful. “Hey, Jane, you’re finally up. I thought you’d sleep ’til dinner. What did you do, stay up all night reading?”
I look at my sister. Although I don’t seem to be communing with Nature anymore, I’m seeing her in a different light this afternoon. Donna has this wonderful deep brown hair. I’ve always just resented it, because mine is dull and lacks any body. Now I look at it and it makes Donna look healthy, as if she’s eating well and fit to reproduce.
I must look like I’m in a daze, because Donna gives me an inquiring look. “You okay, Jane? You look like you just woke up and don’t know what’s what.”
Well, yeah, I’m looking at you and thinking things I normally wouldn’t think. But I say, “Sorry, yeah, that’s kinda it.” And I realize something else. Reproduction: that jogs a thought out of my experience this morning. When I sensed Donna in the house, I, or Nature, could tell that she wasn’t a virgin anymore.
Donna doesn’t realize I’m having a revelation about her. She says, “Well, get yourself in the shower and get dressed. Mom and Stan hightailed it out of here late this morning, saying they were going off for the day, that they wouldn’t be home until late, and we should fend for ourselves. And they left us enough money to go eat out and have some fun in town!”
Whoa! I guess Nature arranged a good time for Mom and Stan. And when did my sister start engaging in sex? Maybe when she stopped confiding in you, eh, Jane? Which would make it last September. Aha! It fits.
Donna interrupts my thinking. “Jane? What’s with you?”
I shake my head. “Sorry. Gathering llama wool in my head. Did I just hear you say we can go off and have a good time in town and eat dinner?”
“Pre-cise-ly.” Donna got that way of saying it from me.
“What about Freddie?”
Donna smiles. “Mom dispatched him off to spend the day with one of his friends. No prob.”
I smile back. “You going to let me drink coffee?”
“You not going to tell Mom about the guy I want to see?”
“I think, dear sister, we have a deal.”
So we’re going along chatting as we head into town. It’s almost like we’re back the way we were before last fall. That makes me happy. And, I’m happy the whole relationship with Nature thing has faded away. Wonderful though it was, it would have made normal life very difficult. Before it faded, I spent several minutes in the shower admiring my small breasts for their ability to provide milk to infants. Not what I normally think about.
I wasn’t going to mention my discovery about Donna to her. Too much, too soon after we’ve gotten back on a friendly basis with each other. But she’s not saying anything about this guy she’s going to be meeting. And somehow the two connect in my head, and without realizing what I was going to say, I blurt out, “So are you planning to have sex with this guy you’re meeting?”
Donna turns her head gives me a skeptical look, not too hostile, more curious. “Where the hell did you get that idea from, like it’s any of your business?”
“Oh, I was just wondering.” Although my brain warns me not to, I can’t resist adding, “It’s not like you’re a virgin anymore or anything.”
Donna chuckles once. “And you know this how?”
What can I say? “I had a mystical experience.”
“Okay, don’t tell me. It doesn’t matter.”
“Damn right it doesn’t.”
We walk on a bit. And then I double down. “Though I’d say it happened back in September.”
That gets Donna to stop. She grabs me, spins me to face her. I’ve clearly upset her. “Who told you that?”
I shake myself free. “No one. It’s just that September was when you started treating me like someone you didn’t want around. So I guessed, that’s all.”
Donna shakes her head. “You know, Jane, you’re a real pain in the neck sometimes.”
“I take it that’s a ‘yes.’”
Donna shakes her head some more and rolls her eyes. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation.” She gives me a long stare. “Well, since you’ve already figured it out, might as well admit it. Yes, Jane, it was in September. And, no, I didn’t want to talk to you about it. And I figured that if I started talking to you about any of it, you’d never stop pestering me with questions. Satisfied?”
I nod. We start walking again. And then I ask, “So was he any good?”
Donna sounds really annoyed. “Didn’t I say I didn’t want to talk about it?” We walk on for a bit, and then in a much lower voice, she says, “Not really. Not the first time. Or the next few times. And then,” and a smile crosses her face, “I found someone much better, and oh, boy.”
I give her a moment before saying, “It must have hurt to leave Boston and your new love.”
Donna turns, gives me a smirk. “It wasn’t love, Jane. More like experimenting. I’d already broken up with the guy before we moved.”
“Glad to hear it. I thought maybe you were having an affair with Stan.”
For the second time, Donna stops dead. “WHAT?”
Oops. I pitch my voice low, hoping to avoid a scene, as if I’ve not already started one. “Well, you just seemed to take a shine to him around then, and the way he looks at you sometime . . .”
Donna’s outraged. “Of all the . . .” And then she remembers we’re on a public sidewalk and calms down. She taps her foot, her way of signaling she’s thinking. (Why Mom always misses this signal, I don’t know.) Then she slowly shakes her head while smiling a bit. “That wasn’t it at all. It was just that, once I knew what it was like, I could understand why Mom always wants a man in her bed. That’s all. To think that you’d think that I’d . . .”
Before this goes too far I interrupt. “Well, you must have seen the way he looks at you sometime.”
Donna frowns. “Yeah, I’ve seen, but that’s all that’s there, Jane. Stan hasn’t made any passes at me. Got it? So give the guy a break. He makes Mom happy, and your attitude toward him really sucks.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll back off on Stan. Okay?”
“As long as you mean it.” Donna looks relieved. And then she gives me a wary look. “Any other aspect of my personal life you want to discuss in public?”
Hey, I’ll push for it. “The guy tonight?”
Donna plays stupid. “What about him?”
“You having sex with him tonight?”
I’m thinking maybe Donna will get irritated. Instead, she smiles a knowing smile and gives me a wink. “Oh, it might be tonight. It might not. I’m not sure yet. And you’ll keep your trap shut about it to Mom, right?”
“Anything else, Jane?”
“Do I get to meet this guy?”
Donna slaps her forehead and heaves a sigh of exasperation. But she’ll introduce me. I know my sister.
End of chapter eight
(Wow! Almost had to wonder if Jane had borrowed some of Cindy’s drugs, with a vision like that. But it’s a great start to the summer. And now that she’s on good terms with her sister again, everything should be smooth sailing for Jane. At least, just so long as she stays clear of Miranda Milan. And as long as this vision of hers doesn’t have unpleasant consequences. And provided that Donna’s new boyfriend isn’t a serial killer. Guess we’ll have to wait and find out when Jane posts her next chapter.)