As children, we were unaware of so many things that we lived in a strange paradise of invented names and things that, in our eyes, were full of mystery. Birds, insects and flowers that had no names other than those we chose to give them. In this way, each of us possessed our own beautiful and magical kingdom made up things as ephemeral as the baptism of a tree, or a creek, or a particular path through the woods. We used to say, "I swam in your creek"; "Look at your birds"; "This is my flower."
I had a special love for certain animals that in the opinion of many were quite disgusting. I remember a toad. It lived under the rocks near a little creek that was close to where I grew up. I called him Sam the Mindreader, and although I can't seem to remember why, the reasons behind any of these names for plants and animals were vague and intangible to begin with. And if we loved some of these, we also hated others, such as the thistles, pastel purple flowers born among the weedy fields that signaled the coming end of our summer vacation. When the purple flowers appeared we would squash them furiously with our heels or cut them from their roots.
One day someone killed Sam the Mindreader. I found him squashed and dried up. I stayed there for a long time just looking and listening to the creek running across the rocks. Suddenly I was left with a name in the emptiness, a name I didn't know what to do with. A strange feeling came over me then. I remember that I went away slowly; it wasn't sadness that I felt, but the emptiness of something that had fled, like a bird or a memory. I felt this loss to the point that for days I went around repeating to myself now and again "Sam the Mindreader" without understanding it well any longer.
Many times since I have felt the hollowness of a word that, in reality, never existed. But then, for the first time, I became aware of certain words or echoes that leave a hollow in our thoughts that neither hope nor memory can overcome.
a return Visit
2 years ago