Two worlds touch where the spring surfaces. One, the green world inhabited by humans, washed by sun and moonlight, alive with sound and scent, and, beneath our feet, another—an unfathomable place of darkness, where water, minerals, stone, and time contrive the ground we rely on. It’s neither solid nor immutable, but compared to our fleeting bodies, it might as well be both. Its slow churn and enormous mass keep us from falling into space, tugging on our every particle and cell.

Over and over, I return to the spring, trying to see deep into earth through clear water, following the rippling movement back to its source underground. Trying to see beyond sight, I stare at the past—the water and bedrock—hoping to glimpse the future. The futility of this weird endeavour leaves me drained and demoralized. Can’t you just be normal? In another time, it might have been my task to guard this water source, or interpret its movement and moods for others, opening my mouth to let wise moisture pour out in the shape of words. Perhaps the form this task takes in our time is coaxing a story from its trickle.

A new friend, a poet, died last year, as winter shrivelled and spring furtively approached. Before becoming ill, she often sat in the woods, translating the hours into breath-taking work. We conspired through this witchy habit, attuned to our surroundings, to extract potent language from every kernel we unearthed. It takes a combination of patience and tenacity, a nameless hunger for a food few others recognize. When we met, we didn’t talk poetry—we talked owls and flying squirrels, ruby-throated hummingbirds, little brown bats, and fly honeysuckle. Now, nearly two years into the pandemic, I happen upon a chickadee bathing in freshly fallen snow—just as it would in water or dust, something I’ve never witnessed before this moment. I clock the elegant form of each nude tree pressing against voluptuous wintry sky. The whisper and crackle of dried beech leaves and rustling pine needles graze my ears, but there’s no nourishment in any of it. My feet planted on the same mysterious earth, too numb for grief, I forget how to feel.

Check out our summer issue for the full story, out in July 2024!