Saturday, January 7, 2023


I wrote this in 2005 and just found it.  I may have written it far earlier and copied it to a hard drive in 2005.  I don't know, but I just read it and it made me cry.

Caveman lives in a cave, where he keeps a fire.  He puts most of his effort into keeping his fire alive because it is his favorite thing in the world.  When he has time, he uses burnt wood, berry juice, sharp rocks, and other materials to decorate the walls of his cave with ideas and images and suggestions.  A few hours after drawing lines of different lengths, thicknesses, angles, and colors around the image of a bird, he realized that what he was trying to do with the lines was make birdsong.  He listened carefully, and found that he could hear a bird, just barely audible over the soft crackling of his fire as he gazed at his creations.  He loved the twittering, and so he searched the trees for the bird, and discovered that many birds make many pleasant sounds. 


Caveman formed a habit of throwing some of the seeds he collected for eating onto the ground around the trees.  In this way, he befriended the birds, and they enjoyed the food he gave them, and they sung to him.


One day, Caveman put a trail of birdseed to the mouth of his cave, hoping that he might coax the birds closer to his home.  He spent large amounts of his free time watching and hoping they would venture nearer.  In time, Caveman sensed that his cave was feeling neglected, for he had spent a lot of his free time interacting with the birds instead of decorating.  The birds were agonizingly cautious near the mouth of the cave anyway.


He returned finally to the art covered walls that protected him from the elements.  He noticed angles in his drawings like those on the feet of the birds.  He noticed that the pattern he made by gluing some pretty stones to the wall with sticky mud was very similar to the arrangements the birds sometime made while flying together in the sky.  There was a very dim shaft of light that he had ignored until now, so he ventured in to examine it and perhaps draw or sculpt something.  Peering up the shaft of light, he noticed movement, the sudden flutter of wings, and he understood that the cave loved the birds also.


The flickering light of his fire and its gentle roar enhanced Caveman's dreams whenever he slept.  One night he dreamt that he was deeper into the cave, near the spot where he'd seen light coming in.  His fire was always much larger in his dream than in waking life.  By its light alone, for the shaft that he had noticed was not there in his dream, he could see clearly that many drawings and sculptures were there on the walls.  They came to life and unglued themselves from the wall.  They meandered about, finding places to rest that were in the darkness.


When he awoke, he left to get more water just as he did every morning.  As he walked, he thought about his dream and what it might mean.  He decided that many of the things he loved that he had added to his cave were afraid of his fire, and that's why they hid from its light.  He remembered the birds that would not come near the mouth of his cave, and he believed that it was because they were afraid of the fire.  He drank from the stream until he was not thirsty.


He filled his gourd with water and started on his long walk home.  He considered moving the fire deeper into the cave where the birds might not see it so that they would not be afraid.  But there were other creatures that came by his cave in the evenings to enjoy the warmth of his fire, and he knew that putting the fire deeper into the cave would make it unhealthy and fill the cave with smoke.  It would have to have a kind of chimney to let the smoke out.  He went into the deeper section where he had seen the light coming through, and he saw that it was no longer open.  This solidified his decision against hiding the fire in a deeper part of the cave.


Caveman was not interested in the birds the next day.  He fed them no seeds, and he ignored their songs.  He had neglected some work, so he spent much time catching up.  When he finally had some free time, he found himself sketching out a tiger with the end of a burnt stick.  He had not planned on a tiger, and he knew that birds hated the tiger.  He did not want a drawing of a tiger this close to where the birds might come, so he rubbed dirt over his marks until there was no tiger any more.  He loved the birds, but their caution frustrated him.  He struggled with the choice of pushing them away or coaxing them back.  These conflicting feelings made him sit and look into his cave.


He stared into his cave so long without taking care of the rest of his life that his fire was about to die out.  He was waiting.  He waited a long time because he did not know what to do.  When the shaft of light appeared again, because one of the birds living in the nest had landed with great force, he understood.  He could move the fire a little bit.  But also, he could make a drawing that showed the fire surrounded by creatures that enjoyed its warmth.  Such a drawing would help the birds understand that they need not fear being burned.  From then on, some birds stayed away out of fear and some birds slowly did come nearer.  It took time for them to trust him and his fire and his cave and he did everything he could to help them understand that regardless of their decision to come close of stay away, he still loved to hear them sing.

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