‘A Boy in the Forest’ by Pikila
This is an excerpt from Fool’s Odyssey, an autobiographical narrative I wrote some years back, based on a journal I’d kept as a young man searching for the meaning of life. It seems appropriate to repost it here on the eve of Good Friday.
Having failed to find something that could fill me, I’d returned home empty. Still, I figured empty was better than being full of the wrong stuff. I went for a drive in the California foothills, along the edge of the forest, and spotted a little country school.
Easter was coming, and a young teacher with glasses and a corsage had gathered her kids on the playground. She was telling them how the Easter Bunny had hidden gifts in the bushes and woods around the school. She never once let on with so much as a grin that she and the custodian had probably been out there early that morning hiding all those goodies.
Still, the kids were fooled.
Just like me.
All of my life, it seemed, I’d been running around looking for gifts, and yet never was satisfied. Why? I could have spent the rest of my life opening all the gifts the world was so full of:
Extravagant sunsets and generous winds,
and gullible animals that somehow were willing to be your friend,
and dexterous hands full of fingers that moved
just when you thought they ought to,
and blood, and muscles, and skin that can heal itself
and make some more of itself when you hurt yourself,
and vocal cords, and oil paint, and movies and…
Why was I never satisfied with so many gifts?
The teacher finished her briefing. The little caissons squirmed with military joy. The last thing she said was this: “Whenever you find a gift, be sure to thank the Easter Bunny!” Then the troops broke like shrapnel and fired in a million directions, looking for the gifts the Easter Bunny had left!
All except one. He just stood there thinking, it seemed, about everything the teacher had said. And then after the longest time he turned and very deliberately began walking away from the school and up into the forest. I thought he’d seen me, but he hadn’t. He just kept walking, as if he’d go right on up into the mountains, or even through them if necessary. He was that determined.
Where was he going?
I had to know.
So I decided to follow him.
I caught up with him on the other side of the road. “Hi!” I said, out of breath. He turned, and said “Hi” back, and then resumed walking.
“Wait!” I asked. “Where are you going?”
He stopped again and stared at me, pityingly, as though I were the child, and not he. “I’m going to find the Easter Bunny,” he said.
And then I understood.
I finally understood.
To read the next and final Fool’s Odyssey episode, click here.
To read Fool’s Odyssey from the start, click here: