Annihilation by Charles P. Sutphin
According to the Sufis, you need to fall in love with something without a soul in order to experience transcendence: Pursue the “hidden treasure” and you will find your god and better still—release.
In Berkshire County in the northwest corner of Massachusetts a trail crosses a swamp that borders my yard. The circularity of the path provides a mandalaic course for me to exercise body and mind—as well as spirit: deer rustle through bracken, hemlocks whisper in the canopy as their brethren, struck and fallen, transform into dirt. Over the course of years I fell in love with a piece of wood assigned to the bottom of the forest floor.
Planks crisscross the trail and elevate hikers over water in the spring and in the fall. In original form, these pieces of wood tower toward the light, now they lie felled and carved . My board spends most of the year submerged in muck or frozen ice-tight against the earth. Damaged by the elements, the wood has suffered a midline split. Who placed the board in that location doesn’t matter, the positioning is precise. A make-shift path around a bog leads over a mound as hikers cross a lattice of limbs before quick-stepping onto the plank. Water squeezes through the crack. No time to linger: the next step lifts the hiker onto a root before a final hop onto dry terrain. The board prevents the hiker from slipping sideways into the stagnant water.
For its sacrifice I pay homage. Sometimes at night, I think about the two-by-four lying trodden in the dark. In a few years its human purpose will fade. The split dooms it to an early grave from where it will transform back to dust and maybe, just maybe, rise again through the roots of a distant cousin and strive toward the light once more before being felled and stripped. Who knows these things?
I want to assist the board achieve annihilation—undo what has been done. Next time I’m at that juncture, my boots will linger, moisture will soak through my socks, my feet will chill but the plank will find a purposeful peace beneath the ground. Only I will know the burial spot—forever and always unmarked, except by me. The board of mind will find release and someday so shall I—I used to be a fern, now I’m a pile of dirt: I sleep better in repose, as does the one for which I write this . . . farewell lament.
Charlie Sutphin is a long-time Indianapolis resident and big fan of the Indiana Writers Center, formerly the Writers’ Center of Indiana, formerly the Writers’ Center of Indianapolis. He appreciates Julianna Thibodeaux for her patience in helping him bring “Annihilation” to fruition.