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Within the Walls of this Burning Cathedral

Posted Jan 13 2006 12:00am

Keeping brown sugar in a coffee tin is a dangerous plan. Especially when your skills of observation are a bit weak in the morning. . .

On the eastern edge of the Steinke Basin, deep within the endless swamps and young forests of reclaimed farmland, stands a great dark pine cathedral. It lies hidden somewhere shadowed under the weathered corpse of an ancient mountain range, far off the roads and out of sight, quiet and cold.

To find this place you must follow a winding path that crawls beneath a few remaining imprisoned oaks now surrounded by modern invaders. Maples, Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard, and cackling White Birch now populate once open lands. The battle of the oak savanna has been lost almost two centuries ago, and here you walk amongst the rubble of a long past silent war. Then just as you might think you were breaking out of the tangle and into the sun, the trail dives sharply south into the dark gates of the cathedral.

On either side of this earthen path, young pines rise in order of their age until blending into the dark emerald tops of their older brethren and funneling you into the maw.

You have to stop. Cold slips from the murky atmosphere within to caress your cheeks with frozen fingers. Your eyes water.

As you step forward below the high ceiling of the cathedral you begin notice the void. There are no birds, no squirrels, no buzzing of insects, no sights or sounds of life within. Even the grey light is lifeless as it oozes though seemingly microscopic screens of dead pine branches taking all form out of focus. Cold air sinks down from the blackness above and snakes along the side of your neck, then wiggles down your spine, finally dropping to a forest floor which is submerged in red needles and silver frozen tongues. These sprawling veins of ice formed when snow melted outside under the sun, then ran into this dark place only to freeze again in twisted, chrome lightning bolts. Some days if I find myself there at just the right time and season, a golden blazing sun breaks through silent opaque stand and lights it on fire. There within the walls of this burning cathedral I stand frozen, engulfed in flame.

- d

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