Bones For Arcadia

by Christopher D.Z. Mason

I’m at the table after dinner and through the window to my left I see hued layers of green going back into a smoked-blue haze. First is the back fence, festooned with creeping old man’s beard that grew with such groping vigour in the spring. Behind it is the top of the pear tree, leaves fluttering faintly to bare the small pink heads of new fruit. Further down is the hunched and shouldered back of the hill at the bottom of the village. Its coat is glossy and dark, that of walnuts and chestnuts grown out like sociable broccoli in an imaginary world. After that the landscape grows sparse. The domed and balding hillside below the forest is far enough away to feel like another place; a midland where only low, secretive bushes hold out against the valley’s ever-searching winds. A place where jackals and restless spirits own the night. And then, way off and robed in an opaque and silken cloak, lie the mountains. Each summit higher and paler than the last, until finally, just visible is Mount Mainalo.  It’s said to have been a place sacred to the rustic rutting Pan. Now it pushes in conical loneliness up to the heavens, always reaching, never holding.

Last winter we drank wine from the bottle as we stood for the first time in its shadow, alone but for the slender pines and many voices of the wind. I let the wine run from my lips and poured more into the snow. It was red and fleeting. My mind was full of wild whispered plaintiffs. Yearning poems from the Gods of the mountain passed over my head and the lives of my ancestors poured out of me like mist and returned through my nostrils to mix with the heavy scent of my dreams. My lips were cold and my body was an empty vessel left behind by my soul, which roared out to meet those who called me. But still I stayed, tethered, my edges snapping in the breeze.

From the last Cape of Africa to the middle of the Grecian Peloponnese, we moved as if ghosts in a packed and folded landscape, and we came to rest in the cupped hands of this mountain valley where I no longer feel as I did before. Who was it I left behind? Where is that person that held me all those years? Was he just a husk, a skin shucked against the rocks of change? You’ll know the feeling; the wind against new skin.

Now, I watch the colour change over dusky trees. Through the front veranda doors the vast breast of the valley’s warmed earth rises up to catch the last of the yellow sun. The frame is nearly filled with this arcing mound. The tip pushing into the white-blue envelope of the evening sky. New life is made in the seasons, and it is summer now. Anything is possible. All the windows of the house are thrown open. I am thrown open. The hot wind dries the hollows of my bones. I prepare my skeleton to be offered to this place. 

Christopher D. Z. Mason (he/him) is a writer and filmmaker from South Africa, living with his wife and daughter in a small rural village in the Peloponnesian Mountains of Greece. He has been making films incessantly for the last decade but has stopped doing this as much to write more stories. He’s published fiction in South Africa’s oldest literary journal, New Contrast, and poetry with Botsotso Press.

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