“One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality” – Albert Einstein
“Oliver Smears and the Particulars of Cloud 9”
Two days before Oliver Smears twelfth birthday he came upon a burlap bag. The sack, a two by two coarse weave of light grey hemp, sat beneath a large Chinese Elm in the park near his parent’s home. Gathered tightly at the top by a simply knotted measure of twine, the bag appeared to lay in wait for opening….. but without salutation, Oliver hesitated.
The following day Oliver invited his best friend to join him in the park for the purpose of sharing his find and to gain insight on how to proceed. Upon arrival, his friend stated that he could not see the bag earlier described by Oliver and therefore could not render any opinion. This seriously perplexed Oliver, as to him, the woven sack was not only in that moment before them, but the twine at the top now had been loosened enough to reveal several pieces of paper beneath the new opening. Fearing his friend would find him odd, Oliver avoided further dialogue and feigned nonchalance in the matter.
The young Smears laid awake that night, afraid of being in a state beyond the boundaries of rational thought. His mind raced unto dawn, regarding all the plausible explanations for the events of that day and day before.
With morning’s light came reassurance and positivity. Oliver called upon his second best friend to join him for a morning walk, suggesting they meet beneath the large elm in the park, secretly hoping the location would reveal the mysterious bag to both of them. Oliver arrived first and noticed the previous small opening of the sack to have grown again by additional inches. When about to pull upon the stringed bow tie for a deeper peak, Oliver was startled by his arriving friend’s voice….
“Why are you bent over like that, are you not feeling well?”
“I was just…”
Laughing, “It looks like you’re about to gag.”
With that, Oliver sensed again only he could see the the container of papers and struggled to regain his composure…..
‘No, no, I’m ok….. I just dropped a coin here in the grass.
“Well let’s get going, I have to be back home in an hour.”
On the morning of his birthday Oliver returned to the park, astounded to see the burlap bag fully opened and tipped over on its side inviting the wind to assist in scattering thousands of small paper pieces through the chilly air. He noted each piece to host a printed word uniquely different from the others….floating above and about him like particles in a snow globe. Simultaneously Laughing and crying, Oliver chased the blowing papers around, gathering as many different “words” as possible before stowing them into his front pocket. When he glanced back towards the tree, the mysterious bag of burlap had disappeared, replaced by a lone pigeon sheltering from the wind at the base of the great Chinese Elm.
Half way home, deep in thought, Oliver witnessed a simple bird of grey and silver disappear into the low flying cloud hovering over him. Instinctually, he reached towards his right front pocket for an affirmation of his sanity.
“The breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind” – Kahlil Gibran
In the forty years that followed, Oliver Smears was blown about the globe by the great winds of Sirocco, Fohn, and Calima, feeling them all in in their varied manners upon his face and body, until being blown through the doors lending entrance to the Cafe Karpershoek. On this particular evening, after several pulls of Amstel, he became engaged in drunken conversation with a master collector of homing pigeons. Afterwards, while stumbling along one of Amsterdam’s discrete red hued canals, Oliver’s only remote recollection of their dialogue was that the longest recorded flight ever made by a homing pigeon took 24 days to cover 7,200 miles.
While in contemplation of this random fact, he instinctually reached again towards his right front pocket. After stumbling nine extremely sloppy steps he approached a young guitarist sided by a golden retriever. As Oliver got closer to them, the dog’s tail began a slow thump against the concrete evolving into rapid circles as Oliver deposited what coins he had left from his pocket into the open guitar case before them.
“7,200 miles in 24 days….”, the puffed and fluffed majesty of white cumulonimbus passed through the star filled night, blanketing Oliver and the colors reflecting off the canal. Oliver made a few more stops that night before finally arriving “home”. Biding time until finding sleeps reward, he would, as he did every night, reach out towards his bedside drawer in search of the small pile of words held onto since his twelfth birthday some 5,200 miles away.