Hi, it's Chase again. I started a weekly project that involves taking a photograph and then jotting whatever comes to mind in response to the image. The following is what I saw and jotted down this week. (by the way, I have a pretty serious writer's crush on Ursula K. Le Guin, I think some of that comes out in this piece)
The chanter stood with his back to the unlit pyre, singing to the unseen gods while the mourners held their places. Though none of them had ever read the sacred chants, many had heard them enough times to trace the priest's words before he reached them. Even those too young to know the words sensed the lines that were coming, as they expected the movement of a tree rocking in the breeze. The song and the sorrow was natural, ancient, and right.
As the sun reached its point above and below the horizon, the chanter slowed his song, offering reverent silence for the unseen gods beneath and the unseen gods above who could now pass between. In this moment they could be honored and their dead son could join them. The mourners turned from the sunset to the woman who held the torch before her. Other women held their arms straight and stiff along their body, holding the torch and death at defiance. Others balanced the torch and its flames against their open palms, as they did with their children and their offerings. But this old woman held the flame in front of her, tightly but absently, keeping the coiling, rising flames only a few inches before her face. The radiant light of the torch against her face in the twilight brought back all the beauty and innocence of her youth, and for a moment, all were too amazed to realize that she remained unmoved. The moment of her duty had come, yet still she did not rest the torch against the pyre or fold it in the unfeeling hands of her husband, in the place where she had slept and in the place where she had hoped to die. Concern grew amongst the mourners but all knew their place, even if the widow had forgotten her own. With great care and child like reverence, the young man beside her slowly brought his arms around the widow, extending his hands to cover the old woman's. Slowly he brought her forward and slowly he guided her hands to place the torch within the man's embrace. It had been done, and the straining fire of the torch found new life among the brambles and the broken body of the old man.
All, save for the old woman, turned from the fires surrounding the body to the sun. Still above and still beneath. The unseen gods would welcome their son. The relieved mourners each moved away with the silent chanter as their guide back to the village. Except for the young man and the old woman. He stayed with her as she saw the fire flame above and beneath with renewed life and light, while the burden at its hearts remained cold and only grew darker.