It’s Better than a Stick in the Eye

“…it’s better than a stick in the eye…”
― Spider Robinson

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TreeOwl

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“What’s better than a stick in the eye?”

When I first asked this of Treeowl, he thought that I was setting the verbal scene for a joke and he patiently waited for the punchline to be delivered, and prepared himself to endure the aftermath of one voice laughing at its own joke.

He waited.

I waited too, patiently too, for him to answer my question. I did not dare to speak as I did not want to interrupt his thought processes. Trees were known for taking their time before answering the queries of curious humans. This was rumored to be due to a test which wise beings give to foolish ones, a gauge for the extent of the foolishness, a guideline for wise ones to decide what answer to give if they decided to give one.

Humans were always asking questions but rarely listened to the answers, sometimes they didn’t even wait for an answer before they asked another question. Humans were strange, prone to much strangeness.

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“This is what it is to be human: to see the essential existential futility of all action, all striving — and to act, to strive. This is what it is to be human: to reach forever beyond your grasp. This is what it is to be human: to live forever or die trying. This is what it is to be human: to perpetually ask the unanswerable questions, in the hope that the asking of them will somehow hasten the day when they will be answered. This is what it is to be human: to strive in the face of the certainty of failure. This is what it is to be human: to persist.”
― Spider Robinson

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Treeowl was an expert observer of the strangeness of humans even with one stick in his eye, perhaps because of it. He had been watching me this way for a long time in human years, a short time in tree years. I’d never spoken to him before, mostly because I hadn’t noticed that he was there. I sort of knew he was there, but I couldn’t see the tree for the forest.

Or something like that.

But now that perhaps I was going to leave this place, this place I had stayed for so much longer than I had ever stayed in any place… I noticed what I hadn’t noticed as though my eyes were seeing for the very first time, although if this was the first time my eyes saw, I probably wouldn’t see.

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“Sometimes I think I must have a Guardian Idiot. A little invisible spirit just behind my shoulder, looking out for me…only he’s an imbecile.”
― Spider Robinson

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The long early Spring shadows cast by a late Winter Sun shifted perceptibly and perceptively, framing the patient wait.

My toes had grown into roots, burrowing their way into the slowly softening ground. It was cold, but kind of nice, a natural stirring…

But it was disturbed by another type of natural stirring.

My mind, which found this void increasingly uncomfortable for a million mind reasons, kept spitting up all the possible answers which Treeowl might give me.

My favourites thus far were:

“A stick in both eyes is better…” but was that one stick in both eyes or a separate stick in each eye?

“Poke a stick in your eye and see… for yourself” as I thought he might have registered the fact that I did not have a stick in either eye, at least not in a factual sense… perhaps in a metaphorical one.

My mind was convinced that Treeowl would answer enigmatically, like a Zen master, and was attempting to predict that kind of an answer to prepare itself for it, and maybe come up with a clever reply – the mind is like that, always trying to be clever.

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“…I know good design when I fail to trip over it.”
― Spider Robinson

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“Why do you ask?”

I almost jumped out of my skin when Treeowl finally spoke. For a moment I had come to suspect that he was just a tree, and by that I mean what a human means when we say something like that.

He had answered my question with a question. My mind had not prepared itself for that, but why had it not considered that sometimes a question needs to be answered with another question. It did that all the time… it was just a mind.

“What is the story behind your question?”

Treeowl looked at me with his one unbesticked eye and I looked at him. There was a moment between us, one in which we both knew simultaneously that my answer to his question would take as long to be spoken as his was.

To be continued…

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