The Windmill

A white windmill rose into the immense black clouds that always hovered above the wheatfields. It was taller than most windmills, almost a tower in its own right, and it was here that the old man lived with his son. Inside, the old man smoked his pipe, read heavy tomes, and lectured his son on weather. Nothing was more important or more elusive than weather. Without weather, no farms would make grain and no ships would sail the seas to carry the grain to distant ports. And thus, the old man studied clouds, winds and stars, the great propeller of the mill aimed into the bleak sky. One day, the son would have to carry on this work—the endless work of measuring, annotating, and charting. Meteorology, however, did not pay any bills. One had to grind grain for the locals, maintain the sails and gears, and attend to other matters to survive life in that barren land. The solitude and silence of those places was vast, and the son tried to fill the emptiness with romances, ancient philosophy and daydreams. And thus the son wanted to travel, and eventually he escaped the somber silence of the windmill to chase blond milkmaids, sail on a man-of-war, lose himself in the coffee trade, and climb distant mountains. And yet, no matter where he went or what he did, he felt the cold and silent shadow and solitude of the windmill inside his heart. When he could bear it no longer, he decided to return home to face the giant and vanquish it. Perhaps he would burn it down. One evening during a heavy storm, as he was crossing the great wheatfields leading to the tower, a massive flood broke out and covered all of the land and its villages in a dark blanket of saltwater. Many souls and beasts drowned. Luckily, the son found a stray rowboat, which he climbed into, and started rowing. The only thing that escaped the inundation was the tall, white windmill. And thus, the son rowed to it, and entered once more into the great silence. The father had not been home and must have been washed out to sea. Alone, the son regarded the old machinery, the dark gears, the pale walls and charts, the doves hiding in the rafters, the meteorological instruments and the journals. It was not likely that anyone would bring grain to grind for quite some time. Only the weather remained.

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The Blotting Paper

The calligrapher loved to write and paint and make books. When he was not conducting official business, he read books of philosophy, thought about the world, and wrote or painted in his quiet house, sipping endless cups of tea. White mountains, black trees, worlds of snow, clouds of words, dragons of mist, and phoenixes of light covered the pages of many books alongside texts of parables and poems. The city sometimes summoned his texts for printing with great expectation; at other times, the city forgot him and his manuscripts. One day, the wind and rain rushed down upon the city, scattering rooftiles, breaking down walls and flooding homes. All of his books soaked up the dirty water and then bled out streams of rust and ink. The citizens wondered what he would do. Most thought that he would hang himself from his own willow tree. Instead, the calligrapher repaired roofs and walls wherever he could. Then he dried out his books and sorted them. While burning some, he examined the others that were disfigured but not burnable. With new soot from his fire, he made new ink and painted on the dried but disfigured pages that he had not burnt. When he ran out of these, he returned to buying new paper, but something had forever changed. Once again, he was painting, but always with blotting papers below the pages he painted on and with extra blotting papers at hand to place on top of his paintings. On certain days he would remove a blotting paper from beneath, and affixed his seal to it, to the unfinished poem or landscape of blots and marks. On other days, he would press a blotting paper to the top of a wet page and seal it after taking it off again, its dampness bearing the ghosts of brush strokes. Through abstractions of dark raindrops and pale silences, the calligrapher rebuilt the lost landscape.