To be a rock in the middle of a forest of tall trees is easy. That is, it is easy if you are a rock with no feelings, little desire for light, and an acceptance of never moving far from your roots. It just so happens that Barrie was this type of rock. He had graced the forest floors for years—solid, stoic and impassive—as most rocks are. Barrie liked to listen to the sounds of the tall trees and the orchestra of the nature that surrounded him. The leaves whispered, small animals scurried, large animals chased, and plants bloomed and died. Each movement in the forest had its own sound that Barrie absorbed into his smooth, porous body and moments of stillness brought silence that bounced off Barrie. He liked his space in the world, nestled comfortably under the shade of a tall tree with green leaves that stayed green.
Barrie was a practical rock. It might be hard to imagine rocks that weren’t practical. But in that vast, dark forest there were rocks that were dreamers, rocks that were doers and rocks upon rocks that bumped heads with each other and engaged in nasty disputes. Barry was not this type of rock. Barrie was solo and Barrie was strong. Barrie was a sensible rock, but not completely apathetic. For many years he listened and watched, and grew to understand the way his environment was made. From the sounds and the silences, Barrie’s mind was filled with patterns and numbers and imaginary charts that, had he been able to put them on paper, would have expressed the world around him in formulas to which even the greatest scientists and mathematicians had not yet arrived.
Being a porous and smooth rock, Barrie’s absorption of the world around him was second nature. He received the information he was given and translated it into his own precise understanding. And while he knew about life and love, death and loss, and pleasure and pain, Barrie felt immune and detached from these so called symptoms of the natural world. As a rock, Barrie believed he stood apart from this sort of impermanence and feeling.
Holly, on the other hand, was as whimsical, fragile and sensitive as Barrie was stoic and solid and sensible. Holly belonged to a family of the smallest forest beings. She didn’t have the complexity of the other forest plants or the independence of the many forest creatures. Holly was a moss—a slow moving, moisture dependent, delicate and musty moss. Her type spread slowly down the trunks of trees, across the forest floor, down vines and across rocks. They moved slower than a snails pace and felt out spaces with plenty of water and just enough sunlight to stay green. Holly had struck out on her own not long before she began making a short trail across Barrie’s rounded back. As her cells multiplied and moved, she settled comfortably onto Barrie, happy to have found a spot a bit raised off the ground, where her edges could embrace splashes of sunlight but in the warmest moments she would be cooled by his smooth surface and the dampness that dripped down the tree above them.
Barrie, as strong and impassive as he believed himself to be, felt the first stirrings of uncertainty about this soft and fuzzy visitor but he kept calm and did what he did best: observed. He watched and waited as Holly settled comfortably, growing and stretching to cover his entire surface. He calculated her movements, listened to the sound of her cells duplicating, and came to understand her habits and patterns in his precise, stoic way. They fell into a inevitable routine of Barrie’s sober indifference at her invasion of his space, and Holly blissfully unaware that she was subjecting the surface below her to any sort of change.
They stayed like this sharing a space and but living separate lives for quite some time. But over the days, Barrie stopped listening to the outside world, he stopped creating formulas and charts and numbers in his mind, and started paying more attention to Holly. Holly sang her own songs, told her own stories, and laughed when small forest creatures passed by. She hoarded water greedily and drank it down passionately. When the sun lit up her tiny cells she glowed and glistened and warmed Barrie’s covered surfaced. Her soft roots tickled Barrie’s porous back and it become more and more difficult for him remain passive and indifferent. One day Barrie let out a gurgle that wasn’t quite a laugh because it was his first attempt at such a sound. Holly was shocked to hear her now home make noise. She clammed up, startled and surprised, until Barrie cleared his throat and introduced himself. Holly laughed at this shy rock and she teased him for having waited so long to say hello. If she could have blushed, she would have, knowing that he had heard all her silly songs and wistful wonderings.
The two became quite a pair—Barrie with his cautious mind and Holly with her unwavering enthusiasm. Holly ended up showing Barrie how to create a world instead of replicating the one around him and Barrie explained the facts of the forest to Holly. Barrie started wondering if he was less sensible and more sensitive. They maintained a happy relationship in that tall forest, each soaking up the sounds and the sights and sharing them with each other. Barrie realized he could still be a rock even with a little light, a little laughter, lots of friendship and the same acceptance that he always carried with him.
There came a time when the forest was particularly dark. When it rained often and Holly soaked up the water and Barrie was comforted by her soft cells on his back. They embraced the coolness and the rain drops and the whispers of a damp, muted forest floor. They watched in wonder as lightening lit up the sky from a distance, and sang songs with the approaching thunder. Barry felt free and happy and possibly even loved, sharing a world with Holly who was so wistful and lively. The thunder got louder and the lightening brighter. There was a crash and a snap and a whoosh. In a moment that age old tree that Barrie had lived under, and that Holly had climbed down to get to Barrie, split and cracked and fell slowly to the forest floor. Holly and Barrie watched in wonder. Something so big, so old, so grand, now laid flat instead of reaching high into the sky.
The rains calmed and the thunder moved away and Barrie and Holly continued their laughter and their stories, sharing their space and their time and their lives. But without the big tree at their backs, the sun that was so high in the sky now shone right down on Holly and Barrie and warmed them until Holly became parched and tired and a little less green. She drank more greedily when the rain came but each afternoon she was left craving more moisture. Her laughter became lighter and her stories became softer. By this time Barrie had developed a boisterous laugh, which he used in excess to make up for Holly’s lethargy. He invented stories and called to woodland creatures and soaked what he could of the water in the ground into his porous belly to share with Holly who had become less fuzzy and more crispy. But even with his laugh and his concern and his moisture, Holly became weaker and drier.
The time came when Holly told Barrie good-bye, and Barrie realized this a moment in the patterns and the formulas and cycles that he had charted so distantly in his mind. Barrie realized that as a rock he wasn’t so far removed from what he called “symptoms” of nature. And when Holly laughed no longer, tickled no more, and dried up in the bright sun, Barry felt cold and confused and less of a rock. He was no longer acceptive and passive and stoic. Barry knew now he couldn’t sit apart from his environment and plan and calculate and control it with his mind. Barrie always thought that being a rock was easy. But with Holly gone, he listened again to the sounds and the silences and watched the movements of the expansive forest. Perhaps, thought Barrie, being a rock was easy, but Barrie now knew he was no longer just a rock. Barrie was a rock in a forest, and that meant that Barrie was a forest, with its sounds and its creatures and its silences, with it’s love and loss, life and death and pleasure and pain. And being a forest wasn’t easy.