At 9 he planted a clutch of seed blooms, carefully observed their daily frenzy.

    At 22 he began recording the story of the river which ran behind his house, down from the foothills of a nearby mountain and on to the distant ocean. It told him everything he asked of it and more, eagerly and without pause, until the winter months when it finally withdrew, spent and dry mouthed, to the mountains to sleep.

    He wrote down all he had heard in long cursive script that meandered across the page.

    He had time and was alone, and the fire was well-fed with wood from the surrounding forests, whose tale he also collected, when he was 30.

    At 46 he started a biography of the wind, who'd often peek over his shoulder while he worked by the water's edge. Not until he was 54 did he catch her often enough to probe and grasp her deeper impulses.

    By the time he turned 63 he was ready to begin his memoirs. It was of course going to be his most difficult work. People lived so fiercely, he was said to remark, at times as if they could cease to be at any moment, or otherwise as if they were going to be around forever.

    No one knew what happened to the final manuscript. Critics who had seen his work in progress described it as a chronicle of history through the eyes of the forgotten. By now he had many imitators as well as detractors, many of whom were once admirers who gave up waiting for him to complete each work.

    Years after his death at the age of 110, someone recognised his true magnum opus: a carefully pruned pattern of ash, dew, footsteps and flowering trees in the shape of a single haiku, imprinted on the land where he used to live, visible only from the heavens.

24 June 2003   13:14 hours
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