What will he tell me?

There was a student from Japan named Erina at the Sandglass intensive. She created a puppet of great dignity and sadness with a life-size head made merely of newspaper: a fragile, temporary thing. He was very Japanese. His face was long and he had large uneven ears. His eyes seemed huge, all-seeing, although they were unformed, only shadows. She draped him with three lengths of cloth – purple, brown, and soft grey. His single hand was her own.

On the final night of the workshop we all performed brief pieces for an invited audience, Erina’s being the most moving. The next morning, after many goodbyes, I took the quiet long drive home, through the forests and sloping fields and low mountains and sudden shining waters of Vermont.

After the high-speed traffic snarls of Montreal you turn west toward Ottawa and the traffic thins and slows. The bedroom communities of Saint Lazare, Hudson, and Rigaud fall away on each side and by the time you enter Ontario the highway is almost empty. The landscape flattens. Twenty thousand years ago, after the retreat of the glaciers, this whole region was a vast inland sea. Now it’s mixed farm and bush. The sky is big; it’s hot and the early evening light is gold and the swelling sun casts long mellow shadows across mildly undulating fields, still lush, still green in early fall. It’s been a long drive. There’s nothing on the radio that I want to hear. I’m past hunger, past thirst, past fatigue.

The night before, in her hesitant soft English, Erina told me that she could not take her puppet home to Tokyo. He was too big for the plane.

“So I would like to give him to you,” she said.

The sun goes down. Night is coming on and the unremitting woods are empty, kilometre after kilometre. Her beautiful temporary puppet lies behind me on the back seat, silent, vested in strange beauty. He’s waiting for me to discover and release his latent power, his life.

What will he tell me, in the days and weeks ahead?

BookA Printer's Son