Long(ing)

It was once common for our males to arrive at the dwelling of whichever female he might care to court carrying with him a boulder, often having brought it miles, to drop down before her on whatever ground her birth family might inhabit in a display of strength and adoration, suggesting with this action his capacity to provide her with care and protection, as well as a home – the boulder representative, it’s believed, of a primitive door, as in the adage: “Open the door, and the house will follow” (which makes less sense if one is stepping out; but who are we to gripe about our axioms). Many of our young men, setting out across the difficult terrain separating us from neighboring villages, were lost in the enactment of this ritual, crushed eventually by the great weights they strove to heave upon the earth before beloveds they only knew by tales of their beauty, breathed by the occasional traveler or tradesperson, not even being sure whether the phantastic objects of their admiration remained available, unapproached already by other such eager stone-toting suitors, or even existed at all.  Why, if word passed about the birth of a particularly lovely baby girl born to a woman known far and wide to be ravishing, of which I could scarcely count, boys would begin to scour the landscape in a fever, intending to depart with the most prized geological specimen our humble country could provide in the tenth year of her birth and expecting to plop it at her feet at dawn on her 16th birthday.  (For everywhere from here is far.  Though the countries have been found to be equidistant from each other, the cities are not, and the closer one comes to a neighbor the harder, inevitably, gets the going.) 

Many of our women have been won in this fashion, replaced upon the arm of some wooer or other, leaving our streets and pastures littered with the rubble of foreign lands – as the ritual bears no code for the removal of said devotional objects; indeed, its deposition is the only rule, for should a suitor be deemed worthy, his burden is meant to be replaced by the contestably burdensome condition of matrimony, which none ever deny, the suitors, having brought their weight so far and feeling, for the first time in what might be years, its lack upon their shoulders.  And those dismissed by their prospective partners are rarely wont to heft it again given how the initial venture went, and shuffle beneath the load of their new-borne rock of rejection, in which direction who knows.  Every so often we’ll catch sight or story of one of our reviled departed, our fools, whom love has used so harshly – it is rarely pleasant.  In most cases they’ll continue to try for a time, varying the stone: its size; its shape; its quality or aspect.  Some go so far as to use the stones left somewhere by previous suitors.  The law on this is gray, especially as in some wastes it’s uncertain whether a stone has come there by the hands of man, or glacier, or have always been there, waiting.  What is known is that should one be recognized it would mean shame forever, both for the author of its removal and for the village from whence he came, were it not our strict policy to disown him in such cases.

(As a matter of clarification: while we have been saying ‘He’, it is only by way of tradition.  There have always been stories of women performing the ritual, though in the beginning it was often in secret.  In later years it became more accepted, and even a great honor, for a man to be carried off by his devoted bride.)

But this is ancient history.  Over time the ritual has altered to suit advancements in technology and consciousness (though of the latter we hold there have been depressingly few).  People began to feel the original too crude and taxing, inhumane, an investment of too much time – somethingwhich, due to technological progress outstepping – or even on occasion running counter to – those of consciousness, began to be counted as if it were something finite, more-so even than trees or rocks, which are, in fact, mostly time.

Entry 481

Zachary Bushnell