The Life of Billy McIntosh
Billy was born of the seed of his mother on a sweet autumn afternoon in Shrewsbury, MA, as a mid-morning sun cast the warmth of her rays on his fresh pale skin. He was welcomed into a large family by his many siblings surrounding him. Life simply hummed about and he began to feel the naked essence of the world. He listened intently to the collective song of the air as the energy of the infinite melodies engulfed him in a cosmic swirl.
In the beginning, wonder is the core of being. And Billy wondered and wondered.
- - -
As the time passed, Billy began to grow into the world. He learned to feel the changes in the weather, the cycles of nature’s way, and how to adapt to and utilize these changes. The Wind became a dear friend to Billy, and though it brought a variety of personalities, it remained a welcome presence. On hot days, the Wind would come to help everyone stay cool and refreshed. Sometimes Billy and his siblings would dance together with the Wind, harmony existing between them all in the rolling breeze. Other times, they would all dance on their own, to exercise the nuances of their individuality. And yet other times, there would be no dancing, for they would be forced to hold tight against the gusting Wind’s fury, to keep from blowing away.
After some time Billy crossed paths with the Rain. Like the Wind, it too came in a variety of forms. Billy began to feel patterns between the clouds and shadows that would tell him Rain was on the way. And based on the personality of the world around him, he could sense the personality of the Rain that was to come. But more importantly, the Rain taught him to be ready for anything, because predictions can only take you so far.
- - -
Billy grew into a thriving young being and curiosity took him swiftly by the hand. He began to imagine what it was like in other places and where it would be that his purpose be fulfilled. He was ready to leave home and with each passing day the time was coming nearer. Soon he and his siblings would venture off on their separate ways, leaving behind familiar roots to embrace discovery through open doors. Everyone was silently beginning to prepare for their journey into the unknown. Billy knew that the coming weeks would bring upon a new chapter in his life, and he accepted the flow of his path with unwavering stillness.
- - -
A morning dew blanketed the neighborhood of Shrewsbury with a cool sparkle as the sun rose above the distant horizon. Life was stirring in all directions and Billy ingested the motion of the day. He could hear people gathering off in the distance with their sunhats on and baskets in hand. A bumblebee buzzed a few circles around Billy, hovered by his side for a moment, and sped off on an indirect line toward a row of rosebushes. He and his siblings gently bobbed in the breeze, waiting for their turn to depart from their mother on their journeys. Billy and his family did not speak. Instead, they channeled their thoughts through a joined stream of consciousness. Billy took a final moment to reflect on his life thus far, emanating pure gratitude for the life that he’d been gifted. There was no regret, no sadness, no resentment, no guilt. This was simply the way it was. His feelings were channeled from the core of his being to everyone in their consciousness stream as the baskets made their way to the foot of his mother.
- - -
One by one, Billy and his family were placed into large baskets with their neighbors. Billy jumbled around in his basket until the mid-morning sun was climbing high in the sky and there was no room left for more. The jumbling came to a stop when the basket was tentatively placed in the shade of an old barn. For a moment, everything was quiet and calm, colored by the faint hum of voices around the barn. A blanket was then placed over the top of the basket and tied neatly around the sides. Billy felt slightly heavier for a moment as the basket was lifted into the bed of a pickup truck alongside numerous other baskets filled with Billy’s neighbors and siblings.
With a few strokes of the engine the pickup roared to a start, the bed door was locked shut, and off they went down the old dirt road.
- - -
The blanket was lifted on a busy street corner near Harvard Square in Cambridge. People bustled in all directions, cars whizzed by in the distance, bicycles and skateboards rattled over the cobblestone pavement, yet still – the familiar music of the birds could be heard as an undercurrent through it all. Billy was swimming in wonder and merged his senses with the beautiful chaos that surrounded him. His basket was placed in a neat row alongside the other baskets from the pickup truck, underneath a fraying tent with a sign that read ‘Schrag Farms’.
Ruth Schrag sat at a long table situated behind the row of baskets and was using a felt-tipped pen to individually label tiny pieces of wood. She put down the pen and slowly walked around to the front of the baskets, carefully resting a piece of wood on top of each one. The piece of wood placed upon Billy’s basket described him in his fullest form, as the way the people of the world would perceive him until his last day in this life: ‘McIntosh’.
People came by Billy’s basket throughout the day. Most just peeked curiously inside the basket, but occasionally someone would pick up one of Billy’s neighbors or siblings to serve as the pathway for their next adventure. Sometime in the early afternoon, a young man named Chad stopped by the Schrag Farms vendor stand. His eyes quickly scanned the baskets, and he reached into the McIntosh basket and grasped Billy in his hand. Chad exchanged a couple slips of green paper with Ruth Schrag and quickly ran back to his friend’s car on the side of the street. He hopped in the car, shut the door, and they sped off to rejoin the bustling symphony of sound.
- - -
Chad’s friend James turned the ignition and the engine came to a gurgling stop. Everyone piled out of the car at the trailhead for a crisp afternoon hike up Mount Sprucepoint. During the ride up, Billy had been placed in the front compartment of Chad’s backpack next to an assortment of Clif Bars and cashews. As Chad brought his backpack out into the open air, Billy could sense the essence of the wilderness around him again. It was quiet and serene, and Billy took the opportunity to reminisce on his growing days with his family at the Schrag’s farm. Meanwhile, everyone gathered their belongings from the car and reconvened at the trailhead sign. The plan was to hike the 2.7 mile Aaron trail to a clearing area around a small lake and enjoy the freedom of a Sunday afternoon. The day was hot but dry and clouds were effortlessly passing by overhead providing periodic moments of coolness in nature’s own shade. Some would call it the perfect day for a hike.
Gerard took the lead and initiated the hike up and the others followed closely behind. The trail began as hard packed dirt with scattered rocks and tree roots throughout. The talk of the trees filled the air with the passing breeze as the group made their way. About 30 minutes into the hike, the trail got significantly steeper and harvested a rockier makeup that required more careful footsteps. Now everyone was deeply focused on their foot placement, orchestrating their own meandering lines to carve a path of least resistance. Billy jostled with the Clif Bars with each one of Chad’s steps as the group talked about whatever it was that came to mind.
“Oh for sure, but have you ever tried them with curry powder?” said James. “Throw some coconut oil in the pan and get them nice and crispy too, you’ve got yourself some bomb sweet potatoes.”
“Oooof… well guys, I’m starving,” said Gerard.
“I think we’re getting close to the clearing,” said Chad, “got a few extra Clif Bars in my bag if you’re interested.”
They reached a plateau and could see ahead that in 100 yards or so the trail would open up into the clearing that they sought after. Their pace accelerated slightly, as it often does when the finish line is in sight.
- - -
Chad dropped his backpack to the ground and Billy and the Clif Bars churned to a stop.
“This is a sweet spot,” said Chad with stoke, “we gotta come through here more often.”
“Indeed man,” said James, wide eyed and gazing.
Gerard jumped down from a small boulder, bent down into a stretch and inquired, “Chad can I grab one of those Clif Bars? I’m about to pass out over here.”
Chad let out a puff of air and a grin, “Yeah dude I got ya, I’m gonna dive into this apple too. You want anything James?”
“Nah man I’m good for now,” said James jumping onto the boulder next to Gerard’s.
Chad knelt down, opened up his backpack, and tossed a Clif Bar to Gerard.
“YES. Thanks dude,” said Gerard as he tore open the packaging.
“Cheers,” said Chad, reaching back into his backpack and bringing Billy out into the fresh air.
All at once, time slowed for Billy. In fact, its existence was released from within him. He felt the energy of his mother in this new wilderness of trees, the bobbing of his siblings in this unfamiliar breeze. Yet this foreign world that appeared so very different was one in the same. Everything that he had ever known struck him as a culmination of light. He’d been born into a flowing river and could now feel the presence of the great ocean.
Chad took a healthy bite and gazed out into the distance.
“Do you guys believe in destiny?” said Chad.
“I’m not sure man, it’s a puzzling idea,” said James with a pondering face. “I prefer to believe that we make choices and define our own destinies. I’ve got the choice right now to toss this small stone into that pond. Whether or not I do it is up to me and only me.”
“What if it’s not up to you?” said Chad.
“But it is man,” said Gerard swallowing the last bit of Clif Bar. “We’re sitting here looking down at the stone and it’s not gonna go anywhere unless we choose to do something about it.”
“But what if choices are just illusions along the path of our destiny,” said Chad. “We were all born into this world with a certain mind, influenced by all those who made their choices before us and laid the path for us to come to be. How is everything we do or say not a product of the motions of the world that came before us? That we’re immersed in right now?”
The trio sat quietly for a couple minutes, wandering just for the sake of it through the forest of deep thought – as certain questions are only meant to invoke quests.
- - -
Chad broke the silence with a spark, “I already know I’m going to throw this apple as far as I can into these woods. But did I consciously make that choice or was it the choice I was always going to choose anyway?”
“You get to make that choice dude,” said James. “And I think you should choose to bury it instead. I’m a supporter of the ‘leave no trace’ idea when you’re out in places like this.”
Chad looked down at the browning apple core, and responded with matter-of-factness, “It’s just an apple though, and we’re in the woods. I’m only recycling its energy back into the earth.”
“I mean, yeah,” said James shrugging with his hands. “But if everyone who hiked up the Aaron trail threw their apples into the woods there’d be a lot of apple cores laying around. I just feel like it’s better to leave these types of places as you found them. Nature is sacred.”
“It surely is,” exclaimed Chad, “and I’d never throw a plastic bag into the wind, but this is an apple we’re talking about. I think I’m helping the environment if anything.”
And with that said, Chad jumped down off the boulder and crow hopped, launching Billy into the air with great velocity over the trees.
- - -
Warren Penston lumbered himself atop a small boulder, removed his heavy pack and field cooler, and plopped down with a sigh of relief. He’d been hiking through the woods for 5 hours to collect a large sample of elderberries for a case study on edible wildlife. And he was exhausted. He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing slow heavy breaths in an attempt to restore his body’s homeostasis. Reaching for his water bottle, he took three significant gulps, followed by a pronounced “Ahhhhh.”
He tilted his head up towards the hot sun, sweating out the toil of the day’s harvest. And just when the thought arose to eat a few of his precious elderberries, Billy came flying through the trees and struck Warren Penston in the nose.