I felt things then that I had never felt before and that no art or teaching had prepared me for. I was transfixed, and I ached in the way that, I would much later learn, unrequited lovers ache. Although I did not understand what I felt and saw, I knew when I thought of it later in the day that I had been changed and that I had tasted of something that I could not communicate; for which I had no words and no analogies. I was uncomfortable with this new knowledge and felt newly estranged from all the familiar world. But I could not dismiss it. I could not tell myself, as I imagined my friends would have told themselves, as I imagined they would have told me, that there was no reality to the experience and that the whole thing was best forgotten
There have been other such moments through the years, always coming unbidden and completely unexpectedly. Rare moments of piercing, sad beauty, rising like some wild tide and then ebbing, leaving only ache and wonder. And I am, by these things, still estranged in some way from the mundane world and still unable, with any measure of completeness or accuracy, to quite tell what I feel. But I am no longer embarrassed to try. I know now that there are others like me. In fact, I am convinced that the effort to communicate some however vague echo of this message is one of the principle reasons for my life. It is my vocation; my calling. It is why I write. It is the thing that moves me to struggle against superficiality and cliche and conventional wisdom and that gives me the conviction that there is some truth beneath every mundane thing that, if discovered, if wrestled with and revealed, will feed and refresh the souls of men like a cold draught from the springs of Eden and remind them of what they have been given and what they are meant to be.
And so, with the aid of so many years of art and teaching between, I will say here what I could never have expressed to my eighth-grade classmates. On that fresh morning the forgotten orchard sang. The song of the trees was a very sad and beautiful song. The trees sang of their own merits and complained that there was no man to care for them or to release them from the bondage and obscurity of the wild vines and brambles. They cried that in all of the earth and all of time, there was no beauty just like their own and this day when I passed them on my way to school was their finest day. In this expanding universe the sun would never shine on their blossoms in quite the same way as today and for all they knew, every moment of their existence, every bit of their struggle for life, had led to this very moment and would be wasted.