Tiny Treasure

A little boy, maybe six, came into the library yesterday with his hand cupped around some precious thing. I had propped the door open to let in the warm September sunlight and a few stray flies. His short hair sweat-soaked, he wore a t-shirt so large it nearly covered his knees.

He laid a crumpled bird shell near my laptop and asked me to keep it safe. I found it, he said by explanation.

The boy was supposed to be somewhere else, and we heard an adult outside calling his name. On his way out, his hand hovered over an apple on my desk, a yellow-skinned fruit with a few dark blemishes I had picked from a wild tree that afternoon, walking to the post office.

I told him it wasn’t sweet, as I lifted the apple and handed it to him.

September’s such a quiet month, with the cricket songs slowly spinning quieter. Wordlessly, he considered, and then he took the apple and disappeared into the sunlight again.

I wondered if the boy would return for his treasure. He did.

Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions…. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers.

– Peter Matthiessen

Nichols Ledge, Woodbury, Vermont