Training Thrown to the Wind
Some men are destined to destroy things; some are destined to preserve them. Unaware of his role, Gerald, high above in the balloon’s basket, gawked at the landscape, enraptured. He absorbed the artistry of lines and angles, arcs and squiggles, circles and planes, stunned by the precision of encapsulated vastness. In a language far more articulate than human speech, the sharply delineated shapes and colors spoke to Gerald. Held him in their thrall.
From a train or on foot, these things were nonexistent. Gerald had walked these acres never knowing of them. All he had seen were trees, weeds, streams, rock piles. From up above, a mosaic appeared: smooth expanses of emerald, sienna, kiwi, forest green, each separated by pearl gray, or nut brown borders, with perhaps a thick, meandering line of indigo, the pattern replicated again and again, until the design decorated what on the ground would have been an entire county, but from the sky merely mapped the Cardiff Giant’s courtyard. Sometimes winds and waves formed shapes so symmetrical he was sure human hands had created them. Other times, haphazard borders, which he assumed were natural, had been hewn by the inhabitants.
Each shape precisely fit the next, like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Bursting with the beauty of it, Gerald wanted to consume this perfection—make it part of himself and in turn become part of it.
But he had a job to do. The instructions were explicit. Gerald tried to concentrate on his task, ignoring the pull of emotion. Raising it into position, he trained his Leica on the verdant expanse. Gently, he squeezed the shutter release, again and again, each shot capturing an ethereal, ephemeral instant of his life, freezing it forever, framing his emotions as the meandering walls framed the fields below. Through the lens, an anomaly more like an anthill than an earthen-work edifice, a bump in the green carpet, jumped at him. King Arthur’s burial mound? An ancient dwelling? An Ice Age remnant? Man-made or geological? It didn’t matter to Gerald. Suddenly, all that mattered was preserving it. The landscape devoured any intent to follow his instructions. Training be damned. Spying was something contrary to who he was—someone had heard of his skills with a camera, approached him: He had agreed. Recognizance of troop movements had sounded exciting. Now, he found he could no more aid in destroying this site than he could blow up the moon. Like a spiritual epiphany, he saw his purpose. His camera, his soul’s manifestation, would create a story more beautiful than words. The mysteries and marvels of this universe we call Earth would be pieced together, not ripped apart.
As he focused on a mossy strip far below, clusters, like miniscule ant swarms, undulated across. Puffs of smoke disgorged from the green, leaving gaping, dark pockmarks. In his surprise, Gerald let the Leica slip from his grasp. He lunged for it and slowly, he and the Leica tumbled downward, to join the casualties on the field.