1. Dreams of a River
Dreams of a River
Someone is always there, in the little garden. Maybe they have always been, and only now make themselves felt, he doesn't know, but he is a rational man not prone to delusions, so he accepts their presence.
He has started to go down to the garden more often in recent years, at all times of the day, to read, to draw, and sometimes just to sit in the state of mind where one is neither asleep nor awake.
And they will be there; in leaf-shadow, in gathering twilight, in moonlight. They are becoming part of the garden for him, like moths...
It had been Eowyn's garden.
Its creation did not run smoothly. She knew little of gardening and didn't really possess the patience required, but had a desperate need for it to succeed that carried her forward. She had seen too much death.
She was not interested in anything formal and enclosed or anything that would fence her in, and was adamant that the garden should open on to the wild.
She found her spot in the end: a long gentle slope with a reed pond at the bottom and a view towards the forests of Ithilien.
And the garden became like she wanted, beautiful, open, but never completely tamed or predictable - like its maker really...
She wanted fragrant plants that attracted bees and butterflies...and moths.
Buddleia, red valerian, heather, cardoons, sallow ivy, knapweed, echinacea,
She would let go there in a way she did in few other places. Run around with bare feet and hair loose, even after she was far too old to do that kind of thing in some people's opinion.
The garden was always bathed in a golden light for him these years. Their son took his first steps there, laughed there and played there.
They were good for each other. They were both battle-scarred and with wounds they both knew that time would never heal. They both had inner boundaries the other could not trespass, boundaries they respected.
Some aspects of Eowyn's beauty were like that of moths, he thought sometimes, not obvious and something it required skill and patience to come close enough to appreciate.
But he had always loved moths.
Just sometimes he wished it was easier, that there weren't so many layers to work through, but all out in the open like it had been between him and his brother. His brother who had done nothing by half; as unreserved in his affection as in his pride, and whom he had loved more than any other besides Éowyn and whose faults he also had known better than any other - and whom he had shared dreams with...
He had felt the moment that he died; his brain a cavern of echoes that slowly faded. By the turn of some inner timepiece the moment repeated itself every year at the same time.
He clung on to it perhaps, removed the gossamers of forgetfulness like a ruthless memory keeper. It was the last moment they had shared, his last tangible memory of his brother, other than the outline of a boat disappearing down the Anduin under the stars.
The outline of that boat remained etched in his mind. Sometimes he visualised its journey down the river and out across the sea in a cocoon of slow time where Boromir continued to dream, dreams he had no access to.
Eowyn fell ill just after Elboron's twenty-fifth year. The disease progressed quickly, and her ending was fast. He was grateful for that in some ways, grateful that his proud warrior did not have to suffer years of pain and frailty, but she left a void, in his bed and in his bones.
The holes filled, slowly. He had so much of her around him. She was there, spread out, fragmented; in their son and grandson, and in the garden. Time preserved her there for him.
A Birth and a Death
Born seven hours ago...
Faramir cradles the delicate, fragile head in his large hands. The child opens his eyes for a second and looks at him with the blue-black, unfocused gaze of the newborn. "Like glass buttons in water," he thinks.
He studies his grandchild's face until long shadows are cast through the window by the late afternoon. He puts him down for a second, lights a candle and looks out of the window.
The moths are gathering on the glass.
Death sits with the mother next door.
It is dark when Elboron comes in. He stands by the door and watches his father and his son in the candlelight.
Faramir feels Elboron's eyes on him across the room. He strokes the infant's forehead gently with his thumbs and stands up to face his son.
"What will you call him?" Faramir asks quietly.
It takes a while before the name reaches him.
They became very close Barahir and him.
He had to grow up without a mother, and became a challenge in many ways, but Faramir found that he welcomed it. He had time on his hands and a space to fill.
Barahir was plagued by dark dreams and night terrors. He would sometimes sit upright in bed at night in a state between sleeping and waking, impossible to reach. All he and Elboron could was to hold him, and wait.
"He could have done with some women around him," Farmir thought at times. Instead he had to grow up among men, like he and Boromir had.
They had done their best, Elboron and him, bringing Barahir up, and he was certain Barahir knew he was loved and that he had adults he could trust and rely on, unlike Boromir and him who only had each other.
His memories has started to take on a new actility during these half sleeping half waking moments in the garden, fingertips on skin; his brother's bear hugs, Eo's hand in his hair.
Someone is whispering, but he never knows what, or if it is even words. It is as though the wall between them and he has become permeable, stretched thin.
It was his yearly night of agony, but different...
He is in a grey boat on a river, light filtered pale through a curtain of mist. A man sits in front of him with his back turned and slowly starts turning his head...
Faramir woke up with clattering teeth and his hands knotted in the sheets, soaked in milky moonlight. He didn't get time to see the man's face, but he would have recognised the outline of that back anywhere, and he knew that boat. He had last seen it disappear from his field of vision more than fifty years ago.
He got up, dressed and walked slowly trough the house to his study. The house was still and seemed removed from his touch, as if fine gossamers had been spun between his rooms and him. As if he was he a ghost in his own quarters.
When he reached his study he sat down in the chair by the window and looked out onto the moonlit terrace – his shaking hands clutching the arms of the chair. The moths had started gathering on the furniture outside. He knew that if he opened the door and went out they would settle softly on his hands for a few seconds.
"Dreams," he thought. "Is that what you are?"
Boromir and he had known which of their dreams were shared by a feeling of the other's presence. The dream he re-lived every year wasn't a shared dream, but the memory of one. Boromir himself had gone after that first time.
The dream he had just woken up from was different.
Boromir had been there, he knew it with the old unshakeable certainty
But Boromir was dead.
There was a sound of soft footsteps and Barahir appeared in the doorway, his small silhouette rooted to the spot. Faramir cursed inside at first; company was the last thing he wanted.
"Why are you up?" he asked, gruffly.
Barahir looked at him; his face paper-white under the dark fringe. He didn't answer. Then it struck Faramir how rare this was. Barahir usually entered his strange shadow-land if he woke up. He didn't get out of bed.
And maybe company wasn't such a bad thing just now, when he thought about it.
So Faramir lit the fire in the kitchen, made two cups of strong tea and took them out on to the moonlit terrace. He sat down opposite Barahir at the table, gave him one of the cups and lit the lantern between them
Faramir watched his grandson. He was sitting with his hands around the cup, looking alert and distant at the same time. Long black hair, pale face, slate coloured eyes. He could see traces of himself, Boromir and Denethor in the planes of his face, but its totality was uniquely his own.
"I had a dream," Barahir said after a while, talking into his teacup, his voice very low. Faramir looked sharply at him, but Barahir didn't look up.
"I was standing by a wide river; I think it was the Anduin. Someone had just left me, travelling down it."
Barahir looked up then, paler then ever.
"I think it was you."
Faramir bit his lip. He looked at the shadow of his arm across the table. Its faded slate-grey hue dissolving into the sharp black line of Barahir's.
Then he knew. He was leaving soon. He had a year.
Faramir felt Barahir's intense gaze. There was a question in it he hadn't answered.
"I am a very old man, Barahir," he said, "and sooner or later we all leave".
He has been tired lately, and the wall between him and them feels ever more transparent. Someone is waiting and watching
Every year in the end of August Faramir and Barahir tied wine ropes between the trees in the garden for the moths. The ropes had been soaked in wine and sugar and stretched between branches like red spider-webs.
They were there, as always, their familiar whispers floating by.
Barahir was quiet, and Faramir wondered if he could hear them. He would never ask, he had never needed someone to share the experience to prove their presence to himself
The moths arrived with the twilight, more than he had ever seen at any one time. They fluttered around the rope like black particles, the swarm becoming even denser. Then it spread wide and brushed against their hair and skin in a cloud of swirling wings.
After a while they dispersed. They sat on the ropes briefly before they blended in with the darkness.
Barahir asked: 'Who are they?'
Faramir didn't say anything at first.
Who indeed? He could not really put it into words, but at last he said:
"All I know is that they belong here, and belong to us somehow, and that they wish us no harm. They may be ghosts, spirits, particles, memory fragments, moths..., or all of these. And I think they will always be here."
He took Barahir's face in his hands and said forcefully: "Remember that."
He could have said other things, about the thinning wall between them and him, but he didn't.
Who Is Dreaming Who?
The night has arrived and he can't sleep at the same time as he is very tired. He gets up, dresses and walks into the garden. The moths follow him as he walks down the path between the apple trees to reed pond, where they settle in a slowly spinning swarm above the water. When he leans over its black surface his reflection is just fragments of moonlight.
Then the pond opens into a vast plane of water...
He is in a grey boat on a river, light filtered pale through a curtain of mist. His brother sits in front of him with his back turned. Then he turns his head slowly and they look at each other for a long time. Boromir smiles one of his rare smiles and says: '" I knew you were behind me, but I was never given time to see you. When I had turned my head you were gone.'"
Faramir looked at the water gliding past; it shimmered as if a thousand fireflies were skimming the surface and slowly merging with their own reflections.
Who had been dreaming who?
Who was the sound and who was the echo?
He looked at his brother...
It didn't really matter...anymore.