Way-Seeking Mind

The Fly Antecedent

By Patrick Burr

close up photography of brown wasp

SUMMER: AFTER CLIMBING to the top of Bulamsan, a small peak in northeastern Seoul, I sat on a boulder and stared out from among the trees at the ivory city below the smog. 

On the far edge of the boulder, a fly landed. I watched as it freeze-walked in circles. It came closer.

An urge arose to reach out and swat the fly. Whether the urge was biological or social, it was present. But I swayed my hand into peace. Instead I stood, crouched, leveled my eyes with the boulder’s surface. The fly moved toward the rock’s center.

It sensed me, the predator. But it also sensed my stillness, my lack of violent, death-poised energy: it must have, for it kept coming closer.

I held silent, calm. It moved to within a foot of my eyes and nose, ceased its survival dance — frantic flight, periodic landing, stunted steps in no particular direction — and fixed its red kaleidoscopes on me, or what it saw of me.

Certainly there are other explanations for why the fly behaved as it did. But that I was present, and that I cherished the peace which could have been disrupted, and that the fly remained facing me, unmoving — this I know. 

At this moment of invisible contact I eschewed all surprise. Are we the people flies on a rock holding the gaze of a manifest threat, hoping? Or do other manners, other reflections exist?

Love defines all.

About the Author

Patrick Burr is an author currently living in Riga, Latvia. Born in the Washington, DC, area, he has lived on three continents and worked in a variety of jobs, including as a newspaper editor and reporter and an EFL teacher. He holds degrees from Vanderbilt University (BA) and the University of Washington (Seattle) (MFA), and at UW his writing won the Nelson Bentley Prize. Follow him on Twitter @WPBurr .

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