Eastern Walk (John Cage Water Walk 3 of 3)

Eastern Walk by J.C. Combs

Observation three of John Cage’s “Water Walk:”

One day I decided to go for a walk. I was so intent upon this impulse that I almost tripped walking down the stairs and out the door of my house. I made my way to our little town’s main road and for the next two-and-a-half hours I walked east along that road. It was then that I came upon a forest right at the edge of the road. A grey guard rail stood between myself and the forest. I suppose one would argue if it was actually grey.., it really was made up of many colors, as sprayed upon the rail was a graffiti tag which read ‘chance.’ Every letter was a different color, except for the ‘a’ which was simply white, without color at all.

I crossed over the guard rail and marched through the forest, taking care to continue traveling east. After an hour of walking around large trees and stepping on small sticks I was hit by the silence. I stopped in place and stood. I don’t know how long I stood there, but long enough to notice, almost in a startled way, that the combination of forest noises (the wind, birds, and all sorts of strange sounds) seemed to make music. As if nature made its own music! I wanted to write this observation down to make sure I would not forget, but I had not brought paper or a writing utensil.

I carried on and after a half an hour I became extremely hungry. I had thought to bring water and still had half of the canister remaining.  However, I had neglected to pack a meal along for the trek.  I decided I would watch the forest floor for mushrooms and snack on those until I made my way to the next clearing where there ought to be a road leading to a store. Within approximately thirty seconds I found two mushrooms side by side. They were beautiful and white as snow. I wondered why I had not noticed these before? ‘Had I not ever looked down while I walked?’ ‘Was I never watching for obstacles?’ I reached down and plucked them out of the ground. I recalled something about edible mushrooms from a textbook I had read back in school. It described every possible feature of the inedible mushroom, covering all the markings. Colorless mushrooms, hence, were edible.

I ate up the mushrooms, making quick work of them, and walked along watching for more to pick. Within approximately four minutes I had come across ten more! Yet they all had markings of some sort or another. I wondered to myself, ‘what are the chances of that?’ ‘Possible poisonous shrooms all over the forest floor and not one positively edible one!’ I stood still for a second and pondered the thought, ‘had I gotten it backwards… Could the white shrooms I ate in fact have been poisonous?’ I started to become paranoid and increasingly anxious.

I sat down, trying to remember the course on edible mushrooms. I sat there within the concert of the forest musical, remaining unsure.


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