It juts up out of the earth, silent, stark. No one heeds it; it is part of a forgotten landscape, a footnote in a cow pasture along a side road. A palm tree grows along its base, crowding against the thick swell of its emergence from the sandy soil. Cows graze around it, oblivious to “might have been” in their essential animal concern with sustenance. Yet it remains.
It stretches out of the ground, gnarled swells like arthritic joints, curving upward at an unlikely angle, its tip shattered, stretching toward the pale blue of the Florida sky. In this primal place, it feels as though the past is not so far gone. Its magic still clings to the saw edged leaves of the plants and the thick morning mist. The spirit of the land still moves here, barely lulled to sleep by the encroaching anesthetic of car exhaust and chemlawn, and sometimes one is reminded of the magic below the surface, the magic that the modern world reminds us not to see.
I call it the giant’s finger, the broken twist of tree bone, jutting harshly out of the open pasture behind barbed wire and road shoulder. It curves upward, forever caught in some final rigor, reaching for the sky. I know that its owner is long dead, claimed by the triumph of rationality, the glory of Lilliputian man over the primal giants of the land. Yet there remains a chilling vitality to it, a stretching of the gnarled, arthritic finger joints, an appeal to the pale sky above and the live oak behind. There is memory there, in the last remnant of the fallen titan, silhouetted against the sky. There is determination, still stretching from the ground, reaching for the stars it could once almost touch. I look at it in awe, remembering that there are things beyond our ken, things greater than mere human logic.
The field was empty on the frosted morning when I crept out of my car, braving the strange looks of the drivers whizzing along the narrow strip of pavement in the middle of nowhere. The iced weeds along the road fringe crunched under my boots, and I shivered. Leaning low, I pushed the button on my camera, the click of the shutter loud in the still, cold air of the morning. Practically, there was no reason to stop, no reason to shiver in the cold air, but I needed to take the picture, to remember the honored dead. And I needed to remember that for the giant, even in defeat and death…it was still important to reach for the sky.