Loosely inspired by ‘A Thousand Years of Dreams’ written by Kiyoshi Shigematsu and translated into English by Jay Rubin of Harvard University.
Juul had lived his life as well as a man born to wealth could. A predisposition to the musical sciences had been a blessing that earned him respect as a young man and, as an adult, recognition and fame. While there had been times of lean wealth and civic violence, Juul had never known what it was to suffer.
At fifty, he had become old. His parents passed years earlier, aunts and uncles distant or dead, no family of his own and only cousins in distant cities. Money and success bore him no peace and on the last day of winter, he left home and travelled North with no intention of returning.
The Village was older than the nation which it bordered. Too north for good farmland and far from fresh water made life difficult but it survived for its endless miles of scrub and stack stones, horizon to horizon. Green in the summer and brown in the winter and dotted in regular by the white and grey stones stood atop one another, slowly eroding in the wind.
Finding the right stones were most important. It wasn’t just the shape and size, but complementing the balance between all three. Too small and you were seen as modest bordering on forgettable, and too large was audacity and unacceptable greed. They had to balance with themselves and complement the balancer.
He stayed in the village for a season, then another. His wealth brought food that was needed and much was stockpiled for the onset of winter. With the last shipment, he sent return word to his estate to sell off everything of value, donate what was without value to charity, and send supplies north for as long as there were funds.
As fall ended and winter arrived his work began. With a nail, and patience, he began scratching into his stones. His hands shook but were strong and by spring all three of his stones were covered with lines and ovals in irregular patterns and definite purpose.
His guide was an elderly woman who moved like shifting gravel and led Juul with two others to the northernmost edge of the rows.
Several days on foot spent in modest silence, reflecting on the stones spaced a meter apart and stacked three high, one after another, onwards to the horizon. The rows only ended at the shore to the northern sea, itself known for nothing but inedible fish and thick kelp. Where the rows ended, they began their task.
The guide lit a fire and brewed the tea they would need. Juul and the other two balancers drank in time when it was ready, and fought the bitterness and urge to vomit. Lightheaded and dizzy, they wandered off to find their places.
“Find where you wish to rest, and rest there,” she said. “Lay your head, your body, and your heart for the wind. The wind will take you, the earth will take you, the sky will take you.” Her prayers were quiet.
Juul went to the end of the longest row, almost touching the beach and stacked his stones there. The last music he would ever compose carved gracefully around each, the titles beneath. He placed them down, one atop the next, and sat before them. His eyes closed and he let himself be overcome with memory while he waited for the wind to sing his song.