"Smell the air!" Louise took a deep button-popping breath. "You can sure tell we're on the edge of five thousand acres of parkland, huh? So little stain of humanity in the air. ... Only in the wilderness am I alive, far from the sights and sounds of civilization, where I can hear the voices of nature in the trees, in the brush, in the lonely ponds, in the dirt."
Voices in the dirt? Holly thought, and almost laughed.
"There i a purity in forest mud," Louise insisted, "that can't be matched in the most thoroughly scrubbed and sterilized hospital surgery." She tilted her face back for a moment to bask in the warm sunfall. "The purity of the natural world cleanses your soul. From that renewed purity of soul comes the sublime vapor of great poetry."
"Sublime vapor?" Holly said, as if she wanted to be sure that her tape recorder would correctly register every golden phrase.
"Sublime vapor," Louise repeated, and smiled.
Louise leaned forward on the picnic bench, folding her arms on the redwood table. "The earth is a living thing. It could talk to us if we were worth talking to, could just open a mouth in any rock or plant or pond and talk to us as easily as I'm talking to you."
"What an exciting concept," Holly said.
"Human beings are nothing more than lice."
"Lice crawling over the living earth," Louise said dreamily.
Holly said, "I hadn't thought of it that way."
"God is not only in earth butterfly -- God is each butterfly, each bird, each rabbit, every wild thing. I would sacrifice a million human lives - ten million and more! - if it meant saving one innocent family of weasels, because God is each of those weasels."
As if moved by the woman's rhetoric, as if she didn't think it was eco-fascism, Holly said, "I give as much as I can every year to the Nature Conservancy, and I think of myself as an environmentalist, but I see that my consciousness hasn't been raised as far as yours."
The poet did not hear the sarcasm and reached across the table to squeeze Holly's hand. "Don't worry, hear. You'll get there. I sense an aura of great spiritual potentiality around you."
"Help me to understand... God is butterflies and rabbits and every liking thing, and God is rocks and dirt and water -- but God isn't us?"
"No. Because of our one unnatural quality."
Holly blinked in surprise. "Intelligence is unnatural?"
"A high degree of intelligence, yes. It exists in no other creatures in the natural world. That's why nature shuns us, why we subconsciously hate her and seek to obliterate her. High intelligence leads to the concept of progress. Progress leads to nuclear weapons, bio-engineering, chaos, and ultimately to annihilation."
"God... or natural evolution didn't give us our intelligence?"
"It was an unanticipated mutation. We're mutants, that's all. Monsters."
Holly said, "Then the less intelligence a creature exhibits..."
"...the more natural it is," Louise finished for her.
"Louise," she said, "in light of what you've told me, I think you're the most natural person I've ever met."
Louise didn't get it. Perceiving a compliment instead of a slight, she beamed at Holly.
"Trees are sisters to us," Louise said, eager to reveal another facet of her philosophy, evidently having forgotten that human beings were lice, not trees. "Would you cut off the limbs of your sister, cruelly section her flesh, and build a house with the pieces of her corpse?"
"No, I wouldn't," Holly said sincerely. "Besides, the city probably wouldn't approve a building permit for such an unconventional structure."