The arrowhead my brother is holding between his thumb and index finger is a good two inches long and perfectly whole. It is the color of the flesh of an un-ripened peach. Its tip is still sharp after eons under sandy soil. Its surface is as smooth as the hundreds of strikes of stone-against-stone that it took to create it allows it to be. It is magical.
But not so magical as to create surprise or, worse, doubt. Over the years, Keith and Daddy, driving tractors that pull plows and harrows and root rakes, have unearthed hundreds of arrowheads, some smaller, a few larger, some streaked with the colors of sunset. There have been enough to prove that we are not the first people to claim this piece of dirt as our own, that its history goes far beyond the first deed I ever found in the courthouse records, that there are stories buried here that we will never know.
Arrowheads are not the only artifacts that turn up on a regular basis. There are also the iron pins used to build the stretch of Register and Glennville Railroad, begun in 1895 as a logging road, eventually becoming a common carrier before being abandoned in 1919. One of them lies on the library case by my front door. It is heavy and flakes of rust are apt to come off in my hands if I roll it back and back as I am wont to do sometimes, just to be reminded that mine were not the first feet to travel these roads.
It, too, has a point. It, too, was created to pierce, not flesh as was the arrowhead, but wood, which is, nevertheless, a kind of flesh.
There may be other artifacts hidden beneath the fields, buried in the slick mud of the ponds, lost in the impenetrable brambles of the branch that is so close to my back door that I can hear rabbits rushing toward their hutches. There may be others, but these are the ones we have found – arrowheads and railroad pins.
And what occurs to me now that I take the time to –— in the way of high school essay questions —compare and contrast, is that not only do points pierce, but they, well, point. They show the way.
Last Christmas, some dear friends gave me the most adorable birdhouse. It has a tin roof and it is painted a soft aqua color. Around the entrance hole is a tin heart with an arrow shot through a’ la Cupid, the courier of love. The other day, shortly after having seen Keith’s new arrowhead, I was walking around the backyard and checked the birdhouse to see if I had any tenants — I don’t. Not yet. — and that heart with the arrow got me thinking.
What if our long-held understanding of Cupid as an archer is all wrong? What if love isn’t supposed to hurt, isn’t supposed to tear muscle from bone like an arrowhead or force a hole in one thing so that it can be attached to another like a railroad pin? What if Cupid isn’t aiming at someone, but, rather, in someone’s direction, showing the way to an otherwise aimless lover?
If that is true, then the lesson of the newly-unearthed arrowhead is this: It is likely that the thing, the thought, the person who is going to show you the way may well not be visible to the casual glance. It may be hidden somewhere in the everyday task of work. It may be turned up by the plow of an unexpected encounter. It may look, at first, like a weapon, but if you take the time to hold it, measure it, roll it between your palms, you may well find that you have uncovered a set of directions to lead you home.