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Below is the first four chapters of :
The Literature Preferred by Wild Boar
For your reading pleasure
As soon as Charles suggested the outing, Deb heard a sound in her ears that reminded her of a bell, a soft tone coming in like a radio wave. She sensed something there as if a fish was pulling her line, a faint calling? She stood there not answering, possessed by an inner sound expanding in concentric circles.
“Think about it,” Charles said. “We could go this afternoon, maybe find something we can use.”
He was about to walk away from where Deb was tinkering with a motorcycle. Trying to get to know this strange gift Joe had given her.
“OK, let’s go,” she said as the tone in her head faded away. She wondered what she would have said if she’d heard a less pleasant sound—like the channel-less static she sometimes heard.
“It feels a little strange to go back there, but I thought we might scout out some building supplies, or at least find a tape measure,” Charles said.
“It’s slacker Sunday, Charles. It’ll be recreational.”
Deb was enjoying the ride, sitting with her arms around Charles, her legs cradling him from behind on their recently inherited motorcycle, strands of her copper-turning-silver hair escaping to the wind. She saw a dark shape shift at the wooded edge of the old logging road that led into what was once known as the Contemplative Eco Community. There a wild boar emerged, the same size, shape, and color as the wallows their neighbor Alfred had shown them a few days ago.
The boar’s tusks shone with surprising newness, like pieces in a garbage heap of a world that begs to be put back together in some way. It was the year 2045, and the world was peopled by only three thousand six hundred souls. In Middleburg there were about six hundred inhabitants.
The wild boar approached Charles Truman and Deb Exlander at a trot. Seeing the animal’s chipped white tusks as he came at them, Charles assumed they were being charged. Gripping the handlebars tighter, he sped away, fearful of the unknown. Deb clung tighter too, mostly fearful of his driving.
They had heard of wild boars swimming to Vermont.
Gliding like water ballet troupes across the Connecticut River, to the land of their hearts’ content. Yet they’d never before seen a wild boar, or even heard of a sighting that was believable.
The boar charged ten feet past them and then swiftly turned around to pursue them. It seemed to Charles that a powerful alien threatened to chase them into the underworld. Such was the haunted feeling that pervaded the failed Contemplative Community and their abandoned estate. Deb, though she generally liked animals, was afraid of large mammals that she didn’t know, especially dangerous ones with bristly hair and tusks.
As the boar caught up to run alongside the motorcycle, Deb made an effort to look him in the eye.
Here is an animal who sees the truth in every situation and knows how to respond.
His snout, for which his whole body seemed made, pushed forward till his wide nostrils flared at Charles. Deb wondered how they would evade the boar before he started to nip Charles’s knuckles.
From the Contemplative Eco Community, their path led to an abandoned construction site for a box store, the sort of indoor convenience city that was once popular, even if completely at odds with developments like the Contemplative Eco Community. With a boar in pursuit, this was becoming a landscape of obstacles.
“Watch out for your knuckles,” she whisper-shouted in his ear.
Charles didn’t care about his knuckles; he narrowed his already narrow eyes and hunched in closer to speed away.
“Don’t distract me,” he said, annoyed that his errand wasn’t going as planned.
Deb had an idea. Ideas were her specialty. She had read somewhere about how to handle such difficulties with a wild boar.
“It would be better if you slowed down so he can get a good look at you and satisfy his curiosity. Then you could make a turn, but he’ll keep going in the same direction,” Deb instructed.
“We don’t have time to mess around with this boar,” Charles said. “I have a million things to do today.”
“Take a deep breath and humor me. I really believe this will work.”
Charles slowed and the boar slowed too. The boar grunted his satisfaction as he inspected the motorcycle and its occupants. Charles made a right turn, and that was the last they saw of the boar until a week or so later.
There was a place in the forest where Deb liked to forage for mushrooms, goldenseal, and ginseng. Many years ago Deb and Charles had started growing useful forest plants and fungi in a manner that simulated the wild. Often Deb went there to gather birch bark for starting campfires, and to take the pulse of the seasons. It was summer, but a cold snap could pop out from summer days, breaking summer’s relative ease. That was partly why she was watchful of her forest, why Charles was watchful of his bees. There wasn’t anything you could do about the unpredictability of the weather, but it seemed to help to listen closely. We are all in it together, in this symphony of sympathy. So Deb checked on things in the wild that ostensibly took care of themselves, a wild world that she had encouraged and helped create. What the forest had to teach was endless. It was her paradise.
She sat on the flat face of a rock off to the side of a path. She was there doing Reiki and chanting, when a ray of sunlight came down and spread its warmth over her. She stated her intention to send protective and healing energy to her daughter, who was traveling with her daredevil husband again. Once she settled into a peaceful meditation, everything around her followed. When she felt a greater presence, Deb opened her eyes. That was when she saw the wild boar snuffling acorns less than ten feet away. How had she not heard him approach? How had she missed his paired almond hoof marks? Had the boar simply appeared out of nowhere?
Deb watched the gentle quiet of his bearing as he came toward her, seemingly weightless, like an apparition. As if to bask in her peaceful aura of meditation, he came near, sidled up beside her and flopped down to rest, his weight and reality finally apparent. He must be sick, she reasoned. Animals sensed healing energy and sought it out when they were in need. She didn’t know what was wrong with the boar. She only knew it was seeking the energy she was sending out. There was no thorn in his little cloven feet that she could tell. She had had the chance to look closely as he flopped over on his side. She put her hand on him, and he seemed to melt into a deeply relaxed state. She observed him. He seemed in perfect condition physically. She suspected the hurt was on an emotional level. Pigs were smarter than dogs and had the same ability to be wild, or become tame, or to be anywhere in between. What could the pig be upset about?
Change, the sort of change a wild boar brought to the neighborhood with his rooting up of prestigious plants, was not always welcome. Perhaps the boar, the pig, the hog felt unwelcome, and unappreciated. Nature loved praise. It was not only humans who wanted to be adored, who wanted to be loved.
The whole point of the motorcycle ride was to have a fun adventure. The search for building supplies was just a lure, to get Charles to do something recreational. The wild boar saved the day, showing up like that and changing their direction. Otherwise Charles might have gotten sucked into an endless and depressing job, trying to salvage what was left after the death of a community he was once a part of.
Resting her hand on his back, she silently thanked the boar for changing their direction, for showing up and coming between Charles and his utilitarian list, his quicksand of things to do. She let her thanks ripple out to the Great Spirit from which the wild boar came. She stroked his eyebrows, till he was sound asleep.
Perhaps it was because she looked him in the eye, or maybe because she read about him and took the trouble to try and understand his wild boar-ness. Whatever it was, over that summer, the boar made it clear that Deb was his special human friend.
A wild boar is a fierce animal, shouldn’t I be afraid?
Yet the boar seemed to want only comfort. Often he ran up to her only to lie down at her feet. His fur was bristly and his teeth were long, but he nuzzled close to Deb, and she took the hint and bent low to his level. When she sat down, he took advantage of this and laid his head on her lap. His eyebrows were far enough from his mouth to feel comfortable for Deb, and he seemed to like having them stroked. His head was heavy and he chewed in his sleep. She liked the boar but was not without squeamishness.
It doesn’t seem entirely safe to be friends with a wild boar. On the other hand, if the wild boar sees me as his friend, is it safe not to be his friend? It’s as if I’ve been drafted to be some sort of intermediary. The wild boar has made me his safe place, his “contact” in the human world. Let’s face it, he digs up gardens, and he is at least potentially dangerous with his tusks, his weight, and reputation for killing hunters and the dogs of hunters. The pig is smart, all right. Up against Alfred and his dog, he chooses to attach himself to me. More than any of their neighbors, Alfred seemed strange as if from another planet and that prickled Deb in particular. Alfred was French; he still believed that France existed and defended his own mythological version of it.
A duty is something that can’t be shirked, although one might not feel happy to oblige. That is how I feel about the boar. What he seeks from me, I have an obligation to give. Peace . . . one cannot withhold peace from a seeker. I recognize in him this desire.
Did Charles ever think about where they would have ended up if they had kept going in the same direction? Some say the pig is selfish, but the pig is Christ-like. The pig attends to his inner self. Finally.
Of course, many people did continue in the same direction. Scientists and other experts warned of what would happen if we kept overfishing, overpopulating, overconsuming, overgrowing, overspending, overdosing, and we ended up pretty much in the projected disaster zone. Some people did change their ways, like Deb and Charles, and disaster had a tendency to strike unevenly anyway. So the world didn’t exactly end, though the future survival of our species felt uncertain, as it was carried by so few . . . compared to our former strength in numbers.
The end feels close, like living in a meteor shower.
Deb and Charles had been among the last ones to return to the cradle of their old scrambled neighborhood after a dramatic increase in weather chaos, sunspots, and solar flares culminated in the Great Wobble. Scientists had predicted that changes in the magnetic field of the Earth would cause a sudden pole shift. But that didn’t happen. Something a little different happened that could not be explained. The whole region shifted with the undulating energy of Earth, skewing the known geography into a changed version of itself. Canada’s borders melted closer, taking over much of Vermont. At first it was thought to be an earthquake, but it was too orderly to be an earthquake. It was more like an intelligent being inside Earth was moving chunks like puzzle pieces: a sort of sleeping giant at work, dreaming a new world. The air above and the whole cosmos seemed to help the giant’s reimagining as if invisibly unified. Humans felt a deep unspeakable smallness, perhaps irrelevance. They were like fleas on a dog, but worse, they could not even hold onto the dog.
It is embarrassing to think about what I was doing when the Great Wobble came. I was looking for a certain kind of candy. It was a hard candy with a soft chocolate center. It came in a little gold wrapper. I wanted it to feed to my imaginary fish. Of course, I would eat the candy, but the imaginary fish was part of my invented religion. God knows why I had become obsessed with getting this particular type of candy as fish food. Pips, they were called. My fish-wish ritual was soon washed up and Pips were out of the question.
There was no discussion about evacuation. People just started leaving Middleburg as if politely drifting off from a party going wrong. They simply sought out quiet places, avoiding the restless movements of Earth. The Great Wobble, as it came to be called by Folk Science, which usurped the place of Western science, lasted a few weeks—much longer than the three-minute pole shift meteorologists had forecasted.
As things seemed to settle, people began to scout out the new world. They found that while things were pretty messed up and places were changed, Earth still offered some habitable areas. Middleburg was among them. Glacial erratics, aka dinosaur eggs, from the melting of the Ice Age, had rolled around again in the Great Wobble. They seemed to create a wall against the new sea that had risen where the Mississippi used to be. Trees had been tossed and had taken root in new places. Other places full of ferns and moss seemed untouched, as if the creature that had caused all this had been a giant unicorn. A unicorn will not hurt a fern or crush any of the surrounding mosses because that is where the smaller fairy creatures live.
Clearly things had shaken out well in Middleburg as compared to many places that were now under the Mississippi Sea. Many of their neighbors had gone back home, but Charles wanted to be sure the Wobble was really over.
When Charles was convinced that the Wobble was finished, he had asked Deb to marry him and live with him on his parents’ land in Middleburg. Their daughter, Miranda, was all grown-up. This was not the first time he’d asked. On this occasion, he picked the right moment. Deb was in a lull. First her Don’t Blow It series of travel guide shows had lost popularity, and then students started dropping out of her Creative World History classes after the first day. She had spent the last three years utterly alone. Miranda was far away. Socially and economically, Deb had lost her resources.
I still remember the conversation: OK, you be the man and I’ll be the wife. Don’t take it that way, Deb, you be the woman, I’ll be your band. Like my group, I’d asked? Yes, we’ll be a small group. Miranda too, she’s in our group. It’s natural, don’t you see, Deb? Why did I avoid his hand for so long? Why has he been so persistent? Yes, let’s go. Right now. To Middleburg, I’d said.
And so they had loaded up their backpacks and followed the paths to Middleburg, one of the few regions of tiny renaissance where survivors picked up their lives. There were many trails leading to Middleburg. Old neighbors came back, but there were newcomers too, people who just happened to be nearby when the Wobble came and heard that Middleburg was safe, and in its own way, booming.
In this post-world life, people often didn’t live very long, and there were not many animals left. Remember when all the news used to be bad? We used to have headlines like, “Species going extinct at fastest rate since Ice Age,” “Global warming renamed global chaos,” and “Baby boomers deemed last healthy generation.” Well, now the simple good news of continued life for our own and other species was rare, and it was all good news all the time. If we still had headlines, one might read, “Group of elderly women survive by helping each other and giving lectures on old-time skills.”
For Deb and Charles, who were nearly elders, everything seemed late: they had intended to complete their cordwood house before the economy completely collapsed. Yet they were still building the house.
Charles was in his late teens when his parents, Thelma and Paul, planned it. They put in a well and the foundation, and had gathered many of the building materials. Back in 2004, Thelma, Paul, and young Charles had moved from their modern apartment to this land they had bought on the edge of town and began their preparations for the challenging world they saw coming, later exemplified by the financial mess of 2008, the BP oil spill and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that damaged a nuclear plant. They decided they could live more simply, within their means, and close to nature. They erected a yurt on the land and lived happily in their glorified tent until a cyclone came and smashed the yurt, with Charles’s parents crushed inside. It wasn’t unusual to lose family members in those years of extreme storms, heat waves, heavy downpours, floods, cyclones, and droughts.
The weather systems were calmer now, though not at all back to “usual.” His parents had not expected to live through the great changes, but they did believe that if Charles was careful with his inheritance, he might make a life for himself.
Charles inherited the beginnings of a house. It was a strictly do-it-yourself project in a world without Home Depot. Deb remembered the predictions of global warming before the Wobble. Building projects went very fast then, boom, boom, boom. Until, suddenly off balance, Earth wobbled in a slow, rhythmic, unpredictable dance. Perhaps the end of time did not explain why the house remained incomplete. But life was slower, and things took more time.
Time had changed its stride. Certainly people did not experience the same old chronology—some vestige of it, yes, but also some letting go of time as a predictable machine-like presence.
People began to notice a sort of ten-year flextime. There was a dreamy subjectivity to time, and the reality of a person’s age could be anywhere in the ten-year range. In other words, you would have to be dead for a full ten years before any chance of your also existing as alive was out of the question. If you thought you were forty years old, you could actually be thirty or fifty. The measurement of time was a lost science.
It was often overwhelming to look at all that was left undone. The land cleared for their house was a mud pit. They were still cutting and splitting piles of wood that they had taken down two years before, just to get logs out of the way so they could have some space to work in what would be their yard. They were buried in firewood.
The neighborhood landmarks were scrambled, sometimes to their advantage. Though they had lost the yurt, they gained a small airplane hangar from a tiny rural airport that had scooched onto their land.
“I didn’t plan on living in an airplane hangar all these years,” Charles said, catching a dish towel Deb had tossed at him as he sat at the kitchen table, breakfast dishes pushed aside, looking over the blueprint his father had made.
“I’m just glad we found this place to live while we build our house. Seems like it came along just in time,” Deb said.
“You’re right about that. I was just saying I didn’t plan on it. I intended on having a house built for you by now.” He got up and drifted slowly over to Deb, draping her in his heavy arms of regret, but she slipped away.
“Sometimes, Charles, I don’t even care. I’m as happy here as I’d be anywhere. I’m happy to be at the edge of the mountain, in the forest, in a quiet place. Maybe we don’t need a special house for these ‘apocalyptic times.’ ” She brought over a bucket of cold water to mix with the hot water from the rocket stove outside.
“You’re wrong about that,” Charles said. “Things are only going to get worse, we’ve just been lucky so far.”
“I like luck a whole lot better than hard work,” Deb said.
“Hard work helps me prove my father right about everything he said I’d be able to do. I may not be as smart and lucky as you, Deb, but I know how to work hard and I will build this house.”
“Don’t worry, Charles. We can do it together, just the way we’ve survived so far.”
Deb said these things, but they never seemed very intimate to Charles. He knew she did not exactly belong to him. No matter how loyal he was, no matter how well he took care of her. They were like two train tracks, never crossing over into each other’s space. Deb belonged to the land, to nature, to the Great Spirit. What really kept them together was this land: they each had their separate purposes on it. Charles worked it. Deb witnessed it. Charles brought use and survival from the land. Deb walked it, talked it, learned it, and loved it. Their world was not completely grim. There were many losses of species, yet the number of different flowers, mosses, and ferns Deb found walking the old mountain road was enough to fill her head and her heart.
Her calmness about the problems of the world and her own precarious situation in it came from an awakened thread in the blanketing consciousness of inevitable endings. This awakened thread was freedom. It sparkled with possibility in a dark gloomy picture, and colored everything. She had had a dream, back in the days when people were doing those things they might never have the opportunity to do again. Deb had returned home from a cruise with her extended family, seeing Europe and the Mediterranean Sea; it had been a great luxury to be able to do this. Yet as in all families, there had been tensions; there were days when they argued or came face-to-face with the ugliness of civilization. There were sicknesses and accidents. Mixed in there was euphoria, a good cup of coffee alone with her daughter. They all piled into a van and raced through towns and museums. So many experiences piled up, the good and the bad in a heap of colorful undigested clutter.
Undigested until a dream, which came to Deb some time after she returned to her home country. She dreamed she was back on the boat, on a long trip, and experienced everything from near starvation and eating her own shoes, to killing swordfish and getting infected, to stepping ashore and being treated like royalty.
Then one day, it was her last day, somehow her very last day ever. They were taking her to “her” island, where she would be dropped off and left alone. This may have been death. It was a beautiful morning. The sky was pretty, the air was balmy, and she had slept well. Everyone she met was kind and friendly; the cruise staff, her family, and many strangers gracefully milled about. There was a perfect and wonderful spirit to this, her last day. She felt honored. She could see her island in the distance. This feeling of complete satisfaction and wonder settled on her, reflecting backward over her entire past, purifying it. No longer were her experiences a heap of undigested castoffs. The spiritual light of this day spread in the most forgiving way to lift her entire life into supreme gratitude.
The gift of that dream affirmed her calmness in every storm and desperate time.
Deb worried that Charles might work himself to death like a worker bee in the summer, performing each task that needed to be done for the hive at different times of its life. According to old beekeeping books, summer bees lived four to six weeks, while winter bees could live four to five months. Summer bees lived only three weeks on average in more recent years, due to loss of food sources, chemical contamination, and disease outbreaks. Often she would stop him when he got “motorized.” Not wanting to do something, Deb insisted, was a nudge from wisdom.
Perhaps they balanced each other, keeping the train on track. It wasn’t a highly romantic kind of love. For Deb, it was almost impersonal. For Charles, it just was what it was. Of course, love moved through phases, even if it never changed. Love moved beyond love, to a place where all that remained to sustain the relationship were the personal strengths of each.
It would have been better if they had finished building the house. Short of that, they had the next best things: each other and their land in Middleburg, Vermont. It was forest now, as if the flat landing had just shifted off the map like obsolete postage. Prayer Mountain to the east had wobbled closer and edged out the landing field, no longer usable for aircraft. Lacking maintenance for many years, it had turned into woodland interspersed with mossy boulders.
For now they were living in the hangar, long abandoned by private jets. They found the motorcycle parked by the side door at the beginning of what seemed to be summer. Joe, a fan of Deb’s travel guide series, left the motorcycle as a gift, and a way of sharing the story of Ruth, his late wife. Joe and Ruth used to travel together all over the country on their motorcycles. They had no children, just this one joy of being together on the road.
His eyes, Joe confessed, looked to every view through her. What was once an automatic togetherness was now a purposeful twining of his experience of the road with her memory. Without bringing her to mind, he couldn’t travel; without traveling, he couldn’t be himself. Joe was small, compact, fit, and bald. He seemed stoic about Ruth’s passing as if his loss only made things more as they were, more bitter and more sweet.
The mental picture of Ruth that came to Deb was happy. There were no actual photographs. She appeared to have the same build as Joe but in female form. She had short wavy hair, and wore lipstick. But what really came through was culinary. Ruth was like bread. She could be a blueberry muffin or sourdough rye.
Anyway, Joe couldn’t use Ruth’s motorcycle. Fuel was hard to come by, the motorcycle’s mission was joy and it had a limited amount left to give. Deb and Charles shared the motorcycle with the community, loaning it out and shuttling people around. They only considered themselves caretakers of the Yamaha XT225 Serow. Deb maintained it, and Charles signed it out and kept track of its whereabouts. Only a thin remnant of a runway remained; they called it Ruth’s Road for her motorcycle.
Charles had had some input on what sort of land his family would buy, and he wanted this place because it had plenty of trees for building and yet was close to the valley and flowers for the bees. Twenty years ago, Charles started a community roadside planting effort to help save the bees. The bees’ favorite, white sweet clover, had spread everywhere there was open land.
It was a beautiful day in June and it felt surprisingly quite June-like. Such months had not been earning their reputations for many years. The resemblance to traditional seasons was slight.
Charles had spent his youth preparing for the end of the world, as they knew it. The prophecies of the native peoples seemed to speak to him directly, as if God himself had whispered his plans in Charles’s ears. He didn’t believe in God, though. He just believed in doing his best, and being neighborly. He saw no need for religion.
This morning was so pleasant they ate breakfast with the hangar doors wide open as well as two other windows, improvements they had made to their found dwelling. The breeze smelled like spring. Stacked on the left side of their one-room home were some freshly oiled and fabricated hive bodies they would use to catch honeybee swarms during the season, such as it was. The honey would keep them in sweets and give them something to trade for other items they needed. They also made candles from the beeswax and generally used the products of the hive as food, medicine, and currency.
Deb was sitting with her tea at her desk, sorting through her papers, seemingly lost in thought. Charles was gathering all the things he would need when he went beelining, hunting down feral hives in trees. Bait pads, scented syrup, stopwatch, notepad, compass, binoculars, smoker fuel, a hat, a rope, water and food, as well as a couple of hive bodies, were piled by the door. Outside the hangar, you could see they lived in building B1, as a square white sign above the door indicated, or “Bee one” as Charles liked to think of it.
“Charles, give me some space. I’m onto something.”
“What, analyzing ancient telephone doodles? I was hoping you would help me hunt down hives in the forest today.”
Deb looked up from the notes she had taken while on the telephone with her grandmother, Grace, thirty years ago when they had phones, a yellowed newspaper scrawled in blue marker and decorated with doodles. These too, the newspaper and the Magic Marker, had become extinct.
“I will, but I don’t feel ready yet. I’m wrangling a story right now.”
“A Crisis Averted?”
“Yup, that’s the one. Do you know what this story promises? Imagine a smooth and happy old age for yourself, and a peaceful time of prosperity on earth.”
“How can a story change anything? And how do you find a story that may not even exist anyway? And why do you even try when there are so many things in real life that need to get done?”
“So many questions, thanks, I like that. Stories are the reason things are the way they are in the first place. The stories you tell yourself focus your life into something you can actually see. Once you see your life through the lens of a story, you are confined to the rules of that story, and the victories that can be achieved in that context. For instance, the Fountain of Youth, that’s a story. If you could find a person who had actually been to the Fountain of Youth, then you could go there too. That’s how it works. I call it story wrangling because you have to wrestle with the truth that you want to come out of a situation. It’s not a given. I’m not sure right now if I’m going to write the story or tell it. First, I have to find it.”
“Very interesting. How did you start looking for this story of A Crisis Averted anyway?”
“I’m a peace-loving person, you know. So many stories are about how to resolve a crisis, but I just didn’t want a crisis to happen at all, especially not to me, or my family. I want to be useful to the end of my days. I want to end suffering. I want to offer a new tool for happiness to humanity. I feel that there is a story I can discover, or a story-making process that will help people transform collective negative energy.”
“Does this have anything to do with Grandpa Jim’s story? Is that why you’re reading old telephone notes from Grandma Grace?”
“Exactly so. I’ve got a hook in this story, deep in my Prozac-popping poppa, where no one would suspect it. Jim has carried his vocational crisis around like a ball and chain since they kicked him out of seminary for blowing his top seventy years ago. He’s got A Crisis Averted and he doesn’t even know it.
“In the very fact that I’m alive, I found the clue. We take everything for granted. That’s why we can’t see what’s in plain sight. If any one of us could just be grateful that we are alive, A Crisis Averted would pop out of the background in the decaying leaves, and we would be blessed with a lightness of being in our old age, we would die without a single enemy. The earth we returned to would glow with gratitude that our life had been lived.”
The whole time Deb was explaining this, her facial expression lit up and grew dark, contracted and expanded like the universe itself, and her hands moved as if she were dancing the words from the air. Her graying auburn hair was coming loose from a clip behind her ear, as if orderliness was deeply against the point she was trying to make.
“OK, Deb, I support you in this wrangling. Will you help me later this morning with the bees, and meet me out there?”
“Sure, I’ll be at a stopping place with these notes soon. You go ahead.”
Charles was eager to get going before the weather changed. Sometimes he was annoyed by Deb’s delays, but when she took the time to explain her reasoning, he found himself grateful to have her in his life. Deb knew this sort of loyalty was rare and it pleased her.
He stood at the door with his stuff, observing the no-shoes-in-the-house rule. Deb went over and gave him a good-bye hug.
“Don’t forget water,” she said.
“Got it,” he said.
While he loaded up his cargo bicycle outside, she arranged her desk, her tea, and a little bowl of hazelnuts to snack on. She just needed a little more time alone with the material. The observer’s gaze developed the picture of truth.
Deb briefly had a career story wrangling, as she now called it. She had been good at it in her day. She was not the type to push her luck, though, and what was luck worth when it was pushed anyway? She was like a desert: her flowering season came only with the infrequent rains. Somehow, it seemed less divine if you had to beg luck to stick around. Desert flowers need tenacious roots to remain viable for timeless dry spells, tough like burdock.
Her travel series, Don’t Blow It, was a post-TV reality show. It was an interactive story with a set of characters that any participant could play. Towns competed to host the shows: they were transformed into settings for the half-God, half-human characters created by Deb and embodied by the populace to settle the earth’s account. The stories changed the people who participated in the shows. By exposing the powerful God-side of themselves, they could be more fiercely authentic than ever before. For cross-marketing purposes, Deb had also created a series of travel guides to go with the site-specific reality plays. Very suddenly, the series lost popularity, and Deb started to dislike travel, competition, and interaction. You could tell by the light, which got real stingy, the time was no longer right for Don’t Blow It. The series had generated a moment of admiration for Deb. One critic had called her “drop-dead modest.” She was never sure how to take that. A moment of fame can be haunting.
She had been so many people in her life. She’d been the teenage mother, the famous reality writer, and the professor. She was now a wife and a sort of pioneer woman in a world very different than it was thirty years ago. Yet never before had she turned toward the vacuum that sucked her into being born in the first place. That seemed like a buffalo of a different color.
Turquoise blue. Who am I to interview the master of this animal? I have my own brown buffalo that I understand. It is frightening to look backward or forward in my lineage. Yet here I am, staring at the X on a treasure map, and the X is right on my heart. Digging, I find pieces of my ancestors, all mixed-up, hollow, and still calling me to earth to recreate what they started. Who is to say when something is finished?
Deb was done with all but enjoying the last of her life in a world that had frankly shifted more toward her liking. She liked primitive life: cooking over a campfire, not being bothered with phone calls, e-mail, and other electronic vibrations. She liked the small scale of humanity, the fact there were fewer people. Yet the arrow had landed, pointing to the mystery, and the obligation of unfinished business.
The haunted feeling that arises is the clue that something is not finished, even in these bonus years. It is bubbling up from the past in delayed fermentation.
Looking at the telephone notes where Grace had answered her questions about the sad secret behind their lives, Deb compared her research into Granddaddy Jim’s fall from a tall building and her imagining of this event, as retold by Grace. The truth had to be somewhere between the different versions. She refilled her tea from a tankard of hot water she had prepared over the fire the night before, as was her habit. The nuts were gone, and she began to pace and stretch to get fresh air into her system; this simple form of inspiration was part of her process. She believed in breathing.
Deb had been raised by her grandparents. Her real parents were too young to take care of her when she was born. Her mother, Helen, died in childbirth, and her father, Dezy, ran off with his banjo and never came back. Grace and Jim, Dezy’s parents, had functioned as if they were her parents after that. Though her real parents obviously had unfortunate stories, her life with Grace and Jim was uplifted from all misfortune, except when she found out about “The Crisis.” Then a whole veil began to slowly unravel.
When she’d asked Jim more specific questions about the room and the general setting just prior to his suicide attempt, he gave a description much different than what she’d imagined. He was staying at the YMCA, training for a job with the Greyhound Bus Company. He was in bed, and slithered across the room. He didn’t want to, but felt compelled to move toward the window. He thought of calling Grace on the phone. “But what could I say?” He squeezed himself between the louvers of the window and let go, screaming. He hit with great but “certainly not fatal force.”
When you dig up the facts and try to clear away the mistaken way you have imagined things, it seems sometimes that you have traded gold for silver. I always imagine my Jim/dad sitting at a grand desk when the compulsion to jump from the high-rise hit him. He was not the owner of the desk. The authority figure (God? the psychiatrist? the boss?) had stepped out of the room momentarily. Jim took the opportunity to usurp his position, sitting on a powder keg behind the desk. The desk, feeling its master was being betrayed, shot a terrible force of thought into Jim. It was a mind control ejector seat. The compulsion was the ammo the magic desk used to reclaim itself for its true master. Before the authority figure reentered the room, Jim was propelled by a thought wave to jump out the window. I have always imagined it in a somewhat comical light like that.
The light was changing, and Deb felt her own chair give her a little shock as if saying it was time to get up, and get out. Yes, time was passing, and she had promised to meet up with Charles to help him with whatever situation turned up with the bees. Deb generally found the bees to be more unpredictable than did Charles, who always seemed to have a plan for them. She would go on a pollen walk, she decided, on the way to the place where she knew Charles would be, the same tree where they had suspected bees were living. It was not because of any evidence from beelining, but just a sort of intuition, perhaps wishful thinking about the tree. Or thinking, if I were a bee, that’s where I would go.
A pollen walk, Deb called it, when she went to take pollen from a drawer they had installed at the bottom of one of their beehives. She imagined walking on a path of velvet pollen pearls. The bees shaped each tiny ball from flower dusts in shades of yellow, orange, brown, and purple, somehow royal in their velvet way. In her mind’s eye, those colors were her spiritual path on these walks, but first she had to get dressed. She was still in her nightshirt, which had pictures of pink cupcakes all over it. She switched to an orange T-shirt and white painter’s pants.
She started out down Ruth’s Road until she got to the path. There weren’t so many now, but people still kept up the roads in the neighborhood. It made things seem more neighborhoody, like what they remembered from childhood before the end of oil. For longer distances, those who could flew a magic carpet infused with universal life energy. Carpet-pools were arranged with people who had magic carpet abilities as not everyone did. The world was no longer car-centered, and this left more space around buildings. Deb preferred to walk even for somewhat longer distances, drumming the ground and moving in a self-healing way. The feeling of traveling by magic carpet was very much like zooming in a car. The lone motorcycle they had was a relic, a nostalgic toy. No one needed it, but it had sentimental value and was a fun addition to life. Bicycles, especially cargo bicycles, were very common. Walking was slower and allowed Deb to notice things.
Suddenly, out of the blue, her thoughts stopped short. She almost walked right into a baby woodchuck.
“Hello, little creature. What are you doing here?”
The animal, long, furry, and fat with inquisitive button eyes, just sat there looking at her. Deb didn’t know what else to do or say, so she started to take a step forward, to continue on her way. At this, the creature darted into a cave-like space between some rocks. Then another creature just like the first except larger came out and made a strange noise at her, a sort of scolding, coughing sound. How strange. Yet it seemed to Deb that this kind of thing was happening often. Yesterday on a walk, she had had the same kind of encounter with a baby squirrel. It’s as if a rumor is going around about me, she thought. The day before yesterday, a thin black cat followed her, screaming like a crow, its tail up and slanted forward, ears back. By running just ahead of her, the cat forced her to follow. The cat seemed to be warning her about some unseen predicament. Cats see an enemy in a speck of dust.
As Deb neared the beeyard, she picked some flowers to give to the bees as a token of her appreciation for the pollen that she was about to collect. A cartoon image of a rain cloud flashed across her mind. She remembered seeing the image in dream mail. She looked up and saw gray shifty clouds, but ignored the warning. When she arrived at the hive and pulled out the drawer, she discovered only a teaspoon of pollen. She tasted a pinch. The wisdom of the flowers is very healthy food, high in protein and B vitamins. Now that she thought about it, there was no need to collect pollen, since the bees didn’t fly in the rain and therefore didn’t gather pollen. All the bees were flying back into the hive now. The rain was coming soon. The bees knew. They lined up at the hive entrance and filed in one by one.
Once the bees were safe inside the hive, the rain came, and Deb ran. She thought she might stay drier that way, but it was hopeless: her orange T-shirt wet and clingy, the knees of her pants sticking to her legs. At least it wasn’t cold, and the pollen was safe in a birch-bark pouch. As she ducked into the forest to get out of the rain, she saw a blue light dash from her right. It leaped toward her out of the trees like a jungle cat. It seemed to go right through her and vanish into her head.
What could it be? Some sort of reflection? Rain on my glasses? I simply thank it for showing up. I’ve gotten into the habit of just saying thanks. So much of what we mistake for a threat is actually benevolence.
That much she knew as she attempted her unique path to wrangle stories for the service of humanity: One wrestled with angels, not demons. The truth of the golden harp could be learned only from an angel, and angels were often tough. Who were the guardians of the truth she sought? Every being she met in her quest must have ownership in the story she sought. Love and respect, that was the ticket onto the battleground of story wrangling. By the time the forest path ended and she was back on the road, the sun was shining again.
She found Charles in a tree with a swarm. This was great luck, even better than finding a feral hive in a tree, because a swarm is ready to move into a new home. The swarm was in a ball around a limb just above Charles’s head. He had a box ready below them, but not enough hands to hold the box, shake the bees off the limb, and stay in the tree all at the same time. Deb, still damp from her microclimate experience, climbed up and gave the branch a thump. The bees fell into the box and their queen with them, apparently, since they re-congregated happily in there. Honeybees will always stay with their queen when swarming. Straggler bees that weren’t caught flew in to be with her. Charles closed up the hive entrance, and loaded it onto the cargo bike. They went home, Charles on the bike and Deb by foot.
At home, they pumped water and carried buckets of it back to the airplane hangar. Deb made a fire, and Charles put together some dried mushrooms, leeks, and beans for a soup.
“Thanks for your help today,” Charles said.
“I’m sorry I didn’t help that much, but I’m so happy we have a hive at home now,” Deb said.
Deb brought out some mead she had made last year with unripened honey and wild grapes.
“Cheers,” she said, filling their glasses.
“We’ll have to protect them,” Charles said.
“Why? There are no bears.”
“I don’t know. There should be bears. There have always been bears. I’ve always protected my hives.”
“Maybe we could make a place for them inside so they can fly in and out?” Deb suggested.
“Maybe. Maybe that’s a good idea.”
They were both tired and let it rest there. Maybe they would keep them like pets, inside. Deb sort of liked the idea. It was a sweet and warming thought, and she felt chilled from the night air and being wet. Often she craved chocolate. She felt thin and strong like an animal that didn’t need candy. But she still craved the foreign intensity of chocolate and feared some sort of caloric debt that would weaken her.
They were quiet now and ate their soup with acorn bread. Their food was good and satisfying, but never more than enough. The honey from the bees and the mead Deb made were luxuries. Meat was out of the question. Deb hadn’t smelled a barbecue in the neighborhood since childhood. A combination of factors had conspired to make vegetarians out of everyone: loss of habitat, fewer animals, changing sensibilities, animal rights activists, hunters failing to mentor new hunters, animal husbandry lost to industrial farming, and industrial farming failing like every other industry too big to fail.
“I hope this isn’t the last bottle. We’ll need some for Ermal, he’s going to help us raise the rafters on our house. Anyway, it’s good to have extra around to trade. Some people like mead better than honey,” Charles said.
“I put half the bottles in a separate box for bartering, and I doubled the batch. We have a lot to do this year, and we’ll need every kind of currency we can conjure,” Deb said.
“We have to make more beeswax ingots soon.”
“I’m working on a new mold that will tell our story. And I need a cool day to melt the wax down.”
They put a big pot of water on the fire for washing dishes. It was Deb’s turn, and she was glad there weren’t too many tonight. It often took an hour or more to wash dishes, and she wanted to get back to her research.
Perhaps this slow life with all its chores and lack of modern convenience was a more natural vocation than the sort of career Jim/dad had searched for. Yet Deb did not find the answer to vocation in her homesteading lifestyle any more than Jim/dad had been satisfied with working at Pic-a-Pack. The answer was not “in” anything. The answer was suffused into everything she did.
God is with me in all that I do. That was the humble way, the way of a person with displaced gifts. A Crisis Averted does not need anyone’s recognition as a legitimate vocation.
She could empathize with Jim/dad. It was hard to be humble and great, somebody and nobody, special and ordinary at the same time. It was hard not to give up one realization for the other.
Back at her desk in her pajamas, sitting with her legs thrown over the arm of her chair as if sitting in a basket, she meditated on Jim’s story, sent it up to her third eye, everything she knew about it. She was convinced that somewhere in that story was a gem, a real treasure that would especially shine when she brought it out herself. She physically dissolved any complication. She was slippery and nothing could attach itself to her. She was a reed through which all things became reduced to essential form. Except things she had never noticed. That was why she must look very carefully at this history that somehow was never digested into its highest form.
Immaturity makes honor more expensive than it needs to be. The samurai falls on his sword. Jim jumps out a window. A janitor a few floors below was cleaning windows; as he opened the window outward to clean it, my grandfather crashed through it. If the janitor had not broken his fall, Jim would be dead, and my father never would have been born, and then neither would I have been born. Jim told me that if I became a teacher, “The most important person to befriend is the janitor. The janitor has the power to make things difficult or easy for you depending on if he likes you.” Jim suffered a severe break in his arm and also broke his back in the fall. He was flat on his back for quite a while.
Deb’s grandfather, less than ten years dead, still appeared healthy, and you would never have known that he had once had a broken back and a badly broken arm. He never complained of pain. He never got sick. Deb first learned of his suicide attempt when she was sixteen and leaving home “to find her fortune.” Though really it was some weird maternal fever that compelled her to get away from everyone when she unexpectedly became pregnant.
Before leaving home, she decided to take a look at Jim’s palm to see if she might learn anything about him that had been hidden all these years. She noticed a scar and asked him about it. He told her he had gotten it from crashing through the glass window. He was sitting alone in a room at the YMCA and felt a compulsion to jump out the window. He was angry with God. He just jumped. But when she first heard this story, she didn’t think of it as a suicide attempt.
Her thoughts seemed to make her invisible in one world and visible in another, like an animal in the forest seen only by its own kind. Her hair changed color. Her skin was transparent. She was delicate and flitting like a deer. Chipmunks came close to the window and lay about as if it was story time.
When she first recognized her calling to find a story that would aid all humanity in old age, and bring peace and prosperity on earth, she decided to call Jim’s act what it was: a suicide attempt. She changed the language of her inquiry, in a sly effort to get Jim to be more grown-up about his actions. He had to have known that the fall could have killed him and that he would have left his wife a widow, and Deb’s father fatherless. (Not to mention that Deb herself would never have been born.) He might have been blinded by his anger, but he had to admit it was a suicide attempt.
It was 1963 when Grace received the news via the front page of a newspaper with a picture of Jim face down at the bottom of the YMCA building. Apparently, this was not a newspaper the family kept. Deb never asked to see it, although she’d seen it in her mind many times.
It happened while Jim was away in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was training to be a Greyhound bus dispatcher after he gave up on becoming a minister. Grace and baby were staying with her parents in Houma, Louisiana, when she got the call from Jim saying, “I want to talk.” Grace left the baby with her mother and took the bus to Memphis. This guy got on the bus when they pulled into Memphis and wanted to know, “Who is Grace Exlander?” Grace, sensing that it was bad news, just said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” When she came out, the man showed her the newspaper.
In secluded sorrow, Grace and Jim stood by each other.
Unlike Dezy’s X generation, with no secrecy, no shame, only ambition, claiming, “No one will drag me down,” Grace humbly looked after Jim. He was on his back for many months. She changed his bedpan. She kept him company while he watched Groucho Marx. Jim loved to laugh at how abusive Groucho could be, how he could say anything no matter how rude, irreverent things that Jim would never say. Great healing laughter came while watching You Bet Your Life. Having that one thing to look forward to may have kept Jim alive.
Grace had always been very practical about well-being. Deb heard in her mind’s ear Grace saying, “Get some rest.” Charles was asleep and Deb quietly bedded down beside him.
In the morning, after she woke up, Jim’s last description of his fall seemed to have evolved overnight. Deb imagined slithering out of bed to fulfill her mission, just like Jim/dad. She told Charles, who was reading beside her,
“I’m going to slither out of bed and take a shower now.”
I feel sort of lizard-like, sneaky and half-ashamed of what I am now going to do. In the half-light of morning I’m half-lizard, half-zombie. Only my arms can move, the rest of me follows.
Once she was out the front door, the zombie-lizard feeling evaporated in the pink morning sun. Their outdoor solar shower consisted of a water bag hanging from between two trees, with a tube ending in a dangling showerhead. She stood on the wooden pallet under it, pulled the spigot open, and awakened to the humorous contrast between dreams and life. They lived in such a down-to-earth way. Even the tall rock standing by the shower had a natural indentation they used for soap, and in this indentation, a small, cute tuft of grass that looked just like a fluffy little scrubby brush had decided to grow. The zombie-lizard remnants of her dream seemed beyond recall.
At nineteen, Deb reenacted Jim’s jump from a high-rise. It happened on a travel-writing gig in San Francisco, where the apartment she stayed in was on the third floor. When she saw the private depth from her window, she was tempted to try her father’s self-destructive compulsion. She wanted to see what it was like to throw herself over the edge. Imitation was a strategy often seen in nature, so it must really work. The couch in the courtyard below was part of the inspiration. She wanted to do a stunt; she didn’t plan to get hurt. She had been taking photographs of garbage seen from great heights in forgotten areas between buildings. It would be like entering the photograph.
She talked about the jump with her editor first, and her editor advised against it. He did not vigorously dispute Deb’s idea that it was possible to jump without getting hurt, though. She felt she could do it, so she leaped out the third-story window and landed successfully on the couch in the courtyard.
She still had the travel piece about the tall apartment buildings of San Francisco. She included her window-jumping adventure in the original version:
“The couch pillows were pretty springy, and there was no feeling of ‘great force’ as Grandpa Jim had told me he had felt upon landing in 1963. The most amazing thing about it was how quickly it was over and the contrast of time and effort it took to climb back up, via the metal fire escape.”
Now, as Deb reread her words, she was struck by the one similarity between his jump and hers: the lack of consideration for others. What if her jump had been unsuccessful? What a bummer it would have been for her editor and roommate at the time—her good friend, truth be told—if she had ended up badly hurt or dead? And what about her grandparents, Grace and Jim? What about her daughter? Would she have been born anyway, or was Deb her only conduit into this world? Why had she not considered these things?
A painful shard of blame lodged in Deb’s back for a few days, the sad story weighing on her, though she tried to ignore it. My aches are not so bad that I can’t disguise them. Grace had taught her that toughness was a virtue, and she absorbed her values readily. Over these blame-stabbed days, her thoughts turned to other times in her life when she had fallen, failed, gotten hurt and survived, just like Jim had fallen, failed, gotten hurt and survived. Perhaps her life was a series of reenactments. Though Charles was her first love, he was her third husband, and Deb had had her share of picking up pieces. She knew what it meant to survive disaster. She had lived through a time not only of personal disasters but also of catastrophic weather that changed the world she lived in.
Her mind turned now to the part in her story about the time and effort it took to climb back up. Feeling her own pain, and Jim’s pain, she began to feel something else: a light feeling that made her get up and understand that she had a second chance, and that it was very precious. She had her experience, her learning, and also her life to live anew. There were scars, and echoes of abandonment all through her family, but a life saved from waste was precious, especially to the descendants.
Loss was Deb’s greatest frustration. She brought Loss with her from the spirit world, a light from the past into the future. Losing a sock was as maddening as losing a species. To compensate, she became good at finding things and put herself at the service of anyone who was looking for something. She had a hawk’s eye. Empathy amplified the desire to help into a mission to find the lost things of humanity.
Cities like San Francisco still stood but in a modified way, with fewer tall buildings, with fewer buildings all told, as if they had gone back in time or tried to morph back into small towns. Not everyone lived as simply as Deb and Charles, but everyone lived more simply and closer to the land than they did before the Great Wobble. The tall buildings had become a different sort of tourist attraction. People liked to go up on the top floors and meditate. Some said these buildings brought them closer to God, reaching for the skies as they did. Deb knew that trees, though not as tall, were better for this, because they were alive and rooted deep in the ground. She didn’t mention that at the time of her travel piece, though; she didn’t want to pop the balloon of longing people had for these remnants, and for restoration.
They had used donkeys in the city, she remembered, to carry groceries home from the market. She wondered if you could still get a donkey anywhere. Wouldn’t it be fun to walk with a donkey carrying your supplies on his back? The idea of being friends with your transportation was appealing to Deb. There used to be a farm nearby that sold donkeys. She and Charles had visited once in another lifetime, so to speak. At Ass-pirin Acres, there had been all kinds of adorable donkeys, some of them still with their baby fur. There was one very sweetly shaped black one named Sparky, she remembered, wondering if somewhere, somehow, she might still find a donkey. She had been too shy to touch the furry animals, though she wanted to. She remembered how Charles had held her hand and reached out to stroke the nose of the donkey nearest to them.
Extinctions, declining numbers in all species, and a less human-dominated world meant that domesticated animals were not the norm. Humans were often without animal companions, animal services, and animal products. This was not a time of abundance.
That night, Deb couldn’t sleep until she shared her wish to get a donkey. She turned to Charles just before he fell asleep, and asked:
“Oh Charlie-warley, will you be my donkey, like Sparky at Ass-pirin Acres, remember?”
“Yes, Deb, I think it would be better that way. I don’t think a real donkey would be so easy to find.”
“It’ll be fun, Charles. Think of the places we’ll go. We’ll ride into town and you can carry supplies on your back. We can go up into the mountains for a picnic.”
“Sounds like fun. I could make a little cart for you to pull.”
“No, you be the donkey, I’ll be your human.”
“Will you scratch me behind the ears and give me carrots?”
“Yes, I’ll spoil you rotten. All you have to do is look cute and help me pull my load.”
“I don’t want you comparing me to Sparky. He was cute because he was a baby when we saw him, remember? That’s not fair. You can’t compare a baby donkey to an old man.”
“No, I’ll love you for you, just the way you are.”
“As a donkey?”
One mind manipulated the world, while the other received and transmitted waves of a dream. Deb was emotional about the weather lately, especially at night. The Egyptians once believed that the pharaoh’s emotions caused the weather. Today’s sudden rainstorm pierced Deb with a feeling of responsibility. As if one raindrop of her feelings could be the tipping point for a major flood.
Last night she saw a light, perhaps a moonbeam dancing. There was only half a moon last night and some lightning. She was in bed, resting in her husband’s arms, when a light appeared over his shoulder.
She silently told the light:
I don’t always feel so peaceful in this matrimonial snuggle, sometimes I love solitude too much. I seek something in solitude so intently that intimacy distracts and irritates each cell of my body. Tonight I’m completely relaxed and at home . . . how strange, how nice.
In the morning, Deb slipped out of bed early and wrote a report of the incident:
I’ve noticed that light and color seem to respond to my feelings, even my breathing. I was lying there at peace, looking over his shoulder at a light that appeared. He was starting to fall asleep so I didn’t mention the light, but it seemed special. As I relaxed into the feeling of the light, it brightened and changed, making me ooh and ah, as if this were more than an embrace. There were tears streaming down my face but no sadness. I couldn’t take my eyes off the light. It danced. It sharpened into a tiny dot. A golden rod, and then it shifted into a ribbon dance. Sometimes it was blue, then gold, then white.
Who is the light? I have often found myself wondering this about certain light forms that appear. Light comes from the sun and falls here and there. We don’t name individual pieces of it and say that they have independent identities, or personalities. The same goes for shadows. Yet sometimes a light seems to act in a certain way that provokes me to ask, “Who are you? Tell me about yourself.” I interact with light as if it had a personality. I breathe the light in and out. I let it be. I am a scientific lunatic who notices things. I catch reflections that let me see things not ordinarily within range. I’m hyperaware of movement.
Once I saw such a light dancing in a field and found a witness to see it with me. The witness saw a sign that read “Safety Zone” and explained to me that the light was just moonlight flashing on the sign. I don’t think the witness saw the magical dance of light that I saw, and I didn’t see the actual sign until I walked right up to it.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the light that appeared to me in our room last night. I was convinced that it was special, clearly a light of blessing. When I opened my heart to it, I was rewarded with a moving performance. When I doubted it was really there, it dimmed and became less interesting.
I couldn’t take my eyes off it and I couldn’t sleep. Incredibly relaxed, I was vibrating to the story of creation, a lullaby that keeps you from scratching while the weeds come up.
An old and stupid argument was keeping me awake: Is human birth less miraculous because you know how it happens?
Maybe the light from earlier in the day just never died. I had lit a candle in the morning as a vigil for the ocean and the creatures that still survive at unknown depths. Somehow believing that Jacques Cousteau’s dream could bring back ancient forms to dazzle us with their beauty once again. I forgot to blow out my candle burning with love, devotion, and healing for so many crimes against the sea. I left for the day and did not remember it till I returned.
That candle by rights should have been used up. There was so little wick left, yet it burned on. I remembered the still-burning candle as I was traveling by magic carpet to visit my friend Irene, but I didn’t worry because the candle is set up to be safe when unattended. Maybe the light of the candle stayed in the room.
The weather was odd yesterday, pleasant, then stormy, rain and hail, back and forth like that. On my way home, storm clouds raced after me. It was so dark when the clouds overtook me, it was as if three hours had passed in the blot of a shadow. Yet I could see morning-glory blue on the other side of the sky.
My attention was completely taken with flying the carpet as carefully as I could. Mental state is very important in controlling a flying carpet: you must be alert and at peace because the steering wheel is in your heart. I couldn’t lose track of the fey-lines or the carpet would stop in the air, going nowhere. The rain and the fact that I was scared made it hard to see clearly, but at least I was dry. Even a lost art can be found and improved with a bit of faith. Long, long ago, the art of weaving and specially dying flying carpets was forbidden. Recipes, carpets, and artisans were burned. They didn’t have the invisible bubble protecting the carpet back then, the “Devil-inspired contraption” as early Muslim rulers called the carpets. The artisans, madmen, and thieves who created and used these carpets in ancient history were a threat to the economic establishment then based on horses and camels. It was the same story with the electric car: a threat to the auto and oil industries. In a shattered economy, creative recovery is again possible.
I noticed a bright double rainbow against the gray residue of the storm. I flew right through one end of it twice. I remembered everything they say about the end of the rainbow and I was feeling quite fortunate. “I am receiving the rainbow light,” I told myself. The particles of different-colored hadrons were all over me, like rice at a wedding party.
You experience light or a rainbow a certain way because of where you are standing. It’s all about the angle. That’s something I heard. I don’t believe it. The determining factor in witnessing light is not only where you are standing, at which angle to the sun, but on a deeper level—what your relationship is with this light, and the source from which it comes.
In the dark, I see a light so affirming. I say to myself, all light is sacred. And maybe the darkness is sacred too.
Deb wrote to the sound of Charles sweeping the floor with a natural-bristle broom, made from sorghum they had grown. It was the most beautiful sound to write to, cleansing and calming, like having your hair combed, and as regular as ocean waves crashing to shore. Nothing made Deb feel more loved than when Charles did the housework.