Ok, so I was having this interesting email discussion with a blogger and he made a comment that reminded me I had this “story” stored away in my “Short Stories” bin. I’ve dusted it off, made sure nothing contagious was clinging to it, and here it is…
[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
A long, short time ago, when religion still claimed my soul and clung desperately to my Sunday ramblings, I didn’t have to wonder what I’d be thinking about. I’d go to church, talk with a few people and listen to the sermon. Sermon: some lofty title for the pathetic offerings from the elevated platform. Still, with a great deal of effort I’d often find something of value to ruminate on, even if I had to add it in myself. Either that, or I’d have to admit I was wasting my time as if I had all the time in the world. And besides, there are many other ways to waste one’s life when one hasn’t yet discovered that life is a gift and is not only worth living, but to waste it is sacrilegious.
So this morning, being Sunday, and seeing as I’m free now to be me, not some clone of a System maintaining an obsolete view of the world, and after having a thoughtful look outside at the greenery and the heavy dark grey cloud announcing another possible day of cold rain, I’ve decided it was time to go for a long walk.
I’m going to set out now, and walk to that place where the earth’s curvature makes things disappear on the horizon. When I reach that horizon, I’m going to drive a post at that point, to mark it. That way, when I look again next time, I’ll know just how far that point is. And I’ll be reminded that I’d been there.
“The Road Goes Ever On” wrote Mr. Tolkien. A truism, certainly, but only true for those who travel that road, isn’t that so? A road may well go ever on, but of what value is that to the one who won’t get on it and walk it? “The Longest Journey Begins With A Single Step” is another worn out quote. But if that first step isn’t taken? I’ve often pondered the concept of that first step. Easy enough to take, I suppose. When there’s no goal, that first step will amount to nothing in the end, just a circular path around one’s little holding. That’s not a journey, at best it’s exercise on a treadmill.
Returning to my initial quest: to walk to the horizon. Silly, right? You could walk forever and still the horizon would remain to taunt and haunt. I could put that post in the ground anywhere, and it would always, or never, be on the horizon.
What’s my point? Simple. I need a goal to set out on the endless journey. It doesn’t have to involve saving the world (from itself? How preposterous!); it only needs to be a goal suitable to the quest; a goal that will continue to fuel and motivate the quest.
I used to think; I was convinced; that a life properly lived was a life whose motive was to do something “great” as compared to the rest of the world. Something that would set me apart from the rank and file. Ideally something that would leave a deep and great “mark” upon the fabric of society; something that would benefit millions, perhaps. When we are entering adult life, how many of us dream of becoming super heroes? Of living the greatest life ever? Many, I’d say, even if they never come right out and tell anyone. The dream is there, to be shortly filed, erased, shattered, by what the world likes to call reality.
Let’s use another overused quote: “There’s A Pot Of Gold At The End Of The Rainbow.” When I was young, I knew this was true. There was a pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. At seventy years now, I know this is still as true now as it was then. The earth is full of real treasures, the ones you cannot find with backpacks, cameras, shovels, axes, and any sort of assorted machinery and technology. What is observed with the eyes, what can be touched or smelled, what is felled, what is ploughed, what is pumped and dragged out of the ground: those aren’t treasures. What can be displayed, piled, counted and sold: those are spoils, not treasures.
A treasure is by its very nature unattainable but sought with all of one’s power. That post I planted at the edge of the earth’s curvature this morning has a treasure under it. I know this because I sensed it. I heard it calling to me. And I was able to answer in the same language.
I’ll let you in on a secret regarding the endless road, the endless journey, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the treasure you began seeking when you were born, and subconsciously if not openly continue to seek, is you.
To properly close, another overused quote: “To Thine Own Self Be True.”
A short story by Sha’Tara
Judy awoke from a pleasant “beach” dream and pushed her big black longhair tomcat off the bed, shut off the alarm and mechanically tuned the radio to her favourite morning station, CKRY. She had thought how funny the acronym was at first, but got used to it, and the jokes that went with it. She slipped a sheer nightgown over her tall, slim frame as she smelled the freshly brewed coffee. She enjoyed her simple, uncomplicated, automated life. Her job paid little more than minimum wage, but she had few problems handling it, especially since she finally got rid of Mario. For a moment, a small black cloud filled her mind, and her heart constricted, but the feeling passed and she fed Tiny his morning allowance, enough to satisfy a hungry Rottweiler.
It was still and cold outside. Frost covered the windows of her car in the condo parking lot. She liked her one bedroom pastel decorated apartment in the condos in a slightly elevated west part of town. A few large evergreens gave a feeling of privacy. Her neighbours were quiet and she hardly ever had to speak to them, except at the monthly strata meetings.
She sipped her coffee while brushing her long blond hair, her left hand alternating between the cup and a bowl of fruits and cereal she was pensively mixing. Everything was so normal, so wonderfully normal. She vaguely heard a comment on the radio about an accident in town, as she waited for her music, the old love songs of the Sixties and Seventies she enjoyed so much. It seemed the interruption lasted longer than usual, but again, she wasn’t interested. Her job was only a couple of blocks away, at a small distribution company, so she never drove or took the bus. Road problems seldom caught her attention and her Mietta stayed under cover in the apartment complex undergound parking.
She enjoyed her walk to work, and often, another woman, Samantha, who worked at the local paper further down the block, would walk with her as far as her office. The women sometimes invited each other over for coffee, or for dinner. Both of them were now avowed singles, having bravely fought their version of the battle of the sexes… and won, or so they thought. For the time being, men were off their list. They had discovered that cats, especially tomcats, made much better, warmer friends, had a good deal less expectations and were definitely less expensive to maintain.
“…It wasn’t until four this morning that a work crew discovered bodies wedged down a sewer manhole at 7th and Balsam. We advise commuters to avoid that area, as police and other emergency crews are still there, cleaning up and investigating. … and now, for more of your favourite songs… this is CKRY, YOUR GOOD MORNING RADIO… “Bridge Over Troubled Water, I will lay me down..” Judy smiled through her morning preparations for work. She deliberated over her day’s dress, and makeup. She liked to change her appearance and paid a great deal of attention to her mood swings. She followed these with her own body artistry so she wouldn’t feel ill at ease, or out of sorts with herself for the rest of the day. She petted Tiny as he rubbed against her leg to make him understand he’d have to spend the day outside. Of course, he loved it outside, but he had to pretend he didn’t. There would be a lot of complaining as he finally jumped through the opened window onto the patio.
There would be birds to watch at the feeder the neighbours so diligently filled every morning. Who knows, maybe a careless one would provide some extra protein today, and the woman next door would chase him angrily off her own balcony, providing some excitement… Birds could be so incredibly stupid, and humans so entertaining when properly motivated. He stretched and meowed loudly. When Judy saw his claws dangerously near her wooden rocking chair, she said “No!” and “OK boy, time for you to go out.” Tiny could have shrugged as he smiled inwardly… a very sarcastic cat smile. Yes, humans were predictable. One only had to know how to move and guide them to do what one wanted. After all, why do they have those hands and feet, processed foods, sliding windows and warm, soft laps, if not to serve cats? Tiny had learned, early in life, the incredible power he possessed in his long, soft grey fur, his deep voice and his well-groomed claws. He believed he could move mountains with these, and he did: mountains of human emotion.
Today would be green. A light green dress, sheer green pantyhose, green shoes, green scarf, and her green coat, which was a darker shade, but that didn’t matter. She topped herself with a wide green woolen toque and felt quite ready to face the world. “… Teenagers looking for a place to have a smoke on their way to school discovered bodies in an abandoned warehouse at the east end of town near the river. . Three men and two women were bludgeoned and left to freeze to death on the floor of the old building. Police are now investigating in force as fear is mounting that a crazed killer, or gang of killers, are loose in the town.”
Again, Judy paid scant attention. This was a big city, and things happened all the time. This had nothing to do with her, though it probably meant that Samantha would already have been called to work to deal with the news. Oh well, she would call her later and find out how it all went. Quarter to nine, and the pale sun was just rising over the city. It would be a still day, no wind and only a few white, wispy clouds. Good. She hated walking in storms anyway. “…Stay tuned for more news as our roving reporter brings you the latest in the killing rampage… this is CKRY, YOUR GOOD..” and she turned off the radio, picked up her bag and left the apartment. She set her alarm, locked her door carefully, and went out into the cold morning air. She smelled the usual smog, the mixture of exhaust fumes, sulfur and other unnatural substances which always assailed her nostrils until she got used to them. She heard some distant sirens of emergency vehicles somewhere, but gave them no heed. In the still, cold morning, everything was so, so, normal.
There was excitement at work over the night’s happenings, but she couldn’t get into it either. Why should she? It had nothing to do with her, absolutely nothing. She turned on her computer and began to tally, add, subtract, make sense of the orders, send letters, receive e-mail, and pass on the messages to the various department heads. It was a small trucking firm, so her work load was not so much heavy as it was varied. She often thought of herself as a girl Friday in that place.
“Hey Judy: did you hear about last night? They’ve found at least nine bodies by now, all killed in the weirdest ways. The funny thing is, there’s no rhyme or reason to the killings: they’re not prostitutes, or street people, or people of any particular category; they’re just people. One of them was a young boy, about 12. Most of them were just people driving home, or walking on the street, or so it seems. What do you think of that?”
Well, Frank was always one to ask questions. For a brief moment, she wondered why these “killings” had no effect on her, why she didn’t care, absolutely didn’t, but quickly dismissed the thought. After all, she had her own life, her own problems, and had to remain aloof in order to keep it together. She had worked hard to reach this point of semi independence, and she wasn’t going to let anyone or anything rob her of her accomplishments.
“Look Frank, I don’t care, OK? It’s got nothing to do with me. It’s just one of those freak things that happen in big cities, and this is a big city, Frank. Why don’t you take care of that order for McGraw’s Deli instead of wasting my time with speculation on accidents and the like? They have people paid to do that: newscasters, analysts, shrinks, preachers, columnists, lawyers, the government… They won’t fill our orders, so let’s do our job and let them do theirs.”
“Hey, who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?”
“No one. I just can’t get personally involved in other people’s problems, OK? I’ve got work to do and a life of my own. Why don’t you get one!”
Crestfallen, definitely resentful, Frank left. She felt so much better. Men! They think they can come on to a girl by frightening her and offering protection. If she falls for it and lets the fear of being alone get to her, she may accept the not so innocent offer of an escort home, or an offer of a date… yeah, right. Well, not this girl. Been there, done that! Definitely don’t work!
From there on the day progressed normally. The news spread, and there were more versions all the time. The favourite one was of alien abductions and experimentations. Organs were missing from the bodies, and they had all been killed in mysterious ways unknown to the experts in the field. Another was of an Oriental gang of trained martial arts experts led by a madman who wanted to take over all the cities of the west through fear and blackmail… There was one that talked of the return of count Dracula and vampires.
“Ridiculous!” Judy thought as she put on her shoes and coat. The weather had not changed. Everything was so, so still. The smog seemed a little heavier at the end of the day. She walked home briskly, hoping to meet with Samantha, but did not. She was surprised, when she came in, that Tiny was not at the window, but he would be. She changed and prepared dinner. She set the table, looked out and called Tiny, then called Samantha. No answer. Strange. Oh well, life goes on. Tiny is a tomcat, he’ll return. Samantha is probably working late at the paper. I know, I’ll call the paper. If she’s not there, I can leave a message.
A man answered her call: “Citadel News Room, Jerry speaking. Can I help you?”
“Yes, I was wondering if Samantha was still at work?”
“Who wants to know?”
“Her friend, Judy Simpson, from the condos”
After a long pause, the man spoke: “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, miss Simpson, but Samantha was one of last night’s victims.”
“Oh!” and she hung up slowly. Tiny was scratching furiously at the window. She noticed her hand was shaking a little as she let him in. She sat down to finish her meal. She would run a nice hot bath after the dishes were put in the dishwasher, and everything would be normal again… Absolutely everything.
[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
… and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom:
as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious
—Lisel Mueller, from “In Passing,” Alive Together: New and Selected Poems. (LSU Press; First Edition edition October 1, 1996)
Thinking about that quote from Charles on “The Vale of Soul Making” blog…
A thing can be longed for, can be thought of as precious, but until it is lived for; deeply sacrificed for; even bled for (or killed for) and finally hopelessly lost, that thing can never be accurately described as precious: it remains an illusion, a story in a book of fiction. However good the fiction is, it is still fiction. The book isn’t purchased, it isn’t owned, it is merely borrowed from a library.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and later in “The Lord of the Ring” there appears a character called Gollum. Gollum possesses a ring which he calls “his Precious” and is driven mad by it. Gollum’s ring was indeed his precious because he had paid a great and terrible price to attain it. Back in the ancient days when he was still a normal being he was called Smeagol and he had an inseparable friend, Deagol. It was Deagol who found the ring at the bottom of the river Anduin, but when Smeagol saw the ring his desire to possess it exceeded all bounds. Deagol wouldn’ give up the ring, so Smeagol killed him for it. Many long years later, the outcast Smeagol, now known as Gollum, lost his “Precious” to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit. Then did the ring truly become Gollum’s precious – he dedicated his life to finding the ring and getting his revenge on “the nasty Hobbit Baggins.” In the end as we know, Gollum died with the ring: they both fell in the fire of Mount Doom. Total commitment and total madness.
How many of life’s offerings can we call precious? Of all the obvious: air, water and land from which we draw our sustenance and cannot live without, what about relationships? I suppose for some people, some relationships become precious as they are engaged, then irretrievably and inconsolably lost. But for most? Relationships come and go, most easily, almost casually, replaceable. The gregarious Earthian prefers its creature comforts of body and mind rather than the pining and dying that would make a relationship precious.
I’m obviously fishing in deep waters here; let’s see what comes up.
Forget everything you know… or think you know, and follow, follow, follow…
Ideas from quotes found on “The Vale of Soul-Making” and other sources too numerous to enumerate. Some of them could even have evolved from my own vale of imagining-making.
Choices, choices: I do not know what, or how, to decide my next move. But am I asking you for help or direction?
Sometimes, out of the blue and for no particular reason, I smile. Please do not interrupt me when I am thus so rarely occupied.
Out there, in the far distant distance, a cow mooed. Not just once, but many times. No one answered. I’m assuming that’s OK with the cow. I’m assuming it didn’t expect any answer. I didn’t answer: my bullshit analyzer and mooing translator was dead; I’d forgot to put it on the charger when last at the barn. I also realized I wasn’t up to the embarrassment if I mooed the wrong message and called up a load of bullshit.
This shady suburban area collects cats and squirrels. Squirrels are destructive rodents, I do not like them. Cats are rodent killers, but do I like that better? Honestly? Yes, I do.
The advantage of self-empowerment over self-delusion is, you don’t have to ponder rhetorical questions: they ponder themselves into senselessness.
There’s a giant box store just out of town. It’s full of stuff it’s convinced people they can’t live without. House sparrows make their homes in the rafters and girders. I like that. If the business of selling crap isn’t too loud (or noisy if you prefer), you can even hear them chirp in those heavenly highs. Brave little guys.
They have a freeway out here. It’s over fifty years old; obsolete – two lanes each way when three would barely accommodate commuter and long weekend traffic. Doesn’t matter, weekenders have lemming brains. Necessary or not, tell them it’s a long weekend and they have to be on that freeway with all the claptrap of an imploding middle class of two-day tourism to rented cabins and over-crowded campsites on unwashed lakes. Do they care that they’ll be wasting ten or more hours of their lives commuting to those places and back? Of course not. Caring implies intelligence; please don’t spoil their weekend.
Feel free to browse, she said with a commercial smile. Was she telling me how I should feel? How presumptuous. I left the store, crossed the street, walked over the raised railway track and stared at the sea. The fog was lifting. I wondered what it would be like to feel free?
You can’t “feel” free said the scientist. Freedom doesn’t exist; it’s a mental concept, and the mind only exists as brain, so you are mindless, he said. And I thought, what does that make you, you insipid idiot?
Here’s a short list of the types I don’t like. My “like” or “don’t like” aren’t arbitrary. I spent an entire lifetime (up to now, that is) deciding which professions I liked and didn’t like. Here it is, in “don’t like” order: doctors, lawyers (liars), judges, every sort of academic, every sort of bureaucrat, psychiatrists (shrinks), counsellors, teachers (with few exceptions), preachers (in spades), economists, bankers, politicians (without exceptions), lobbyists, academicians (worth repeating), Darwinists, professional entertainers, sports figures, military types (any type), commentators, TV anchor people drones, CEO’s (disliking even those who don’t even know yet they’ll become one), gods and newspaper editors.
As I said, it’s a short list, a very sort list. Don’t feel bad if your profession is mentioned, I don’t know you and that means you remain redeemable, even if you are god. People have been known to come back from the dead. Even if they didn’t remember being dead that takes nothing from their accomplishment. *I digress, I know, but I love digressing.
Imagine, if you will, a wide sandy beach. The tide is out almost completely; the sea sparkles out there a half a mile and shining it’s brightest.
Imagine if you will a lone individual walking towards what is about to become a returning tide, purposefully striding away from the safety of the shore.
Imagine if you will an individual of no discernible gender or vintage, walking naked and unafraid to the open sea, a silhouette of dreams.
Watch carefully as the individual’s stature shrinks steadily with each naked footstep in the wet sands; as the distance separating the individual from the returning tide diminishes, as the water wraps itself hungrily around the feet, ankles, calves, thighs and finally wraps itself entirely around the body, picking it up and tossing it back towards the shore.
I wrapped up the job, he said as he sat down beside me. (“He” being Dave). We were in a restaurant where we had planned to meet. So far, so good. I wondered, as I’m wont to do when I’m not digressing, what you do with a wrapped up job. Do you put it on a shelf? Do you mail it back to yourself, or send it to someone you like, or someone you dislike? Is it like a birthday present? A Christmas present? I wondered what colour of ribbon he used and if he affixed a bow?
Speaking of presents, would you like a job already wrapped? If yes, I’ll need your address, of course. How much does it cost to mail a job? If no, then it doesn’t matter, does it. Of course if you say yes, I’ll have to ask Dave what he did with the package.
The waitress came to our table. She looked harassed and haggard. Both. I wondered if she ate there and thought I’d ask Dave if we could go somewhere else to eat. He was ogling the waitress, including her harassed and haggard looks just below her exposed throat. Dave isn’t big on discernment, take that as an opinion backed by some serious observation. She had on a short black skirt and heels, both well below the haggard and harassed looks.
I sighed, long and deep, with much feeling involved on my part. We were going to stay, order, and he was going to eat. I thought I would digress. Digression isn’t fattening and I didn’t think it would make me harassed or give me haggard looks. A good digression is very well behaved, and totally reliable. Besides, I was wearing a turtleneck sweater and slacks. I felt safe from both harassment and haggardness.
And in case I come down with something and can’t answer when you ask, “Haggardness” is not a place in Scotland. It was once, but they moved it to Australia, or so I’m told. I don’t, of course, believe everything I’m told, but this particular telling is intriguing, with a light touch of possible romance, so I am partially believing it.
… and finally, as I return from plagiarizing my own mind… a reminder: “The owners of this country know the truth: its called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” ~ George Carlin