Thursday, December 10, 2009

Challenges and Rewards

I flew through clear fresh air and the landscape fell before me like a great bed sheet full of lumps and dunes, light brown touched here and there by green and blue. I could see flocks of birds in the distance and the tops of all the little trees that were so far below me as to seem unreal. The land went on like this for as far as I could see. There were no cities or towns or even roads, so sign of any kind of civilization. It was all clear and empty and raw, and the freshness was so strong that it was nearly overwhelming.
Somewhere back there, back where I had come from, was Mother. She waited patiently, knowing that I would not travel beyond the rivers which were my boundary. These were twisting thick currents of watery force that cut the land into sections. I would never know their origin and I would never know their end. I only knew that I couldn’t go past them.
I flew for a time, enjoying the pure pleasure of travelling freely on the soft winds of this endless afternoon. The breeze touched me like the most sensitive of lovers and my cape stretched out behind me like a comet’s tail. I moved freely in all directions, doing summersaults in the air, diving recklessly towards the hard ground, rising slowly so my heart would open like a bleeding flower, but I never crossed the river borders and I never saw another living being. Nobody came out to greet me, nobody waved from the distance with eyes of friendship or distrust, nobody called out to me from behind trees or rocks. There was simply the broad waves of brown grass, and the green trees and the rivers and nothing else, no one else. And the sheer purity of it could never be exhausted.
I returned to Mother and I said:
“If I am by myself, there’s not much beauty in being what I am…if I am to have power, I must have a reason, I must have a purpose, I must have a challenge.”
She nodded with her kind of understanding that scattered through my fingers like sand and was soon lost in the same winds through which I had just been travelling. She said nothing but her eyes spoke to me in ways that words couldn’t define. I nodded and my eyes also spoke with silent sadness.
I left through paths that I couldn’t trace back in my memory, knowing that I would never walk this way again. After a time that was impossible to measure, I found myself with Father.
We were hunting in a dark and dense jungle. We moved slowly in between the tall bamboo shoots, under the thick and heavy leaves of old forgotten trees. Our feet would sink in mud and the mosquitoes would fly in and out of our ears like fighter airplanes.
“I will give you many rewards, if you only learn how to do a few things, single thing in fact.” He said it in a kind but serious voice, a voice that evoked both hope and fear within me. I couldn’t fly anymore because my body was heavier and my eyes were not as open as they once had been.
“I will give you a book…” he said, and when he said the word, I saw the book he meant with secret eyes I couldn’t place within my body. It was the book of the jungle itself, the jungle on which we stood, the book that told the stories of its creatures, its crowning entities, its rebellious angels, its growing heroes, its hidden chambers. I knew that book well and I wanted to have it.
“I will give you the yellow powder…” he said, and when he said these words, I could see the yellow powder with my secret eyes, and it blew in circles around my head like a tornado of yellowness and it drew complex interlocking spiral lines that were bright like gold under the sun. As long as this swirling mass of yellow was there, nobody could touch me. I knew the yellow powder well and I wanted to have it.
“I will give you the silver weapon…” he said, and I could see the silver weapon with my secret eyes, and it was heavy and solid and final in its menace. It was shaped like perfection and it contained the dreams of a lost people within it. It glowed in the misty darkness of its secret alcove and it was shining in the heart of my own private night. I knew the silver weapon and I wanted to have it.
“All you need to do, in order to get all these things, is to learn how to swim, it is as simple as that, learn to swim and you will have everything…”
We immediately traveled to where two pools were waiting, one much smaller than the other. Both were surrounded by palm trees, both were caressed by the ocean breeze, both were touched by the warmth of the bright yellow sun that was shining high above us, both were gentle and lonely and full of blue peace.
I jumped into the largest of the two and quickly found that if I flowed gently with the water, the resistance was greatly diminished and I was able to rise above the surface. As I rose, my smile was pure and simple, beyond my desire for the things that waited for me, this was a gift in itself, to be here in the pool and to feel my body change its shape under pressure. I dived deep under the surface to feel the entire weight of the pool on my shoulders. The feeling of the water over my head and of the sun over the water, was enough to last me forever, and it was only deep in a time beyond forever that I would ask again for the things that Father had promised.
I stepped out of the large pool and ran to where Father was swimming in the smaller one. Without having to say it, Father knew that I had succeeded.
“Jump in, in one single movement…” he said, and before he was finished saying it, I had jumped into the water and I was tracing circles on the blue surface that rolled its little waves against my face. I looked at Father, who was leaning against the hard edge of the little pool and I saw that his face was marked by transparent happiness. Seeing him like this, seeing him glowing like the sun itself and unashamed of his own simplicity, I was happy as well.
After a time of circling in the little pool, I pulled myself up and ran back to the larger one. The shadows of the palm trees fell over the little puddles of water that my feet left behind me. I jumped into the larger pool as I had done before, in one single swift movement that left no room for doubt. As I did this, I heard Father asking:
“Why don’t you stay over here, in the little pool with me?”
“Over here there is much more space. I want to roam and discover things I haven’t seen. I want to reach beyond the edges of my knowledge.”
Just then, I noticed that the water in the larger pool was covered in dead leaves and dead branches. It was a place forgotten by time itself, and that made it a realm to explore, a landscape to conquer. I roamed among the dead things, and I saw the traces of lost lives in the bark of the branches, and the faded markings of past legends in the leaves, and the hopeful poems lightly painted on the sides of light blue concrete.
“You should get out. You are staying too long in there. You may get used to it. Then you won’t ever be able to leave.” My Father said and I felt that what he said was true, and yet I wanted to stay a little longer.
I took one more journey through the water that by now seemed like home. It was a home that seemed to grow larger and larger each time I traveled through it. Soon the pool would be the world itself and by then Father would become a distant memory, much like Mother now was.
I looked up at the sun that was still shining over the gentle surface and little drops of blue water were sliding down my forehead, some of them reaching all the way to my mouth. Maybe soon I would be flying, maybe soon my questions would once again begin to grow out of the nothingness that came with forgetting.

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