Sunday, January 24, 2010

Flavor in Space: Ch. 33

The night was thick and heavy in the cold air of winter. A sliver of white moon peered out from the dark blanket. On the world of Bending Sight, Truth and I climbed the mountain of the Great Shrine.

We passed through the red frames. They start large. A huge crimson gate marks the entrance to the mountain. We humans likewise are small, our heads barely above the stone base of the tree trunk sized posts. And then suddenly, after about 40 large frames, we pass into a tunnel of small ones. Here, we humans almost scrape the top of the frame with our heads. After this, the changes are not so sudden as the frames wind up the mountain. Sometimes we walk tall, sometimes we walk small.

Each frame is a moment, like a picture in a story book. Each frame is a view of the past and a view of the present, erected by some business, admitting the power of the Great Shrine. Each business represents a world of customers, clients, and workers. Some businesses are old, holed up in some ancient section of a distant world. The same families have been working together, serving each other for generations. Their way of life seems as natural as the bends and waterfalls in the valley where they live, breathe, and die. Some businesses are new, representing some new market that has suddenly opened, some new power source that has been tapped, some new invention that digests that power into various conveniences before it becomes waste.

The frames pass away too. Mostly built of wood, they rot and crumble. The whole path is like this, frames in some stage of passing away.

I walk through many of these picture frames, tasting various views along the way and participating in various feasts. I walk here because I have wishes. I have dreams and wants. My own business is that of the Nacerima language teacher, but I have other business too. I am investing here. I am learning here. I don't forget the shape changers.

After all, the Great Shrine of Bending Sight is home to a shape changer, Lord Inari. This is his home world.

Flavor in Space: Ch. 32

The Otoyk Central Market is a place where a great deal of creatures pass from life into death. You see them swimming around, breathing their last breaths, their scales shiny and twinkling.

And then you see them, often in pieces, lying about on broad metallic tables. The carcasses are preserved, I suppose, in various ways for various dishes and uses. I saw a man carting away some great skeleton, knotted still with bits of sinew and flesh. A few scaly cousins watched on from a small plastic box, breathing their last breaths of sea water.

Really, the market is not a morbid place. As men and women are bustling about in plastic boots and skirts, or warming themselves in front of fat outdoor heaters, or passing a box of preserved fish from some distant world, the smiles are unstoppable, the laughter bright.

I arrived this morning in the market from the space above, where huge carriers careen by lonely human beings at high speed. I made my way down to the market then, between towers reaching up to the sky, silver steel, pale glass, stone tiles. Drifting down closer and closer to the surface.

In the market, there is something about the rainbow puddles on the long concrete floor, and the look of fish eyes, blankly staring from disembodied skulls; there is something that clears my cloudy mind.

And I settled again on the surface here in my ancient neighborhood, among wooden houses with heavy black roofs. I came down from the grey sky of the morning, so unexpectedly cloudy compared to yesterday's cloudless day.

No amount of pondering can prepare oneself for an abrupt change in weather. The heavens swirl. Like a fish still in the sea, or a box, I am foolish to think I can choose one sky or another.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Flavor in Space: Ch. 31

In autumn, the men of this old neighborhood in Otoyk take the portable shrine through the streets. The shrine, hidden for most of the year, is a small golden house. It is a center of this place, a center of gravity. Although it may have appeared as if we heaved it high into the air of our own effort, actually, we danced around it, drawn to its gravity at times, and, at times, orbiting in ecstatic free fall.

Early in the morning I went to the Base of the Mountain, the house of two elders. Here, I was dressed in white shorts, white shoes, a white festival shirt, and a white sash. Mr. Base of the Mountain and I posed for a picture. I carried a little smiling child in my arms, the son of one of my students.

Myself, along with a few other able-bodied men from the neighborhood were drawn here by the gravity of the shrine. We arranged the apparatus for moving the little golden house, we drank beer, and we ate fat, white, rice balls. The sun was shining brightly.

We walked slowly, holding onto the shrine. Slowly plodding through the streets, to houses old and new, to the temple, to the long black latticed Horn House, to the broad Correct Face street. We stopped often, heaving, cheering:

With us, wearing our white clothes drenched in sun, cheering and sweating, the gold shrine brought the center to each corner of the neighborhood. A new beginning, a new binding to ancient ways, unknown people become neighbors, neighbors become friends, friends renew bonds.

The party followed in a room with a long u shaped table low to the ground, big wooden tubs of raw fish and vinegared rice, and more than enough beer. People kept refilling my glass. People of different shapes, sizes, and status met. I knew just enough of the language of words, and fish, and rice to understand the important details. We meshed like a puzzle, pieces plugged in, we wove together a ring constantly refreshing itself, coming and going, dying and living. Here we are, home in the center, for a moment, weaving this ring of invisible, delicious strings.

Flavor in Space: Ch. 30

Autumn comes back to me at times. The present pools lucid, but I can't quite dive in, held by memories, waiting to be told.

Old Awaziurak town square sits on the surface, but it lies half in shadow. The massive Awaziurak space station hovers about fifty meters above. The town has long been a favorite resort for the rich of Nohin. It's old station, frozen as period architecture, stands in the old square. The new station, towering above, is a reflection of the old, only fifty times larger. Instead of wood, it is built of glass, steel, and granite. A massive double staircase stretches from the hovering station to the surface below. The stairs alone are half the size of the whole town square. They cast a long, cold shadow.

From the stairs, a visitor can see the broad valley cradled in mountains dyed deep crimson. In the distance, massive Mount Amasa puffs away volcanic breath into the sky.

Being a resort planet, the people of Awaziurak prize their closeness to nature. The great landed estates are still there, each the center of some invisible fiefdom. Now, each manse floats just amongst the treetops. This accommodates the occasional spaceship when the masters arrive, fleeing some distant, stress filled world. As I walked, passing under the shadows of the mansions, floating just out of reach, I saw the occasional resident. On some jaunt across the forest floor, his feet pattered across colored leaf covered paths and thick carpets of light spattered moss.

Following the long straight paths through the crimson forest I found a stream lined with especially beautiful views. The path was narrow, just wide enough to squeeze by a photographer hunched over his tripod capturing red leaves.

At the end of the path stood a beautiful woman. She was dressed in a long white wedding dress. As she posed for her picture, she spoke in some dialect of the Central Empire, conversing with a flock of slim men in tuxedos. Blue sky above, red mountains behind, the long lake before her reflected crimson shapes. Her black tresses rippled down below her shoulders, splashing onto her sparkling white dress. Like a living photograph, she floated separate.

I had arrived in Awaziurak in early morning, riding above a wakening world. I climbed the staircase into the sky and left from the massive station of glass and steel and stone. I boarded a speeding metal bullet. Zip zip, black flashed by, perforated by momentary glimpses of small red, yellow, and then emerald worlds. Suddenly I was in vast Oykot, the Eastern Capital of Nohin. Here I would paint fat black cherry trunks in the High Field, beside a bustling temporary market of foods from around this Empire at the Base of the Sun.