Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flavor in Space: Ch 49

Sitting in the moss, I close my eyes.  I see darkness, the void.  I wonder if this encounter with the void is where dreams come from.  Certainly, we all enter it to sleep, and certainly to dream.

The forest stretches on for a long while.  Groves of various shapes and sizes.  Suddenly, the forest ends abruptly at a cliffside.   And standing here, on this cliff, I look out directly at the sea.  In the distance, waves are hardly visible, but I can hear them crashing into the rocks below.  I feel like I've been to this cliff before, perhaps it reminds me of my home world where I was raised; a world, which, although still green, is now beginning to dry out and golden.  Or perhaps it reminds me of other ocean-sides I have visited across the galaxy.

The wide, endless sea reaches the horizon, the curvature of the globe, the end of perspective.  Only a small rocky path appears to lead down the cliff.  Why not take it?  The path is narrow, lined with fat succulents, green with purple and pink lining.  There are blooming flowers too, in bunches, and sand has accumulated between roots and rocks.  For some reason I imagine that if these little nooks were wide enough, they would be a delicious place to lie down in: sheltered from the wind, but within earshot of the beating of the waves.

The path ends right there on the cliff face.  No where to go.  I'm faced with space.  Blue grey sky, hazy horizon line, and blue grey sea.  No more flowers, no more leaves. The end of the land.  Stretching out one hand I swap at the air, loose, fluid, nothing to hold onto.  I grasp the roots and shoots on the cliffside for support.  I hold fast here for a while, facing the space before me with the stone mountain behind me, trying to comprehend something un-comprehensible.

If I were to make a living in this little spot, sleeping on a nook of sand, I would go out to sea and wait for creatures to rise up from the depths and bite.  I would clamber over rocks to find a few vegetables to add to my meal.  Perhaps I could collect the eggs of seabirds who fly out fishing each day.

What is life like to face space on all sides?  To rest on collected pebbles and sands on the eroding cliffside?  Is it a drab world of rainy ocean storms, ceaseless waves, rivulets eroding the stone?

As I wonder, a space ship appears on the horizon and glides over to this spot.  The ship beeps and flags to me.  A savior, he thinks himself, perhaps.  The driver opens the door and shouts:

"I can take you anywhere.  In a day you can be anywhere in the galaxy.  In minutes I can bring you anywhere on this world?  Of course, every journey has a price.  Of course, every mile has a time to cross it.  All you have to do is wait!"

I call out, "You've given me an opportunity to travel space again.  I can be a tourist anywhere.  But how do I know you won't just fly me around up there for a while and then drop me in some nearby valley?  I'll think I've gone across the galaxy but I'm really just in the thicket I went through yesterday!"

"Look Mister!  Your in between a big rock and a bigger ocean.  You're at the end of your road.  If you stay there too long you'll starve to death, or maybe roll out of bed, if you call that a bed, and fall into the crashing waves one night.  I'm doing you a favor.  Take it or leave it.  You spend all day looking out at the sea and sky, but now you can cross both in a matter of time.  What was once endless is now simply a figure of time and money.  My friend, you've got nothing here and so nothing is keeping you here."

I looked about my little crevice of sand.  I had wedged some driftwood among the rocks and it formed a small half shelter from the occasional rain.  The sticks were already falling down.  My stove was wet from the dew and although still a bit warm, it no longer smoked.  A few fish bones and egg shells lay nearby.  Its true, there is nothing here.  In a day, sand and all might very well slide away.

He went on, "There are space stations up there, sir.  Fabulous rooms, bubbles, entertainment centers!  From one of these stations you can see a million worlds below you, all you have to do is flick the channel.  If you want watermelons you can see watermelons.  If you want ladies you can see ladies.   If you want to see the streets of some city, I don't know why you would, you damn well could!  All the knowledge of the world is at your disposal from up there."

"What is seeing a book if I don't know how to read its stories?  Why watch streets that are meaningless to me?"

"Patterns buddy!  Aren't you interested in beauty, in philosophy? In having a good time?  Ride the patterns?  Listen to the music that you personally prefer!"

"Sure, I want joy..."

He knew he was starting to win me over.  I saw that the sky was not endless.  It was a measurement of weather patterns, of hours of travel, of quantity of fuel burned.  The sea was no longer a deep solid color with unknown depths.  The fish too can be measured, and they can be caught for profit.   Space, it too is something I can cross to get to the next mall, the next job, the next time.  The space man started to play some music on his radio.  He urged me to find something I like.

Then I heard your voice.  I felt the sorrow and joy of memories come to life.  I don't know where exactly your voice seemed to be coming from: whether from the rocks, the succulent plants, the little red flowers that bloomed this morning, the forest up on the mountain, the sea, the sky, or the silence itself.  There is nothing for me here, which means that I've got myself all together right here and now, and I suddenly decided to present myself in answer.

I turned away from the space man, and scrambled back along the little path, up towards the forest, the bogs, the insects, the people.  The man flew off, back to some distant bubble I suppose.  

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flavor in Space: Ch 48

Some time ago, I made the decision to land here in this world. Having passed through clouds, I now let the swirling skies roll on high above.

On the surface, I started walking on grassy paths. The tips of green leaves didn't rise above my ankles and the pebbles lay beneath my feat.

Slowly, as I walked through meadows and fields, I entered thicker brush. Grasses rose to the knees or even the hips at times. Burs clung to my pants. Butterflies flew about my chest. Crickets bounded over my shoulders. In a marsh, cattails and long reeds began to rise above my head. My feet sank into a slushy brine of larvae and minnows.

Now, I walk in a forest. Long shadows have melded into one shadow with breaks of light. Branches curl patterns into the sky. Early summer leaves twinkle in the daylight and shiver in the breeze.

What I once thought was grass five inches high is now tall pines and a wide canopy of elms. I walk in this world and examine each magnificent tree, climb onto each great boulder.

I wonder if, in time, I'll sink into this moss as well. It will seem a forest.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flavor in Space: Ch 47

I awake in a bath of pale light and birdsongs. I lie in bed recollecting, and recollecting continues until finally I find myself again in this sand colored room.

I'm not sure how I got here, although I could probably find a story or a chain of happenings if I examined my memories.

I fold the blankets and bedding around me. Linens dapple with pools of shadow and cascades of light. I suddenly wonder if I've seen linens like this before. How can any experience (and people pay a lot for experiences!) compare with this simple encounter?

How many days has it been since I have been here? How many days has it been since I have returned here collected for such an encounter. So many days of waking with the next chore weighing on my mind: breakfast, work, or even a future plan- all without the sudden freedom of the present.

Flavor in Space: Ch 46

The first thing one notices is the purple falls hanging about the delicate green that caresses the tree tops. The fuji plant dangles and twists. It cloaks the cedars and the oaks and a hundred other brothers and sisters who I can't recall by name.

The path becomes a canyon. The sky of deepening blues becomes a luminescent mirror path above. The fuji walls tumble down the tree top trellises. The purple falls tumble silently and motionlessly down the canyon walls.

These falls, the fuji blossoms, could also be compared to ephemeral grapes. They have the form and grace of grapes, but they will evaporate entirely in a few days, leaving only lonely grapestems.

It is somewhat widely known here that the fuji will soon wither if cut and placed in water. Its vines need roots in soil.

Beneath the green blanketed canyon walls wind a tangle of vines. Tender vessels lead to spindly half hardened links which connect to yet more solid woody tubes, and these become the thick vines that dance through the space between the canyon walls. The vines weave tightly by trunks of countless other beings, tying the fibers into a supporting net, and finally, these vines coalesce in the great trunk of the fuji: a mass of curling wood rising from the forest floor.

I came to the Place of the Spring Day in twilight. The dirt road is lined with a thousand ancient stone lanterns, unlit mossy sentinels making the way.

The Place of the Spring Day is the home world of the fuji. The paths and ways become the canyons of purple falls. I came to the red walls of the palace and peered through the blue green window slats. In the courtyard, light filtered down from the dusky sky, illuminating the curves of vine snaking along the trellises, lighting the delicate branches of ephemeral purple fruits.

The sky fell dark and the canyons of space became less defined. I could no longer tell what was space or canyon or soil, or stone, or person: they all became shapes of shadow between flickers of light. I traced the sinuous curves of wood-flesh, I followed the dances of vine lines, and I found the trunk and the root and the soil.

Flavor in Space: Ch 44

Scents of cherry. The pink clouds fill the street and canal, exploding silently and slowly. From shrine gardens they unfold onto the banks of the river. Warm wind licks the clouds and sends wisps of pink fog up. A cross wind shatters them. They scatter, dancing down as pink snowflakes.

Birdsong echoes in my ears, permeating even the privacy of my sand colored room. The scented air, the saturated evening colors that linger all day, the pink clouds, the whole affair leaves a trace of sweat on the back of my neck.

How can anyone sell spring? How can anyone bring a blossom to bloom?
An idea, an energy, is ludicrous to sell.

"It's not just a season. It's a feeling, a state of life," says my guide, the woman living in the Great Heart Temple.

We had been discussing the hanging scroll chosen by her father, the venerable monk whom everyone refers to as "king." The scroll reads:

Flowers bloom,
From heaven,

By the poem is her arrangement, big black leaves, revealing bright white cherry blossoms, a frozen spring. She's a certified teacher of this art, but she doesn't want to teach it. "How can you judge someone's art?" she says. Her teacher loves green and black things; it is from these simple hues that "you can construct your world," she is told.

Like the other temples on the mountain of the Wondrous Heart, the entrance to the Great Heart Temple is stark: grey of stone, beige of sand, brown of the wooden gate. The first few gardens are also fairly stark, stone, moss, dark forests of cedars. There is one small courtyard that houses an old tree in a bed of moss. Wizened woody boughs with dark green leaves, each year it briefly blazes bright red, a wildfire of blossoms. I'll return to see it.

Hidden in the deepest garden, wedged in a grove beyond the secret tea room, rests a huge cherry tree. When I visited, it had not yet bloomed; it had not yet drawn the pink cloud.

Such is the style on the mountain: outward appearances are all grey stone, green pine, blackened wood; deep within there are hidden gardens of pink blossom, waiting to unfold a secret drama under the sky.