Reflections

“Blessing or Curse…?”

I have a vivid imagination.  I always have.  Sometimes it is a blessing in my life.  It aids me in all things creative, including my writing.  It enables me to construct whole worlds where I can spend my time; worlds so real to me that their lessons and experiences become part of my daily growth; worlds so real to me, they are often indistinguishable from the one my body inhabits…

Which is where the curse part begins.  Because sometimes, I cannot tell the difference between them.  Sometimes my imagination conjures images and lessons that begin (and belong) “elsewhere,” but they are so vibrantly alive that they begin to take root here, in mundania, in my daily life.  But my daily self is not so well equipped to deal with them, as is my visionary self.  So trouble often follows…

Sometimes I succeed in constructing a fantasy so real to me that I begin to see signs of its manifestation in the “real” world.  But luckily (maybe) I recognize it early enough to deflect it slightly, so that it manifests completely, but for someone else…  The earlier I notice, the better able I am to cast it off, the more likely it will touch someone unknown to me.  But it often returns to me in story form, told by someone else, every detail complete and recognizable.  And sometimes, I barely catch it at all, and must watch it unfold for someone close to me.  And sometimes that is hard to do…

Not because I wish harm on someone else, either, as you might assume from what I’m writing.  It’s not that at all.  My clearest, strongest fantasies are mostly what others fantasize about – comfort, security, love, recognition, success, etc…  And yet they still bring harm to those who “benefit” from them…

I don’t know if I am actually creating these scenarios, or if I merely sense them developing, and transcribe those sensations into a story line that flows and follows.  I don’t know if the impulses that birth these stories are mine or someone else’s.  I don’t know if I am truly casting them off to taint an Other’s journey, or if I merely release them in time to witness to whom they really belong.  And I don’t know if the “consequences” of such success stories are inherent in the stories themselves, or a reflection of my unwillingness to claim them…

What I do know, is that I have recently crossed paths with Others who are “living the Dream” I wanted for myself.  Different versions for different folks, but the details of each are telling.  And yet…

And yet, not one of them seems truly happy or content…

Was I wrong about the things I value?  Are they not the kinds of things that could bring happiness and contentment to me?  Or are they not working out because of some other, unforeseen, reason?

Is it prophecy or manipulation I’m experiencing now?  It’s hard to tell with all that has been happening.  Now that we’ve begun to see the levers and gears that operate behind the curtain of what we call reality.  Now that Time itself has become quite malleable…

What I also know is that this process, which used to work so well for me, no longer serves me, and I have yet to find a replacement.  I used to seek refuge in my fantasies, when the mundane world became too much.  I used to try out different possibilities there, before acting them out myself.  But now…

But now…  I’m never sure which thoughts will play out in the world around me.  Now, when I seek these other realms to explore what options I might have, I find my steps faltering, just as I cross that line…  Now I practice a rigid, impulsive self-control that stops such thoughts before they fully form.  Just in case, you know…

And it feels silly, really, to worry about such things.  I mean, who does that, anyway?  Why concern my self with what has not yet happened, when so much truly is happening now?  And why care if it manifests, especially if it’s happening to someone else?  Especially if it’s a “good” dream I’m making now?

I cannot be responsible for how an’Other lives.  I cannot be responsible for how they use these gifts.  I am not raining curses down upon them, so I have nothing to feel guilty about; all that I have wished for me, and (maybe) cast upon them, is for success, prosperity, comfort, and hope…

And yet the smell of burning flesh still haunts me, and follows me around…

Everywhere.  Every time.  Every day.  My senses reel under its omnipresence.  A memory, or prescience?  Damning either way.  And I am left outside my comfort zone, wondering yet again…

A blessing or a curse…?

 

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Drowning…

“Fire looked at Water blankly, completely unprepared to answer. Laughing merrily at his sudden discomposure, Water reached out to embrace Fire. But Fire jumped back quickly, avoiding the contact.

“Are you nuts, Water?! What are you trying to do, kill me?” Responding to Water’s deep and disheartened confusion, Fire added more gently. “Water puts out fire, remember?”

Nodding sadly, Water concurred. “And fire destroys water… I remember.” “

(An excerpt from a short story entitled “Fire and Water: The Search for Life” I wrote many years ago…)

***

Relevant now, again, because I feel as if I am drowning…

Lately I seem to be inundated with water issues, from flooding to our most recent household disaster where the aforementioned flooding took out the hot water heater’s pilot, and we cannot get it lit again.  There are other minor issues, too, of course, like leaky sinks, and shower hoses suddenly spurting where they’re not supposed to, all of which lead my friends to believe that we are being overcome by emotions.  At least symbolically…

But I am more intrigued with the water’s effect on fire in our home, and my inability to keep the home fires burning.  Literally!  There was the power outage that left us without heat for five days during a wicked cold snap.  And even though we have a woodburning stove, I could not keep the fire going for any length of time because the wood was wet, and so reluctant to burn.  For 5 days I lived here, with internal household temps never getting above 40 degrees.  And then I finally got dry wood!  And the power came back on…

That was followed by a record breaking snowfall (within hours, no less) made so much more difficult to handle by rising temps throughout.  The snow was incredibly heavy and wet, with the sun shining brilliantly after the storm, making the shovelling out process a 3 day nightmare for the physically challenged, like myself…

All that snow melted quickly in the spring-like weather that followed, bringing on the first floods…  And so April arrived with steady, constant rain for days, until the whole world seemed to be drowning in it.  Everything was under water…  Until finally, this past weekend brought a taste of early summer, and we could finally assess the damage all that water caused.  And it was then we lost the hot water heater…

So… clearly my fire is being overwhelmed by my water!  My passion, creativity, motivation, even action, snuffed out, made impotent and ineffectual by the flood of emotions drowning me…

Just last night I came home late after spending some valuable time with a respected friend.  She left me with much to think about; intrigued, and moving in new directions at last.  I spent time alone after coming home basking in the light of a full moon shining from a nearly cloudless sky.  The cool rays of moonlight contrasted sharply with the unusually warm temperature, and it was a balm to my restless and disheartened spirit.  I let down my guard, as I usually do, and opened myself to the healing that only time alone at night can bring.  And so the feelings came…

Heart-wrenching, gut-twisting, rage-inducing pain from so very many sources, I could not begin to identify them all.  So much suffering happening in the world…  The tears came unbidden, as they do every night recently; impotent and pointless, but flowing nonetheless.  And this time I found I couldn’t actually breathe anymore, as the flood assaulted me.  I was, metaphorically and literally, drowning in sorrow!  The weight on my chest was so heavy, I seriously wondered if I was having genuine medical issues.  But no, not really, at least not the “fixable” kind…

And then it began to rain, softly at first, before becoming a deluge.  Lightning flashed and thunder rolled; an unexpected storm drenching me.  I just stood there on the deck, my tears still falling, and looked up at the brightness of the moon.  And there she sat in all her glory… in a completely cloudless sky.

A full blown thunderstorm raging from a cloudless sky?!

And my first and only thought was to question, “did I do that?”

The storm ended as quickly as it began, before I could pull myself together enough to seek shelter in the house.  But my soaked clothes and skin were proof enough for me to accept the storm was not my imagination…

And when I woke this morning with that same weight upon my chest, I recognized it clearly for what it was – anxiety.  Not fear.  Anxiety…

The world I live in makes no sense to me today.  I cannot understand what is happening anymore.  At all!  Rationality has left the building, and everything around me is in complete chaos.  And I do not know how to maneuver effectively through it.  Hence my anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not so naive as to believe that life should be fair; I know better, based upon only my own experience.  And I cannot deny that there are good people out there doing great things, even if it’s not reported with the same enthusiasm as all the bad.  I see good moments in every day… But there is no balance occurring, no matter how much I widen my view or broaden my perspective.  There is no way to justify, explain, or empathize with the purely destructive acts occurring all around me!  I am beyond bewildered…

These few people, bringing so much suffering down upon the rest, for their own tiny glorification are determined to destroy everything, including that which would serve their own interests!  I literally cannot comprehend the motives of such self-destructiveness; it goes so far beyond the limits of my vision and experience!  Even in the darkest moments of my life, in the very depths of my insanity (the antithesis of rationality), I retained a remote and distant sense of balance.  But there is none of that in evidence today.  Hatred rules, and people rush headlong into battle with no other goal than to destroy as much as possible before impaling themselves upon their own weapons!

And I am driven back, into my own past, looking for something… anything!… that will restore a sense of balance…  A life preserver of some sort to save me from drowning…

***

Warily, Water faced him. “But nothing can come of my love for you, Fire. You know that; you pointed it out.”

Thoughtfully, Fire responded. “Yet the Creator spoke to us of Love. We were left here together to find Life… Maybe if we joined forces?” Hopefully Fire looked to Water.

“But we would destroy each other,” Water reminded him, confused.

“I know,” Fire agreed. Then smiling at Water, he added. “But at least we wouldn’t be alone anymore in a vast, lifeless universe… And we would be together. Is that so bad a destiny?” Lowering his voice, he spoke once more. “I love you, too, Water. I know that now.”

Unable to contain her joy, Water rushed to Fire and embraced him, all thoughts of consequences lost in her love for him… The Creator of All-That-Is smiled at long last, marking this moment in a timeless eternity, and a miracle occurred. For out of the union of Fire and Water arose Life, not death; in the wake of that union, there were four in the universe, rather than two…

Where Water embraced Fire, Fire cooled, leaving in his place a solid element – Earth; so daughter was borne of the father’s essence. Where Fire warmed Water, steam arose, creating yet another element – Air; and son was borne of the mother’s flesh. From the love of Fire and Water came the twin elements Earth and Air. And a family existed where only emptiness had been…”

(The entire story can be found at the following links…  maybe… if you’re interested:

Part 1: https://theotherhoodofone.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/fire-and-water-the-search-for-life/

Part 2: https://theotherhoodofone.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/fire-and-water-part-2/ )

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Stories...

“Ascension…”

The following is a parable I wrote to memorialize a dear friend who passed this week.  She was an avid supporter of my writing, encouraging me to embrace my voice anew last year when I started this blog.  She was also one of my most persistent “encouragers” to finish the story “Nemesis,” messaging me every once in a while to remind me how eagerly she waited for its resumption.  I regret that I did not complete it before she died, though I suspect she will be reading it over my shoulder as I write it, should I ever pick it up again…

I was asked by her daughter to speak at her service tomorrow, and I struggled with what memories most needed to be shared.  It was then that I decided to write this story.  I could not imagine a more fitting way to honor our friendship and what she meant to me, than to write her her own story.  

Perhaps I will read this tomorrow at her funeral.  Any thoughts or comments?

***     ***     ***

“Ascension…”

Once upon a time…  A girl child was born.  She was birthed into a world devoid of color and light, and her heart grew heavy because of it.  A dense fog enveloped her village at all times, stealing all the colors away, leaving only shades of grey to consider.

Disappointed with this world she knew, she turned to the villagers and asked: “where are all the colors in this world?  They must be around somewhere…”

“No, child,” she was told.  “There are no colors here.  Best accept it like we have.”

“But…  What about beyond our village?,” she persisted.  “Are there colors out there?”

“No, child,” the villagers responded.  “Everything beyond our village is the same.  Best settle down and accept your place among us…”

But the little girl was not satisfied with that response.  She wanted more.  She wanted light, and color, and fun!  “One day,” she promised herself, “I will leave this place.  And when I do, I will search the whole world until I find the colors I imagine!”

So it was that when she came of age, the young woman left the place of her birth and set out to explore the world.  Armed with nothing but stubbornness and a conviction built on dreams, she stepped outside her village for the first time…

Initially, she was disappointed to discover that the villagers were right; everything outside her home was cast by the fog into the same drab shades of grey.  But unable to accept she might be wrong, she pushed onward, still convinced there must be something more enjoyable to see, somewhere…

She had many adventures as she wandered the world beyond, but none led her where she wanted to be.  Finally, exhausted and disheartened, she sat down upon the cold, damp earth and cried.  She cried until there were no tears left within her.  She cried until there were no ambitions left within her.  And when all was silent and empty within, she surrendered completely, accepting her failure…

But in that very moment, a miracle occurred, when a single shaft of sunlight broke through the perpetual fog, and lit the area around her.  She might have missed it in her grief had there not been a tiny pebble beside her that caught the sun’s light and reflected it in a spectrum of color.  So startled was she by that flash of light and color, that she hardly noticed the warmth flooding her heart, filling the emptiness within.  But that warmth was enough to get her on her feet again, and moving forward, armed this time with a tiny pebble she would name Faith…

And so her journey continued, day after day, step after step…

Until one day she noticed, by the tiredness in her limbs and the shortness of her breath, that the ground had begun to rise.  Eagerly now, she moved on, certain at least of the direction she must travel – up…

She clambered and climbed.  Some days were easier than others.  Some were nearly impossible to bear.  The slope shifted between gentle and steady, to steep and impassible.  But she faced every obstacle.  She continued to grow.  And when she lost her footing and slid back down the slope a ways, she would rest, take out her pebble Faith, and renew her commitment to this journey…

Until one day she became aware that the fog was less dense here, and the light somewhat brighter.  She rushed on, convinced that something remarkable lie just ahead!  And so it did…

For without warning, or prelude, or commentary at all, the woman broke through the last wisps of fog, to find herself standing near the apex of a mountain.  And here the sun was shining brightly!  She turned around to see where she had come from, and realized she had been born in a deep valley, steeped in clouds, and hidden from the world above.

But here on the mountain top the trees and grass were green…  So many shades of green, she could not begin to name them all, though she certainly tried, laughing all the while.  The rocks were shades of brown and grey, but there was not a dull or drab one to be found, as they all sparkled in the sun.  The sky was a blue so vivid that it simply took her breath away….

Mesmerized by the color and light surrounding her, the woman sighed deeply, releasing all of the doubt, frustration and disappointments her life had been riddled with.  And by doing so, her heart became light at last, light enough that she drifted up off the mountain, spreading newfound wings to catch the gentle breeze.  And allowing the Joy to carry her away, she set off to explore what lay beyond this hidden valley…

And as she drifted off, a small pebble fell down upon the earth, to settle neatly beside so many other sparkling rocks; a testimonial for all who followed, marking this moment, this life, this beautiful soul…

Rest in peace, Marsha…

 

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“Rainbow Child…”

This short story was inspired by a post by Eddie Two Hawks today…

eddietwohawks.wordpress.com

Once upon a time a girl-child was born.  She was what is commonly referred to as a mixed-race child, being born to parents of different skin tones.  Not that she noticed, of course, because her parents loved her, cared for her, nurtured her, and that was what she noticed most.

Her parents, both of whom were also mixed race, didn’t seem to notice, either.  For their parents had had different skin tones.  And they had loved them, cared for them, and nurtured them as well.

Eventually the child was old enough to go to school, and it was there that she first became aware that there was something different about her…

She approached the white children on the bus to school, but she was rebuffed.  They told her,”you can’t sit with us, because you’re not white like us.”

The child was confused.  “But I am white like you,” she assured them, “because I have white in me.”

But the white children were not convinced, so they turned their backs on her, and continued to talk among themselves.  And the girl went and sat alone…

At first recess, the girl-child approached the black children, asking if she could play with them.  But they shook their heads, saying, “you can’t play with us, because you’re not black like us.”

“But I am black,” the girl insisted, “because I have black in me.”

The children were not convinced, so they turned their backs on her, and continued to play amongst themselves.  And the child left to go play by herself…

At lunchtime, the girl approached the brown children, who were sitting together, and asked if she could join them.  But she was denied.  They told her, “you can’t sit with us because you’re not brown like us.”

“But I am brown like you,” she responded, “because I have many shades of brown in me.”

But the children were not convinced, so they turned their backs on her, and continued eating lunch.  The girl walked slowly away to eat her lunch alone…

At afternoon recess, the girl approached the yellow children, to see if she could play with them.  But they told her no.  “You can’t play with us, because you’re not yellow like us.”

“But I am yellow,” the child argued, “because I have yellow in me!”

But the children were not convinced, so they turned their backs on her, and continued playing their games.  The child dragged her feet as she shuffled away to play by herself again…

On the way home, the girl asked to sit with the one red child, sitting alone on the bus.  But that child didn’t understand.  “Why would you want to sit with me?  You’re not red like me.”

“But I am red,” the girl-child insisted, “because I have red in me.”

But the red child just shrugged and turned away, unconvinced, to stare out the window.  And the girl felt tears rise within her as she sat alone again…

When she got home, her parents noticed immediately how distressed she was, and asked her about her day.  The child cried as she revealed her experiences, while her parents held her close…

“I don’t understand!,” she told them.  “I have all the colors of the rainbow within me, but none of them can recognize me!  What’s wrong with me?”

“Aww, child,” her mother soothed.  “There is nothing wrong with you!  You are beautiful, and kind, and full of love and life!”

“But they won’t sit with me, or play with me, or talk to me, or listen to me…,” the child lamented.

Her father stepped in, holding her close.  “It’s not your fault, Gaia,” he reassured her.  “They’ve simply forgotten where they came from.  Perhaps in time they will remember, and they will welcome you among them once again.”

“And until they do?,” Gaia asked her parents.

“You love them anyway, dear rainbow child,” her mother softly said, “you care for them and nurture them.  Because that is what we do…”

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“The Princess and Her Prison…”

I have often joked about having no romance left in my soul.  That is not entirely true.  The truth is that I placed that softer side of me, that one who believed in intimacy, in some distant and secure place, far away from my reality…

“Why?,” you might ask.  Hmm…  The answer, I guess, is that she was too much of a distraction, and her naivety and gullibility made her a hindrance to all I was trying to accomplish for my self…  Driven by an obsessive compulsion to find that specific “one,” that mythical being whose soul was promised to me, led me down many dark and twisted paths, into narrow alleys without escape, across dangerous minefields promising maiming consequences for any wrong steps, and up to countless dead-end walls blocking my access to that imaginary “promised land.”

Turns out, I have been much happier without her around, so I do not regret my decision to bench her at all…  But times change, and so have I, and for some, as yet, unexplained reason, I find that lately she has been clamoring for a way out.  I don’t know why, and I don’t really care; I know it is not about someone new coming in to my life, for her restlessness is not directed.  Rather, I suspect, it has to do with Wholeness, and the fact that my soul is missing some vital piece by keeping her locked away.  And so today I choose to release her…

Am I afraid?  Yeah, a little bit, I guess, as we did not part on the best of terms, she and I.  But I believe the time has come for me to integrate all my “bits” into a cohesive whole, so I will take this step regardless.  Vulnerability is not a bad thing in and of itself, and I trust myself today to handle the consequences of such a decision…

So… With all this in mind, I offer you the following story in its entirety.  That makes it a very long read.  Please do not feel obligated to slog through this madness simply because you follow this blog; my offering is mostly symbolic, and I would probably be relieved if you didn’t see this side of me. (Lol!)  This story was completed in December 1997, and would become the last actual writing of significance I would do for almost two decades, until just before I started this blog last year.

Please accept it as my gift and my confession;  I am not always as rational or grounded as I try to sound…  🙂

 

Photo of me, circa 1983, when I still believed in romantic love.

Photo taken by an ex, Jeff Schramm

 

The Princess and Her Prison”

Once upon a time there lived a princess… At least everyone assumed she was a princess because she lived in a huge castle high upon a hill. But there was something different about this princess. For example, this princess lived alone in her castle, and always had. No one knew how she came to be there, or even who she was. Since she had always been alone there, she had no name. This wasn’t really a problem, since she had no one there to call her, but she wondered sometimes what she might have been called if there had been others there. And she couldn’t help but wonder why she was alone.

The castle she lived in was made of steel and more closely resembled a fortress than a castle. The walls were high and smooth, with no obvious crevices in the dull sheen one could see. They curved around to create a great circle with only four doors and one window to disturb its perfect form. The doors were evenly spaced, one each facing East, South, West and North, with no visible means for opening them. In fact, the doors were so perfectly fitted into the walls that the only indication of their presence was a tiny keyhole cut into the steel at each of the four cardinal points. (Of course, none of this really mattered since the doors were locked and the princess had never seen a key.) The only window looked south across a large meadow and an ancient forest, but the steel bars that covered it marred the tranquil beauty of the scene. And so the princess’ castle was also her prison.

The princess grew up there in that steel fortress. She often wandered through the labyrinth of dark corridors within wondering why she was imprisoned. But there was little of value within the castle walls to answer the questions that plagued her. So she would often turn to the window and look longingly outside her prison for answers she could never reach. And that was how she came to know that others lived beyond the walls, as bands of merry travelers passed by her forest home. She would watch them from a distance, and wish that she could join them  But she could not leave the prison in which she had been born.

That’s not to say she didn’t try. She spent many years, and many tears exploring the dark inner sanctum of her home. And she had examined every inch of the outer walls of steel. She had crawled upon her hands and knees in search of loose stones upon the castle floor that might yield to her probing fingers. She swallowed her terror and crawled into the tiny nooks and crannies where even light would not willingly go. She threw herself against the doors to see if they would budge. She pushed and pulled upon the window bars until her hands were bloody and raw. But in all the days and ways of searching, the princess never found a single weakness in the structure of her home, and all the wishing she had done fell worthless on the cold stone floor. Even her prayers seemed trapped within, as though some magic force prevented their escape, as surely as the walls of steel kept light and warmth without.

When all her efforts failed, the princess looked to others. She stood proud and tall behind the bars of her window and called out to those who passed. And when they came to stand below her, the princess would tell them her sad plight, and ask them for their help. Many stopped to hear her tale and add their efforts to the cause, but none succeeded because the outer walls were as impenetrable as what she’d found within. And when all ideas had been exhausted upon the walls of steel, the travelers would offer sad good-byes and empty words of hope as they moved on.

But there were those who would not quit when they promised her release. So taken by the young girl’s beauty, so moved by her unfettered spirit, they each longed to be the one who set her free. And long after wiser souls had given up, they would continue to beat their hearts against the walls, leaving blood and sweat and tears to mark their paths. Until the princess begged them to leave her be and save themselves. Yet even then some would not listen, and the princess could only stand helplessly by while they battered their souls to death. For never was there flesh that could force its way through steel.

When the sound of their assault died down, the princess would look out between the bars of her window to see the bruised and broken bodies lying prone, like weathered stones upon the ground. Their still and lifeless forms strewn haphazardly about her walls would make her shudder with regret. And while the tears she cried could obliterate the sight, they could never wash away her guilt and shame. Grief and sorrow weighed heavily upon her soul, and with listless steps she would retreat to the dark inner sanctum of her home. As the years passed, and the pattern repeated itself again and again, the princess began to understand that no matter how perfectly her flesh was imprisoned, it would never approach the isolation of her soul. And she grew grateful that Fate had decreed her unworthy of life among the people outside, and had locked her up inside.

In time, the princess abandoned the fruitless hope of youth, and settled in to live her term without conviction or reprieve. When the loneliness drove her to her window seat, she was careful to stay out of sight. When curious travelers called out to her, and the urge to respond overcame her, she chose to speak in cryptic code that none would understand. And when the need to affirm her existence drove her to expose her self, she used the magic of mirror and smoke to cast shadows upon the walls. In this way she showed herself, that others might know she was there and she was real, without ever endangering them. So skillful did she become with her tricks and illusions that the princess no longer recognized her own reflection in the dull shine of steel, or understood the messages she cast beyond the walls.

But there were times, in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk, that the princess would catch a glimpse of something shiny in the distance. And it would stir long forgotten memories she couldn’t understand. In the still silence between day and night, the young princess would awaken with but one thought: “Four doors, four keys, and not one of them within. Could it be that somewhere, out there, is a key that can set me free?” But when the sun moved on into its rightful place, and the distant gleam faded, so, too did the remote hope within. And acceptance of her destiny became the cloak that comforted her through lonely days and nights.

***** ***** *****

One day while the princess sat beside her window with nothing but the scene to fill her mind, a knight encased in shiny garb advanced toward her castle on the hill. He rode proud and tall upon a midnight steed, with royal robes and ribbons fluttering in a gentle breeze. So lost was she within herself, she hardly noticed his approach. Until at last, with regal stature, he stood before the door.

And finally the sight impressed itself upon her feeble senses, and gradually she became aware that something here was different. Without a word, the knight below approached the southern door. As she watched he reached beneath his breastplate to remove a silken cord. On that cord, a single key, he slipped into the lock. And silently the door slid open as the princess sat and watched.

In an instant the princess realized that she was free at last. And in a sudden panic, she ran deep into her fortress. As she raced through twisting corridors, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the steel, and she was stunned to note how much she’d changed during her imprisonment here. For the beauty of her youth had fled with the slow passage of time, and left in its wake a dim reminder of all that she once was. The thought of being seen like this by any human being was more unthinkable than any thought should be. And she realized, in a flash of insight, that she’d always been alone, and had never had to face a man with eyes level to her own.

As these thoughts raced through her mind, the panic grew within, until she knew that she would never have the courage to even look at him. So she ran ahead into the deepest places of her home, and found a place to hide where he would never go. And there she fell upon her knees and prayed that he would leave.

But the silent knight was not afraid, and he had come here on a quest. He would not leave this steel fortress without the lonely princess. So he searched for days within the walls, leaving nothing there to chance, until at last, the final room lay just within his grasp. The door gave way with little effort, and slowly he advanced, into the very center of the prison Fate had Fortune cast. The room was small and dark, cluttered with mementos of a long-forgotten past. And there amidst the litter the princess kneeled, and sobbed into her hands.

Go away,” she shouted at the knight in a voice husky and low. “You don’t belong here! This is my prison. This is my home. I cannot go!”

Of course you can,” the knight responded his tone gentle and warm. “Why else would I be here, if not to set you free?”

But you don’t understand,” the princess promptly countered. “This prison is the only home that I have ever known. Outside its walls I would be lost, I wouldn’t have a clue. And I’m too old for fairy tales, I know they can’t come true… So go away while you still can, and leave me to my fate. No other soul has walked these halls or looked upon my face.”

But I have traveled far to be with you,” the knight insisted. “I have to say I am surprised to find you so resistant. Still, you needn’t be afraid of what lies beyond these walls, for I will walk along with you; you’ll never be alone. Outside this place the sun is shining and everything is bright. I’ve but a single purpose here – to lead you to the light.”

And if I refuse,” the lady asked, “will you force me to go with you?”

Why would you refuse me, when all I offer you is refuge?”

My mind’s made up; I will not go, no matter what you say. I cannot face the world beyond, where the sun brings forth each day. This is my home, where shadows play, and it is always night. Know this, brave knight, I will not leave my home without a fight!”

Exasperated, the knight stepped forth to bring her out by force. But the princess kept her word and struggled; ‘til objects flew with curses and the scene became a battle. As they rolled among the broken pieces of the past, the lady caught a fatal wound from a broken shard of glass. As the last strength of her will subsided in a gushing flow of blood, the princess felt herself aloft, and whisking down the corridor. She closed her eyes and drifted off to somewhere safe and warm, where armor clanged like silver bells, and the scent of Life was strong.

When she awoke, she found herself laid out on grass so soft and green, and gentle hands caressed her brow like the fragrant summer breeze. She smiled at the radiant sun, so warm upon her face, and reached out for the stranger who had brought her to this place. “Before I die I’d like to see the face of him who set me free. Remove your mask before I go, and let me gaze upon your soul.”

Without a word the knight complied, removing his shiny headpiece. And as he turned to face her, she saw tears slide down his cheeks. The reflection that she saw in them revealed the true beauty that she was, as eyes the color of emeralds gazed down at her with love.

Who are you?” she whispered, “Why have you come? Do you know me? Or why I was imprisoned?”

Sadly the knight began to nod, but his voice was slow to follow. “You are the one I’m promised to, for many years I’ve searched. But everywhere I went I found no one who knew of you. Long ago, before this life, we swore that we would meet, and I have spent what time I’ve had trying to fulfill that destiny… We knew we might forget these words by the time we came of age, so we took our case before the Fates to ask them for a way. After much debate we won the chance to prove our love to them, and if we were successful, we’d never have to be apart again.

We’d argued that our love was true, that we’d pass any test. So to prove our point we’d have to love, even if one did forget. So they placed you here, within these walls, and gave me the only key. You agreed to wait for me, and they took your memory.

Four times I’ve tried to get to you, and all four times I’ve failed. By the time I found your prison here, you’d already lost your faith. Every time it ends the same, and I am left alone. This was our last chance at this, and soon you will be gone.” And as these final words slipped out, the knight began to cry. The princess held him close to her, and sadly closed her eyes.

As she lay there upon the grass, she thought her heart would burst. To have him here, so near, and yet so far… And lost memories returned to her. Slowly they came back – such love, such trust, such hope, and she knew that she had always known that someday he would come. She remembered dreams, and distant gleams so bright against the dusk; a dark-haired knight who filled her sleep with promises of love.

Eagerly she pushed him free, searched out his eyes of green, looking for the proof of what her inner eye had seen. But when her hands were clear of him, she found his warmth remained, which drew her eyes away from him, to see the stains his blood had made, while she had held him near. “I couldn’t face this end again,” the handsome knight revealed. “This time we’ll go together to meet eternity.”

When the shock had passed, she realized that he would soon die, too. And she laughed at him, the irony, of what she understood. “Too late, I think, to stop our fate, but not too late for us. Alone I’ve been, without you here, but in spite of that I loved. It’s love that trapped me here, I know, because it was so true. No other love could set me free, while I belonged to you… I love you now, and always will, and it’s clear that you love me. And now we live, though soon we won’t, and as the Fates decreed…”

She held her breath and waited, her heart pounding in her ears, and wondered if he’d get her point while they were both still here. As she watched, his eyes lit up, and joy replaced his misery. “We’ve passed the test,” he shouted out, “and now we’ll both be free!”

***** ***** *****

The two lovers embraced, rejoicing in their triumph, and the princess gazed back at the prison that had held her fast through all the lonely years. Only now there was no sorrow or emptiness within. As her mind traveled back along the corridors of her home, she saw promise in the empty rooms of what would come to be, and there was love in every corner of her darkest memories. Gratefully, she recognized how the walls had protected her and kept her true to course, even when she could not understand her fate. She wondered at her lack of faith, her fear, her ignorance; she marveled at the perfect way it all worked out. She realized her only prison had existed in her mind, so limited by what she saw, so terrorized by time. The greatest gift was always there with her, carried in her heart, and all her greatest efforts had gone toward finding a way out. Had she escaped her prison, she would have lost her way, and she’d have never known the one she loved with all her soul!

When the sun slipped over the western horizon, the lovers followed suit. A fog rose up from the valley floor to shroud the castle hill and obscure its walls of steel. Legends were born to tell the tale of the Princess and her Prison, and there are those who still believe she lives upon that hill. They claim the fog arose to protect the naïve travelers who would waste their lives pursuing the long-imprisoned princess. They believe the walls that held her tight were created by some evil, who lies in wait for others who are pure of heart and spirit.

But there are those much wiser still who know the truth. They smile when they hear those tales, and keep their secret close. They know the only evil is created in men’s minds, when the prison of illusion distracts them from their lives. There is a plan much greater than the human mind can grasp; it leads us on our journeys whether we’re aware or not. For things are never quite as dark as they may at first appear, and nothing is impossible so long as Love is there…

— C. 1997, Lisa R, Palmer

 

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Flashback..., Stories...

“Freddie the Fish & The Lure of Old Scotch (Part 2)

This is the conclusion to the story…

“Freddie the Fish & The Lure of Old Scotch”

(Part 2)

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So… What’s your name, fish, if you have one?” asked Old Scotch.

Uh…” began Freddie, still dazzled by the dragonfly. “My friends call me Freddie the Fish.” Then voicing his greatest confusion, Freddie asked innocently. “But why would you choose me, Old Scotch?”

Chuckling softly, the dragonfly answered. “Maybe because I saw something special in you, boy! It’s my job to know who is ready to receive the secrets of the universe, Freddie, because not many are. I recognize you as someone who could benefit from what I know.”

From far below him, Freddie heard the Old Fish’s voice. “Don’t listen to him, Freddie… It’s a trick! He will only lead you astray and you will get hurt. Come back to us, boy, for we are your friends and family. We know what’s best for you. Be a good fish and come back to us now.”

Hah!” laughed Old Scotch. “If they really cared about you, Freddie, wouldn’t they be encouraging you? If they wanted what was best for you, they wouldn’t try and distract you this way, would they? After all, I’m promising you the secrets of the universe, boy! What fish in your pool has ever known them? What fish has ever had the chance to learn them?”

I’ve chosen you because I believe you are special,” the dragonfly continued, more seriously than before. “It’s a great honor to be chosen by a dragonfly, you know. Your friends are trying to confuse you because they are jealous, Freddie!” Waiting only a moment to allow Freddie the chance to process what he had said, Old Scotch pressed on relentlessly. “After all, would your real friends prevent you from bettering your lot in life, just because they didn’t have the same opportunity? Are they really your friends if they would deny you this chance, Freddie?”

Terribly bewildered now, Freddie could not answer at first. Anxiously he glanced at his fish-friends below, and the mysterious and beautiful dragonfly above him. Who should he believe? He’d known those fish his whole life; surely they would not mislead him now… Still, he had always known he was different from the others somehow, deep in his own heart. Sure, they’d always treated him the same, but he’d never really belonged here, had he? And he’d questioned himself about the futility of his life in the pool, so Old Scotch was doing no more than echoing his own thoughts. Surely a creature that beautiful and wise could not be truly dangerous…

Maybe Old Scotch was right about the others! Maybe they were jealous of him. Maybe he really was different, special even… Oh, how he wanted to believe that! Besides, what did he really have to lose by listening? If he returned to his friends, he would only go on swimming silently until he was too old and weak to fight the current anymore, and then he would die like all the other fish before him. The dragonfly offered him something different, something more – wisdom, adventure, knowledge… Surely that was worth more than an eternity of safe, silent swimming in this tiny pool he called home…?

And with that thought, Freddie turned toward Old Scotch, never to look back again… “So, what do I have to do?” he asked eagerly.

Old Scotch smiled and answered warmly. “Stop fighting the current, Freddie boy, and let it carry you away to a bigger, brighter, more exciting future!”

But…” Freddie began, confused. Finally, he went on. “But if I stop fighting the current, I will be smashed against the southern wall, and I will die… How can there be a future in that?”

Laughing, Old Scotch reassured him. “Trust me, Freddie! I didn’t say the journey would be easy, but I did promise it would be worth it. And it will! The trick is to stop fighting the current, to flow with it instead.” Old Scotch stopped a moment, looking away into the distance. “From up here, I can see what you can’t, Freddie,” he continued. “And I see that the water rushes over the top of the southern wall and on down the gorge. Just beyond your pool the stream spreads out into a wide, gentle place where you can rest and observe the outside world. When you’re ready to move on, all you have to do is slip back into the current and let it carry you onward to the next place you want to stop…” The dragonfly took a deep breath before promising Freddie more. “Beyond your pool there are no traps, my friend, just wide open spaces, beautiful scenery and magnificent creatures. And I will travel along with you and tell you all about the wondrous things you will see!”

Still Freddie hesitated, held back by a lifetime of warnings. The southern wall meant certain death. The whole point of living was to avoid being smashed into that end; that’s why they all swam so diligently against the current. But could he return to his fish-friends now, after he’d ignored their advice?

Recognizing Freddie’s distress, Old Scotch pushed on, trying to convince him. “I know what you’re thinking, boy!” he claimed. “You’re thinking your friends might be right, aren’t you? But the truth is, they don’t know any better, Freddie. The reason your fish-friends die on the southern wall is because they continue to fight against the current until it destroys them… The secret to surviving the journey is to surrender to the flow and let it lift you up and carry you away. You must not fight the current, Freddie! That is the secret that will deliver you safely beyond your world.”

For a moment longer Freddie hesitated, remembering his life. He thought of the many friends he had known and loved, and lost. Always they left him, to be smashed against the southern wall. Maybe, he thought, if he could do this right, the other fish would see. Maybe he could save lives by taking this journey! Maybe this was his destiny! After all, he was the one chosen by the dragonfly, wasn’t he? Perhaps this was his reason for being… And with that thought, Freddie stopped swimming for the first time in his troubled life. And the current quickly caught him and carried him away…

For an instant all was right in Freddie’s world! As the current lifted him with the gentle caress of a lover, he knew a joy he had never known before. He felt light, alive, buoyant and free! Euphoria rose like laughter in his belly, bubbling up to be released into a world of perfect peace and happiness… But his ecstasy was ripped from him, before it could be expressed, by the hard, jagged point of a rock in the southern wall.

Stunned by the sight of his own blood around him, awakened by pain that throbbed through his tiny body, Freddie felt fear grip his heart. Driven by the terror of his own fleeting mortality, Freddie began to swim again, swimming harder than he ever had before. Far away he heard the voices of his friends and family encouraging him. “Swim, Freddie, swim! You can do it! Come on!”

High above him, he heard Old Scotch yelling. “Let go, Freddie! Stop fighting! Trust me, boy!”

But Freddie struggled on, trying hard to swim against the current. But here, at the southern wall, the current was too strong and chaotic, even for Freddie. It swirled around him, sucked him down, then smashed him hard against the rocks. Over and over again, the water threw his bruised and broken body against the wall. Freddie swam valiantly on, lost in the nightmare of rushing water, distant voices, sharp rocks and searing pain… Until, finally, with a last faint kick, Freddie gave up the battle.

As the welcome relief of oblivion reached up from the stream depths to claim his tired soul, Freddie thought lovingly of the friends and family he’d left behind. “I’m sorry,” he thought to them. “I tried. I really tried! But the current was too strong for me… Good-bye.” And as his last breath was driven forcibly from him, Freddie sank one last time to the stream bottom…

********** ********** **********

Then, miraculously, the current reached for Freddie’s body and lifted it with gentle fingers. Moving with love and joy, the stream carried his still and lifeless form high above the rocks of the southern wall, and sent him effortlessly beyond the confines of the little pool he had called home for so long. And the world beyond was everything that Old Scotch had said it would be – with its wide, open spaces, gentle pace, beautiful scenery and wondrous creatures. But Freddie’s eyes were blinded by death, and so he never saw the promised land he’d sought.

The Creator of All-That-Is looked down upon this scene and a single tear was shed in honor of Freddie and his brave, but seemingly fruitless journey. Then the Creator smiled and turned away, knowing that all was right in this Universe, that Life survived in perfect balance, that Purpose triumphed again, and always.

And far below, in a small park in western New York, in a small pool created by a restless current, a community of fish swam diligently on, made more determined by Freddie’s fate. A lone dragonfly buzzed along the brook humming a song in Freddie’s honor. “Peace, brother Freddie. Peace, my friend.”

The wind rushing through the gorge picked up the song and carried it to the four corners of the Earth for All to share. And so Freddie’s destiny was fulfilled…

— © Lisa R. Palmer, 1996

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