Travelling

On my journey...

On my journey I found a Wise Man called Gordon criticising Sallie, a Sprite. I heard him say her metaphors and memories could not be true, because they were discontinuous and not coherent with each other. As I walked further there came a vision of the earth buckling and great tectonic plates rising one over the other. Observing again I saw I was on the ice shelf, and the ice was breaking up. At once I saw that the essence of the Sprite's magic is the discontinuity. Only in-coherence allows me to tell a true tale.

The Traveller

Theology is mostly fiction......
but then, isn't seeing any of the earth
the telling of a story?

Pilgrim..... what story will you tell?
which tale will be your guide
and your sustenance through long nights
round small fires?

Leave the centre of life's plateau
where evil comes on its own terms.
Go out to the edges and live.
Depart from the prison of insecure certainty....
Leave the lie
Travel across the breaking ice
Seek a God
Make a story.

I was lost in a white waste land.
My fictions dissolved around me
I froze,
Lost on a breaking sheet, thin underfoot.
But I could feel the ice move
and after a time
I could see edges again.

Theology is mostly fiction...
but, I thought,
"Stark on ice perhaps I will be exposed to whatever is.
There will be no hiding behind pastel landscapes;
no safe deceptions."
I want this.
I have always felt the ice moving.

Theology is mostly fiction...
yet it gives me edges
as it dares explore grinding ice.

A little boy who began a journey. He never felt he had wanted the journey, it simply came to him. It began after one Christmas dinner when his Mother found him standing between the dining room table and the serving hatch from the kitchen, sadly staring into the remains of the green jellied peaches. She asked if something were wrong. "Is this all there is to Christmas? I thought there would be more." And he knew, before he knew, that he would have to travel.

The boy grew up in a country house midway between City and Desert. It was the wisdom of the place to grow up and travel to the city. But he felt the pull of the land, and especially the desert. Although he went inevitably to the city, the desert pursued him. Thus he began the journey into the north, deep into the deserts.

Desert travel is the constant search for water, vitiated by endless, aching thirst. The traveller sought true and lasting water, so that he would be free to rest in the beauty of the land, unafraid. He desired that water, and yet feared it.

There were a multiplicity of paths in the desert. He sought to follow many, seeking The Water at their source. He was let unsatisfied by bitter springs, dry sands, and fraudulent mirages. There was good water to be found, but his Christmas gift always drove him away and on, and he would always thirst again.

He once fought his way down a vegetation choked gully, scratched, sweaty, and tired. Joining another gully, one with flowing water, he chanced upon an overhanging ledge. There was a clear fall of water, enough to stand under and be washed and refreshed. The traveller hesitated, wondering what danger might fall upon him from above, even in this small stream. He edged under the stream, almost recoiling from the icy shock. And saw a woman of the greatest beauty in the mist of the now enormous falls. He desired her and loved her at sight, and resolved to follow her wherever she led him.

Following the woman, the traveller found he was on new, untravelled paths. Sometimes, for a distance, they would coincide with some of the old Dreaming Paths. Crossing over these old stories reassured him he was not in uncharted wasteland, for he was mostly alone in his travels. Except for the woman.

He desired her. He would glimpse her bathing in the rock-holes, or the sea on the wild coasts. Her presence hinted at the deepest of joyful love, but she always eluded him, and was barely in sight. And she drew him into danger.

At one time he stayed with the people of the land, waiting for her to appear again. As he searched for her across their wide plains, a wild scrub bull charged down in anger upon him. It fell to one of his small bullets right at his feet, leaving him dizzy and sick from fear. He told the men of the land where to find the meat, but the great beast had gone when they arrived to feast on it. He knew it was still roaming, perhaps waiting for him.

There were wise men in the land, and sprites. The First Wise Man, goatee'd and wearing Swiss climbing socks, introduced him to a Sacred Text, Forever True. He swallowed the text whole, and they fed a hunger. But the text was alien to the land. The formulae of the sacred text led the Traveller away from water, and he lost sight of the woman for many months.

Wandering lost, and living on the memory of water, wondering if the woman had ever been, he was met by a tiny sprite wearing knee high boots. She worked a curious magic of the mind and showed him a bag on his back. In the bag was memory. It seemed of little consequence, and scarcely there. Yet it was filled with power. Pieces of invisible memory would flare into life, pushing painful and hard upon the small of his back.

"If you empty the bag," he heard the sprite say, "you will find the woman again." "How do I empty the bag?" But she refused to say another word, and disappeared.

The bag was a thing of excitement. Memory- his own and other memory- flooded out. But with the flood and excitement came agony, pain, and a draining, never ending tiredness. He began to feel she had not shown him a bag which was his, but had placed it upon him as a curse. He would almost have preferred the time when he had been unconscious of its presence.

Driven by the bag, he roamed the desert. Indeed there were glimpses of the woman, and occasional temporary oases. But the journey seemed to be evolving into a search without even the hope of an ending.

He risked one day the crossing of a miles wide bay of Driest Desert between two sailing ridges, aiming for a distant headland of mountains. It was a day of perishing heat. He expected to find water at the headland, but instead found an unsuspected valley gashing northwards into the ranges. There were more hot miles, to walk to the safety of yet another distant, and even higher headland.

In the middle of this harsh flat valley, was one great, high tree. He took the slightest dog-leg of a course, intending to pause a while in its shade. Beneath he found a grave. He read the stone and knew then where he was. The people of the land had told him of the place. It was the grave of a small girl. It happened she was his tribal sister. And her grave is at the entrance of the Valley Of The Dead.

He continued across the face of the valley up into a sheer sided, dead end gorge. And heard finches. High on the shoulder of the ridge, overlooking the Valley Of The Dead, was a pool of clear water.

A Wise One, strangely familiar, was waiting at the pool. "Take the memory from your bag. See it as Gift, ALL of it. Eat the memory." He ate and drank.

On the far side of the headland, a long tree-filled valley gently sloped away from him. It was well watered country. He saw the slender echo of the woman moving among the trees.

And so the traveller came closer to her than he had ever been. She was a scarred figure, shrouded in sadness. The quickly thrust down suspicions and fears he had felt on other occasions were bitterly confirmed. Pain and sorrow hung around her. It seemed that after so long a time of journey she was not salvation to him at all, but was herself of the Driest Desert.

He still followed her; for hope of a better water; and for the sake of passion. In all the aridity around them as they travelled, she offered him passion which was real, even though bitter.

He had once stood on a remote and barren escarpment, with un-climbable rotten rock falling to a new landscape below. A sprite had told him that by leaving behind the sacred texts and formulae, he could climb down and find water- and the woman. He had hesitated a long time, for fear of falling. And indeed the way down had been hard.

Now the woman, whom he still followed, determinedly faithful, led him to another such escarpment. Standing below on the plain he could see it would never be climbed. There was no way round.

"We cannot cross here," he told her. "There is no Way. Some parts of reality are solid."

"The world is only as solid as you imagine it," she replied.

Ever weary, he answered, "I have imagined too long, and too deeply. You have brought me too far. I have begun to enter reality itself." He looked at the rocks raised above them. "The reality is that you are not the joy and intimacy and safety I once imagined. You are scarred, and scarring. You are pain and sorrow. My first love was a lie. I cannot leave you. I must content myself with a sombre passion and a tainted joy."

The woman walked on towards the ridge, following the creek which ran out from the cliffs. At its end was a wide pool in which she stood, removing her clothes. "If you will swim through here in these waters of seeing, we will both be changed."

At the first escarpment he had feared falling. Here he feared what might lurk below him in the water. "This is trickery. How can we be changed. We are against real rock."

"You have travelled well, brother of mine. You have come to real rock, and you see the scars in us both- and the pain. Yet swim after me. We will not desert real rock for foolishness and castles in the sand. The narrow gorges through real rock allow us to see reality from another side. This is more of the true water we have always sought.

She swam away from him to the crack of gorge which he found he knew did in fact, lead through real rock to another landscape. He stood watching and felt the ice move beneath him. A hairline appeared in the floe before his feet, and slowly drifted a few inches away from the rock pool. He looked behind, and saw that all the red desert was drifting pack. Another woman would be there... somewhere, over to the south on some other distant floes, yet....

He turned and dived easily across the womb water of the sea into the rock pool, and began to swim after her. She faced him briefly before turning and disappearing into the gorge. Already she seemed less haggard, and he felt less tired. He began the long swim through to another side of the rock with new hope.


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