Sunday, January 27, 2008

letters to The Sun (part two)

Those who know me well enough will understand why this has meaning for me...

The most severe panic attacks I've ever had all occurred in airports. The panic would be triggered by feeling trapped in the fluorescent-lit concourses crammed with rushing people. The worst was Chicago's O'Hare, where the crowded tunnel between concourses was outfitted with flashing neon lights and piped-in hustle-bustle music designed to get everyone through as fast as possible. For me the sensory overload was so great that more than once I clung to the tunnel wall, shut my eyes, and felt my way from one end to the other, crying and praying the entire way.

My panic disorder was at its zenith in the summer of 1976, when I'd survived a protracted and brutal divorce and was faced with raising two young children alone. There was one bright light in my life: I was in love with a man I'd met in my therapy group. But then, at summer's end, he got a job more than a thousand miles away, in Denver, Colorado.

I was determined to fly out and visit him, even though it meant changing planes at O'Hare. A friend rationalized that I had an invisible handicap and needed a visible one instead, so that the airline employees would help me. She lent me a pair of crutches and told me to wrap my leg in an Ace bandage and say that I had a broken ankle.

Another friend, who lived in Chicago, agreed to meet me when I arrived at O'Hare. I got off the plane to find my friend waiting for me, along with an airport employee who had orders to put me in a wheelchair and take me to the gate for my next departure. My friend insisted we have a drink first, so the employee wheeled me over to the nearest airport lounge and said he'd be back to get me in half an hour.

After a few drinks it suddenly dawned on us that he'd forgotten me, and my plane was due to depart in two minutes. My friend yanked me out of the wheelchair, and I put the crutches under my arm and ran down the concourse. When I got to the gate, the doors of the plane were closing, but the crew took pity on me and let me squeeze on.

The man I was flying to see has been my husband for nearly thirty years. Together we have traveled the world.

- Ciel Bottomly
Montrose, Colorado

For me, it's always been malls. Not that I ever go to malls...maybe once or twice a year at most. But something about them freaks me the fuck out. The panic disorder doesn't limit its manifestation to malls, unfortunately; that would completely kick ass because I hate malls to begin with. But for whatever reason, that locale cranks the internal weirdness behind the disorder up to eleven, much as the airport does (or did) for Ms. Bottomly.

In addition to relating to this letter on that level, though, I also really love it because it brings to light one of the most notable idiosyncrasies of panic disorder...or maybe just one that I share with the author, anyway. But even when panic symptoms are at their worst, they are always trumped by any unexpected urgency of reality. If anything legitimately important were to suddenly arise - car accident, news of a loved one needing assistance, etc. - panic symptoms...POOF!...cease to be. Which says a lot about the disorder, I think. Not that it makes it any less real or upsetting for the person experiencing it.

And it makes me wonder why therapists don't recognize this phenomenon and base some type of exercise around it. (Or maybe some do and I just haven't heard of them.) In my experience, there are two or three types of therapy for the person who suffers from a panic or anxiety disorder. First: drugs. Obviously. Because that's the first line of defense for any mental or physical ailment these days. There are drugs to take on an ongoing basis to prevent the unpleasantness, and drugs that can be taken in response to (or, as the neocons might prefer, as a preemptive strike) an "episode." Second: exercises - usually involving breathing patterns, physical activity, or thought processes that encourage the examination of the symptoms as they happen - designed to help one "get through" such an "episode." Third: variations on some form of ongoing cognitive therapy as a means of overcoming the disorder.

I'm not going to go into the various theories I have about why anxiety/panic disorders have become so common in America...mostly because I'm still trying to craft them into something more measurable or verifiable than just theories. But I wonder how universal this is amongst my panicky peers...that an immediate, unexpected, usually-physically bona fide emergency will squash panic symptoms like a fucking grape. If there's anyone out there who happens to be reading this and can comment from the perspective of a sufferererer...I'd love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, I think I'm gonna dink around in my laboratory with this idea and see if I can...I dunno. See what happens, I guess. Can't hurt, right...?

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, January 26, 2008

letters to The Sun (part one)

"You Could Make a Killing," Aimee Mann

There is nothing that competes with habit
And I know it's neither deep nor tragic
It's simply that you have to have it
So you can make a killing

I wish I was both young and stupid
Then I too could have the fun that you did
Till it was time to pony up what you bid
So you could make a killing

I could follow you and search the rubble
Or stay right here and save myself some trouble
Or try to keep myself from seeing double
Or I could make a killing

I've experienced what it's like from both perspectives now regarding the story that follows. It's not easy to be on either side of this scenario. But it's especially pathetic for the party who's old enough to know better...old enough to be capable of an adult's self-awareness, yet too self-centered to care who gets hurt or why the behavior is upsetting to those who might express love and concern...

At the age of thirteen I walked through JFK International Airport holding tightly to my mother's hand; my younger sister walked on her other side, clutching her favorite stuffed animal. Our mother wore a print dress that showed off her figure, beaded necklaces around her neck, and a knit cap that covered her red hair. Though her clothes hadn't changed since her flower-child days, the lines on her face betrayed the intervening years of hard living.

My sister and I were headed to California to live with our grandparents. Everyone had agreed it was for the best. I was even looking forward to life in my grandparents' tidy house, where dinner was always on the table at six and making the rent was never an issue. At the same time, I clung to the hope that our mother would come with us to California; that, in the end, she wouldn't be able to let us go.

But when the three of us came to the security check, my mother stopped in her tracks.

"I can't go through," she said.

I knew what the problem was. "Don't worry, they're only looking for metal."

She refused to budge. I wasn't going to let airport security ruin the chance that she might come with us. "I'll take it through," I told her.

We went into a stall in the women's restroom, and my mother passed me a small bag filled with white powder. I tucked it into the waistband of my jeans and smoothed out my shirt to conceal the bump. My mother looked anxious. "We can't," she said. She was afraid that a belt buckle or something would set off the metal detector, and they'd have to search us. "You don't know what they'd do to us if they found it." She took back the packet of powder.

"Why don't you just throw it away?" I pleaded. I had never made a request like this before, probably because I knew the choice she would make.

Our mother cried as she was separated from us at security, holding tight to the purse that contained her stash. When my sister and I passed through the metal detector, it didn't make a sound.

- Name Withheld

Labels: , , ,

callous Dallas

Here's a story that's distressing/depressing on a number of different levels...

After complaints, Dallas shelter ensures humane handling of dogs

So while San Antonio is on a two-year mission to become a no-kill city, its more "cultured" and well-known neighbor to the north has taken this approach to animal services. Not exactly progressive or compassionate, to say the least. But then those aren't qualities widely respected in our fair burg. I'd say it's also a decent representation of the priorities of our city leaders. As a whole, they're completely consumed with all things shiny and new...anything they feel will bolster our appearance of cosmopolitan culture. Any initiative to address the well-being, health, happiness and financial interests of average constituents - let alone a bunch of fucking animals, for crying out loud - isn't even an afterthought. It's simply not a consideration to begin with.

Where do we even begin addressing this city's shallow indifference in general? Its policies toward taking care of the less fortunate...humans and non-human animals alike...?

My sister has worked for the Dallas Zoo for most of her adult life. I respect what she does and I respect much of the work that zoos in general perform. I do think they perform a valuable service as a whole. I've always thought of zoos as being much more than just entertainment facilities, at least to those who visit in search of more than entertainment. They provide education, important research in terms of study and behavior, and in some cases they can be essential in the fight to preserve species.

Having said all that, though, I must also admit to having a few misgivings about zoos and the function they sometimes find themselves serving to the general public. There was a picture on the last page of the November issue of The Sun that not only crystallized my misgivings, but just frankly broke my heart. The image was taken by an absolute genius of photography by the name of John Rosenthal. I hope he doesn't mind my sharing it here...

Speaking (yet again) about the greatness of The Sun, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite "sunbeams" from the tail end of that same November issue. For those of you who know me, you know the last thing I ever attempt to do is convert anyone to anything...and I'm not doing that here. I just enjoy the following comments not only because they speak to me and some of my sentiments, but also simply because I think they're worth consideration. For all of us.

It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars, and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons. - Douglas Adams

There's a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig - an animal easily as intelligent as a dog - that becomes the Christmas ham. - Michael Pollan

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men. - Alice Walker

Humans - who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals - have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and "animals" is essential if we are to bend them to our will, wear them, eat them - without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. - Carl Sagan (one of my all-time heroes)

And my favorite - a comment that concisely expresses my general outlook on daily living...for better and worse...

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight. - Albert Schweitzer

Yes, please...think. Consider. At least occasionally.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

to paraphrase one of my favorite philosophers...

..."I like stuff that's cool. I don't like stuff that sucks." (Or something to that effect.)

Thank you, Butt-Head. Your genius kicked ass.

So other than continuing to fight through this cold or infection or whatever it is I've had since Christmas Eve, I pretty much have a big bag of nothing today. Except, perhaps, just a few bits of mostly useless information to pass along to anyone who may care.

Firstly, if you find yourself needing a watch or some jewelry repaired (or needing to buy a watch or some jewelry), you must go see these folks. I've visited them a few times, really just because they're located close to where I work. But they are so ridiculously nice and helpful...they just rock. I had to take my little chain bracelet to them last week to see if they could replace a pin that had fallen out. The owner pretty much dropped what he was doing, fixed it right then and there, and then charged me a dollar for the job. "Um, are you sure about that?" "Sure, I'm sure. You might need to come back for something else sometime down the road." And he's right, of course, seeing as how I'd been there a few times before.

I just love dealing with decent, nice people. Especially as a break from my employers who, for the most part, are anything but decent, nice people. These particular decent, nice people don't have a website - they're pretty old school and a small operation. But here's their info, should you find yourself in need of such services. A free plug to the millions of faithful acs readers is the least I can do to show my gratitude...

Classic Custom Jewelry
1780 Northwest Highway

Garland, Texas 75041


So there's that.

Secondly, my sister sent me some cute pics of a couple animals she found herself working with today at the zoo. Sez she...

"The bird is a eurasian eagle owl. The other is a prehensile tailed porcupine. Both very sweet."

For your edification, here are the aforementioned sweet critters...

In addition to enjoying my interactions with decent, nice people, I also thoroughly enjoy my interactions with most non-human critters...decent, nice or otherwise. And I've always had a thing for porcupines. I'm sure I probably just relate to them because of the obvious I gather many folks see me as wearing a prickly, defensive shell whether predation is a possibility or not, when in fact I'm a pretty damn decent, nice and non-threatening dude on the inside. Plus, porcupines are just fucking cute.

You know, I've yet to see an animal - any animal - that I don't find cute and/or inviting in one way or another. I should probably try and analyze that and how it compares with my attitudes toward human critters in general. But I'm a bit too loopy from the TheraFlu to do so now. Maybe later.

Happy Sunday, fellow earthlings...

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 14, 2008

the sweet smell of success

One thing Merritt Martin and I have in common - well, aside from enthusiasm for her kickin' robot dance abilities - is a love of song lyrics horribly misinterpreted. One of my all-time favorites is one I think I provided to her blog...possibly my own, I can't remember. But it was my directing attention to the fact that for much of the song, rather than singing "Eyes Without a Face," it totally sounds like Billy Idol is singing "I'll Supply the Fish." Nobody else to my knowledge has ever seconded this notion, but I'm telling you...just listen.

Then a few weeks ago, I was listening to Black Sabbath's "A National Acrobat." One particular line - keep in mind, please, this was written in the mid-70s - is, "I crept inside my embryonic cell." However, Ozzy was at his most nasally back then and, as the song was functioning as background music for the hell that is my workplace, I heard, "I crapped inside my embryonic cell." Which may possibly change the entire meaning of the song, except for the fact that all the Sabbath guys were so droned out on acid back then there was probably no real identifiable meaning to begin with.

But then today I had a delightful flashback to what is without a doubt my greatest lyric misinterpretation ever. I've been a vegetarian for almost twenty years, but it's rare when the smell of some type of meat really grosses me out; I usually just recognize the aroma as something I know I ain't eatin' with the other folks. But every once in a while, a whiff of something will hit me like a brick wall and I'll damn near fall backward, it's so gross. As you might guess, today featured one of those moments. I still have no idea what was being served...just that it smelled fucking nasty. Just greasy and ooky and...just picture my facial expression whenever I see Ann Coulter and that will give you a clue to the look I'm sporting right now just thinking about it. My first response to the unwelcome and very unexpected aroma of fleshy gruel was a sarcastic, "Mmmm...carcass."

Taking that ball and running with it the way my mind usually does, I was immediately humming an old Siouxsie and the Banshees nugget called, yes, "Carcass." It's a great, rockin' little ditty from their debut record when they were Sex Pistols wannabes, and the chorus was, as best I can remember...

Be a carcass
Be a dead...(something)

Limblessly in love...

I don't claim to have ever understood what "limblessly in love" could possibly mean. But the line my brain invented for me, before I saw it on a lyric sheet years later:

Let me smell your love...

As with all bungled lyrics, the incorrect ones are always by far superior. But I swear this gem o' mine stands out, I think (and with all humility), as quite possibly the greatest misheard lyric ever.

Be a carcass...
Let me smell your love...

If I'd been exposed to Siouxsie and the Banshees just four years earlier, I guarantee that would have been on the inside of every compulsory Valentine's Day card I exchanged with my sixth grade classmates. Hell, if I ever get married, I may write the shit into my vows. Silly, romantic fool that I am...

The theme of odoriferousness among the three examples above was purely unintentional, I promise. Like many moments of genius in one's life, it was just a happy, smelly accident. And I just had to share. Because I am a giver, after all...

Happy early Valentine's Day, all. Let me smell your love.


Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 12, 2008

treason is the reason for my poison...

There are a few apologies I owe to some really talented artists from around these parts. I had taken to filming local performances with the hopes of giving the footage to the artists (and to my pal, Cindy) so they could use them for promotional purposes. Some of them had no idea I had filmed their performances in the first place, such as Sean Kirkpatrick, Pleasant Grove, and the Baptist Generals.

Others, though, like Daniel Folmer and Kristy Kruger, did know I'd filmed their sets and were looking forward to the video I'd promised them. And I was looking quite forward to coming through for them.

Worst of all is the couple hours worth of interview footage of a friend, Monique, who is not only a wonderful person, but also a really amazing artist.

But, unfortunately, it wasn't my camera being used, and the person who would have been doing all the time-consuming work of downloading and editing the footage ended up flaking out spectacularly. I have no idea whether the film I shot was decent - or even if it had sound, for that matter (as I'd pulled that one out of my technotarded ass at least once previously) - but it would have been nice to find out. At any rate, to Daniel, Kristy and Monique...please accept my apologies.

Maybe some day I’ll get my own video camera and learn how to do the shit myself. However, given my inability to grasp even the most basic technology, the chances prolly aren’t real good.

I used to wonder if a person's character and motives could be separated. I'm sure most people, depending on the circumstances, can have selfish motives at times. Likewise, I'm sure most people don't have selfish motives all the time. But I think I am starting to learn that situational motives can be a pretty good indicator of character across the board. That if someone who is ordinarily an attention/accolade/limelight whore suddenly becomes interested in an endeavor for which there is no personal, material reward...chances are that person has other, less sincere motivations for becoming involved in the project. I've encountered people like that in the past and they're usually pretty easy to spot.

I don't know if a selfish motivation in one instance necessarily equals a selfish character in all instances. I can't imagine most people are that one-dimensional. Life is made up of varying shades of gray; it's never as easy to label something or someone as "black" or "white" as it should be. But I do think a person's motives in certain cases can definitely be a warning sign of trouble ahead.

I guess that's one of the lessons I can take from this situation: proceed with caution and then pay special attention to how things proceed. If altruism and a generous spirit aren't normally traits you associate with, associate, then chances are you probably won't be witnessing those characteristics any time in the near future.

In the wild, many of the flashiest, most brightly colored creatures are often times both a lure for the unsuspecting and a mask for the poison they're capable of producing. Then there are other critters - even plants like the Venus Flytrap - who appear benevolent and humbly subservient as a pretext to their instinctive intent: to ensnare and/or devour their victims with parasitic - if not predatory - behavior. The latter are much more difficult to identify for obvious reasons. I'm a firm believer that humans aren't nearly as removed from our less-domesticated animal neighbors as we'd like to think we are.

I don't think I'm oversimplifying, but I think there's a strong case to be made for the idea that if you can't trust a person in one situation or with regard to one subject, you probably shouldn't assume you can trust that same person in any situation...with regard to any subject. You are what you are; I am what I am. Or at least that's probably the safest approach to take with most people until proven otherwise. And while that sounds overly cynical, I'm not trying to suggest that people are guilty until proven innocent. But I am suggesting that, for the most part, you cannot turn honesty on and off...that sincerity is not a situational behavior when dealing with folks who are important to you...that trustworthiness is a defining characteristic of a person and can be established quite early, so long as you pay attention to what you observe.

I also think you can tell a lot about what's important to a person by seeing who he or she chooses to have as friends. I've always loved the fact that, if you were to put all my really good friends in one room together, it would look like a bunch of random people standing in line at the DMV; they have absolutely nothing in common with one another on the surface...not personality type or appearance or politics or hobbies...nothing. The one thing they do all have in common: they're good (by my definition) people. I can trust my life with any of them and vice versa. They're honest and sincere, they don't have questionable motives, they have their own moral compasses and follow them faithfully (whether I share those morals is immaterial)...they give me every reason to believe in them and I know they believe in me because we each are open books to one another.

And I guess that's all I want to say about that.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 07, 2008

spitting on scorched earth

Is there anything cooler than making a big, dramatic every piece of your mind within reach, then slamming the door and storming off into the sunset...only to realize you forgot to mention the very point you were trying to make in the first place?

Of course not. That's why I did it.

I feel like I just gathered all my righteous indignation and stomped out of the room (somewhat) triumphantly, only to leave my car keys behind...

Dammit. I can't even put someone in his or her place without fucking it up by doing something retarded. So all I can do - because I don't have the restraint or common sense to leave well-enough alone - is at least try to save face with myself here. And so, for the sake of posterity, my own sense of completion, and perhaps just to throw it out there for the universe to do with as it chooses...the following is a scene from a particular movie that hit me suddenly yesterday as the perfect analogy for this completely baffling and disheartening experience. Nutshell in hand, I had to cut my losses and choose to move on.

It's also sadly appropriate on so many different levels that I find the music of the Kirkwood brothers playing constantly in my head right now....


Maybe I've been wasted,
And maybe I'm confused,
But mostly, it just seems like a whole lot to lose...
In such a small time

I tried to find just a small clip of the scene from the aforementioned movie that sums up the experience. The best I could do was this presumably homemade video (music not of my choosing). It'll have to do...


Once, it seemed to be the way things are...
Now it seems the way that it will be.
It's happening to me...

Once, we used to love and lose our minds...
Now it seems the tables have been turned.
My head is losing me...

Once, we used to spit into the wind's coming back to me.
We used to spit into the wind's coming back to me.

I hope I'm wrong about what I see happening. But I get a sick feeling I'm not. I just hope someone has already gotten some good pictures of how things are right now, because if I am's all downhill from here.

Choices have consequences. I've made some really reckless, really stupid choices lately, myself. I was lucky. Or, more likely, just happened to have a chemical or two in my system that prevented me from destroying everything I hold dear. Other folks don't have that kind of luck or chemistry. For them, those same reckless and stupid choices can very easily ruin a life. I sincerely hope that's not how this experience plays out...

But ultimately, each of us is responsible for the choices we make. A clear mind can more easily make healthier decisions. A troubled mind has far greater challenges than most people realize. But a troubled mind has choices, nevertheless. And living with the wrong choice can be the most difficult challenge of all.

Take a picture of your life right now. It may be all you have left to show for your troubles down the road...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

my accidental jihad

That's actually the title of a really great story in the October issue of The Sun magazine by one of its staff members, Krista Bremer. A story, in fact, that has me quite intrigued with the concept behind Ramadan. However, it's the poem preceding "My Accidental Jihad" that I'm posting here. I just used the title because it's kinda fitting for me entering the new calendar year. 2007 really wasn't all that bad as a whole. My grandmother's passing in April was my first real brush with some measurable level of grief. But along came December to kick me hard in the crotch. Twice, case I wasn't paying enough attention the first time. At any rate, it's become clear that I need to make some changes - even if they're temporary - in the upcoming year. For whatever reason, this poem spoke to me...all past, present and future considerations taken.

I had to consult with some friends to help me make sense of my life's unscheduled vacation to the crapper...what did it mean, what did I do wrong, what could I have done differently, etc. The friends I normally count on for support and advice - Wendy, Cindy, Jan, Amber, some of my fellow aminal enthusiasts - were their usual helpful and insightful selves...the first three in particular. But it was another good friend, Elena, who gave me what may have been the most thought-provoking suggestions. And in the midst of all that, I came across this absolutely stunning, thoroughly beautiful poem.

I'm posting it simply because...well, it kinda blew my mind. Aside from being completely timely with regard to my recent unhappiness, it just's hard to explain. Suffice it to say that it's been a long time since I've read anything that made me feel so personally encouraged about my own life while also reminding me I've only begun to scratch the surface of the parts of my mind that have been itching as of late. It's cool if you don't have the same interpretations, though...I'm sure you'll find it a great story for your own reasons.

Whenever I reprint something from The Sun I try to get the author's permission, but I can't see where to go about doing that in this case. So I'll just detail all the info listed in the magazine and hope that it will suffice. The author seems like a pretty good humored guy...and I can't imagine a Rumi enthusiast would also be a lawsuit enthusiast. Particularly, since I'm just some dude with a blog nobody reads. But I like to give as much credit as possible where it's due, and it will follow here in a second. The poem is rather long, as you'll see (Wendy, you've prolly already seen this one). But I have kick-ass typing skills, which is nice when you're as verbose with your written communication habits as I am. And,'s worth it. Sez me.

(Coleman Barks has collaborated with scholars for thirty-one years to translate the poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi into American free verse. He has published nineteen volumes of Rumi's work, which have sold more than three quarters of a million copies, as well as six volumes of his own poetry. He taught American literature and creative writing at various universities for thirty-four years and is now a retired professor emeritus at the University of Georgia. He lives in Athens, Georgia, close to his two sons and four grandchildren.

("Song of the Swordsmith" is part of a longer poem, "Central Asian Sufis and the Nature of the Heart," which appears in Coleman Barks's Scrapwood Man [Maypop Books]. Copyright 2007 by Coleman Barks.)

"Song of the Swordsmith"
by Coleman Barks

There is a swordsmith
in a valley in eastern Afghanistan.

When there is no war, he forges
steel plows, and he shoes horses,
but he is most known for his singing.

People come from all over to listen to him,
from the forests of the giant walnut trees,
from Qataghan and Badakshan,
from the snowbound Hindu Kush,
from Khanabad and Kunat,
from Herat and Paghman.

Mostly they come to hear one song
about the far valley of paradise.

This particular song has a haunting lilt
and the ability to make those who hear
feel that they are in that place,
the paradisal valley.

Someone always asks when he finishes,
Is that a real place?

It is as real as real can be,
is always his answer.

Have you been there?

Not in the ordinary way of traveling.

The singer loves Aisha,
a young woman in the valley.

But she doubts that there is
such a place as the one he sings of,
and so does his rival for her love,
Hasan, a swordsman of great strength
and agility. He has full confidence
that he will eventually win Aisha.

He makes fun of the swordsmith-singer
whenever he can. One day the villagers
are sitting inside the blessed quiet
that happens after that song.

Hasan says, Why don't you follow
the blue haze that rises there
from the mountains of Sangan,
and actually
go to the place you sing about?

I feel it would not be right.

Well, that is a convenient feeling.
It keeps you from being revealed
as a fraud and a sentimental dreamer.

I propose a test to decide
several things at once.

You love Aisha,
but she does not believe
in your valley.

You two could never be married
in such a discord of trust.

The swordsmith replies,
You expect me then
to set out for the valley and return
with proof of its existence?

Yes! call out Hasan
and the crowd together.

I will make this trip then,
but will Aisha promise to marry me
if I return successfully?

I will, says Aisha quietly.

He collects dried mulberries
and scraps of bread in a sack
and starts on the journey.

His way is always up. He climbs
until he comes to a sheer wall
blocking the way. He scales that,
and there is another, another,
five walls in all.

On the other side of the last wall
he finds himself in a valley
like his own.

People come out of their houses
to welcome him.

It is so weirdly strange, this experience
of the swordsmith-singer.

Months later he walks back into
the valley he started out from,
an old man limping to his hut.

Word spreads that he has returned.
Hasan is spokesman for the crowd that comes.
He calls the singer to the window.

They gasp at how old he has become.

Did you find the valley?

I did.

What was it like?

He is quiet for a while
in the weariness and confusion,
in the difficulty of saying
where he went, where he is now,
and what has happened.

I climbed until it seemed like
no human habitation could be so high.
But there was, a valley identical to this one.

And the people there are not only
us, they
are us. Hasan, Aisha, myself,
you, you, everyone is there
in his or her original form.

We are the shadowy copies.

Everyone turns and walks away,
convinced that the singer has gone mad
in his solitary search.

Aisha marries Hasan.
The singer rapidly grows old and dies.

The people who heard the story
as he told it also soon grow old.
They lose interest in their lives.

They feel some huge event is about to occur,
one they have no control over.
Vital energy drains away.

Once in a thousand years
such a secret is revealed
to someone like the singer-swordsmith.

But no one yet
has quite been able to take in
the truth that we are two selves,
this one and one more real
that lives in the valley
a certain song makes us long for.

That we are that being
as well as this more familiar one,
who is dubious, confused, reckless, and sad,
whose sadness is a little solved
when we hear the song
that makes us remember essence.

A friend says,
is another world,
and this is it.

That the two valleys are one
living being
cannot be said in language.

That we already
are the perfected one
cannot be spoken of.

But it can be
felt inside,
as the moment itself,

and as the whole outdoors,
the whole-around-us,
that veiny animule.

That is the heart,
where we take our walks.