I reminisced of a time long ago when I was only twenty years old.
I was studying English 101 at the University Of British Columbia in the summer of Eighty-Four.
It was at a summer session because I had failed English 101 two years before.
A failure due more to my citizenship in a different realm than to the failings of my intellect, aptitude, or the magnanimity of my core.
“You have such a poignant and evocative writing style,” wrote my teacher on the short story I had submitted the week before.
I had written about a lonely sojourn on a desolate beach in the pregnant moment,
When sunset injures day's abandon and grants night the freedom to roam.
I had written about the mighty North Shore mountains,
Hoary with age and reverberating with an energy ineffable to the mind,
But savored by the soul.
I remembered how exhausting of mind, but above all of the soul, writing that short-story had been.
I tried to reveal my spirit bare and exposed.
I tried to destroy the ramparts and blow open the heavy gates shielding my secretive core.
But through my exhausting efforts, I had only succeeded in weakening the facade between me and the world,
Usually held at arm's length,
But through my story then, only slightly nearer yet still remote.
There is an essence within everyone hidden in a chamber far beneath the veneer that encrusts our core.
We seldom allow it expression beyond just its fractured shadows dancing on an external wall.
But if we all dig deep and reach into this secretive chamber,
We will, to our astonishment, discover we are all reaching into the same chamber,
Not a separate one for each within the all.
And then we will grasp each other's same-hand.
We all share the same soul.
I knew that in the novel of my compulsion I would have to expose this chamber,
Ramparts and heavy gates destroyed once and for all.
And my novel would then cry out from this collective chamber,
And speak for my left and for my right with one voice for all.
It would be the ineffable ground of being reaching out to humanity from the navel of Creation,
Proclaiming the dawn of a Third Age.
It would announce the sunset of the Second Age before this coming dawn.
A moment pregnant with change that will forever be remembered in the annals of the Civilization of Man.
It would herald a paradigm shift far greater than the Renaissance,
Not just an age of reason, but of reason and divinity intertwined as an inseparable whole.
I envision the Third Age to be promoting the two primordial dancers,
The abstract magical, and the other its complementary whole.
To engage in the Dance and thence unshard into the Eternal Garden from whence we all came forth.
They are in Eternity entwined but sharded into the realms of space and time.
They are shards of the divine.
Would composing such a novel be an arduous journey,
Exhausting my body and above all my core?
Would I be as a drowning man,
Gasping for breath,
Kicking and screaming while with futility grasping for shore?
But would every paragraph and page exhaust me,
Yet also leave me yearning for more?
It would I am sure.
This arduous compulsion will also uplift and invigorate me with waves of catharsis and frisson.
And I pray dearly for the same in my reader,
of soul-piercing joy.
If I fail to evoke the same in my audience then I would have failed to breach the ramparts and the gates shielding my innermost chamber,
Our collective soul.
Only within this innermost shared sanctum can I truly touch someone's soul.
And by touching one, I will be touching them all.
The desert is a study of dueling extremes.
The day's heat wrestles night's impending chill,
Yet there is no victor,
The pendulum forever swings.
During a summer's midday the desert smolders like the ashes of a freshly extinguished bonfire.
The air is thick as honey,
And the heat envelopes and coddles your soul,
Yet ravages your flesh.
Your skin must be completely veiled from the burning sun by a thin layer of porous fabric.
Any exposed skin on your face vibrates like the water in a pot just before the boil.
But once the sun sets, the temperature plummets.
Soon the chill of night persecutes the heat of day.
But for a fleeting moment, as day's dominion gives way to night's control,
The two eternal foes become locked in a titanic struggle and neither surrenders.
It is during that ephemeral moment, a semantic space pregnant with transition,
That the desert is neither hot nor cold,
Neither this nor that.
And yet during that fleeting moment, the desert is all those things in one,
Yet not one of those things in all.
Inevitably the chill overpowers desert's heat, and the titanic struggle is no more.
The heat of day becomes legend's lore,
But surely will return once more.
For now, the night chill is unbound and free to roam.
A man not protected from the desert's chill of night can die from extended exposure.
The first symptom is a numbing of his extremities.
His fingers first and then his nose become insensitive to touch.
The mighty desert wind slams against his naked flesh,
And it soon feels more like the burn of fire than the chill of ice.
Such can be the desert at night.
I am roaming the emptiness of the desert.
The moon's rotund fullness hangs in the void of the heavens,
Mid-way to the unseen horizon in the East.
The moon threatens to plummet into the desert floor,
Yet it maintains its oversight above its dominion.
The dulcet tones of the moon's milky-white soothe me,
But it is not my body they charm,
They pierce the ramparts to an unfathomable chamber in the bedrock of my soul.
And I feel a joy not confined to the borders of my flesh.
It is a joy emanating from deep within me,
And yet it belongs to us all.
And then I ask: Why is it that the sun's strong light exposes my body,
Yet the moon's milky-white exposes my soul?
I am peeking between two almost kissing cliffs.
I still my mind and then I see the snail's pace of the moon,
As it peeks at me behind the West cliff on its mission across the sky.
Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the moon's sliver advances past the cliff's edge,
And widens until it once more appears in all its rotund glory,
As it falls to the other side.
When the moon's edge reaches the other cliff it hides again,
Until once more I only see its thin sliver,
And then it is beyond my sight.
When the moon reveals this subtle dance to mine own eyes,
I feel an intimacy with it that no book can offer,
No teacher can teach.
On this night, the crescent moon floods the recesses of my soul with its pale milky glow,
And a mystical silence envelops the desert's void.
On other nights, in other places, the silence would be dulled by a crying baby,
while her mother sings a lullaby,
Or in the desert by the plaintive shriek of an anonymous wind,
As it hurtles across the desert floor,
To lands beyond horizon's reach.
But on this night, the silence is absolute,
And it comforts me like a blanket comforts a child.