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Friday, May 13, 2011

the man who found the earth

I know that this entry is late, Coffee Lovers. Blogger has been "under maitenance" for three days. But it's back up...without any apparent changes. (Such is the way of the internet, I suppose).

Today, I'm going to break form and tell you all a story:

It was a very long time ago and a place that is very far from here. People still asked questions, knew their neighbors. People still believed things. As I said, it was a long time ago.

And in this place, long and far from here and now, there lived a young man. He lived in a young house, in a small village, with a horse named Terra. And this young man, like many young men, had a question deep in his heart. But, unlike many men his age, he felt things strongly and deeply, like a river in a canyon or the ocean far to the west.

And so the question began to eat away at the young man. Every day he woke with it buzzing in his brain. By noon, it had slumped his shoulders. And by the evening, when mayhap he lay himself to sleep, it pouded on his chest with iron fists, unrelenting. The young man stopped eating, stopped drinking, and rested fitfully.

After a time, his friends grew worried for him. But when they asked him what was the matter, he would only look at them with glazed, haunted eyes and ask: What is the earth? But they did not understand his question, and they did not know how to answer it. So the young man continued to grow thinner, until he was gaunt and ghost-pale.

One day, the young man heard news of a fortune teller that had come to the village. Gathering his strength around him like a cloak, he climbed onto Terra's back and rode to the edge of the town. There he found the fortune teller in an emerald green tent. He crept in quietly. But when the fortune teller saw his thin, drawn face and his dark, misty eyes, the fortune teller shook his head slowly. "I can see you have a question, young man," said the mystic. "But questions such as yours are infectious like diseases. And I will not be infected by such a question." So the young man, with sorrow in his heart, climbed on Terra's back and left the town - casting a long look at his young house and his small, small village.

He resolved to go to Mu, the city where all wise men live. He began to travel north and west, knowing it would take a moon and a day before he made it to the place of the learned. And so for three days and three nights the men rode without food, water, or any thought besides his deep question: What is the earth?

But on the fourth night he saw the flicker of a fire through the trees. The thought of warmth and human kindliness brought a deep longing to the young man, and he steered his horse toward the light. He came upon a ring of green and brown wagons, which ringed a gentle fire. Dancing, twirling, and singing around the fire was a family of gypsies. The man smiled wider and came forward.

The head of the caravan, a large man in purple and black, greeted him with a warm shake of the hand and a promise of food and fine wine. The young man gladly accepted the request and came to sit next to the fire. He was handed a bowl of soup and a heavy wooden cup of drink red as blood. He ate and drank his fill, thanking the gypsy family profusely.

When his supper was finished he sat back contentedly and noticed a gypsy girl sitting next to him. She was small and lithe, with blonde hair and wild, fae eyes. "Hello," he said. She did not respond, but she grinned at him.

She couldn't have been more than ten years old, but he asked her anyway: What is the earth? The girl giggled at the question, as if it was silly and obvious - as if it was a question for a child to ask another child. "It is a song," she said simply. Then she drifted off, singing like a bird and the wind through the leaves.

But the young man did not understand her. He turned, instead, to her younger brother, who sat at his left. What is the earth? The boy said nothing. His wide timid eyes remained fixed on the young man as he stood and danced away, twirling, jumping, and swaying in the late evening breeze.

Irked now, the young man crossed to the other side of the camp and sat next to the old gypsy grandmother - the oldest woman of the family, who was tending to the soup. "It is fine food," he told her. She said nothing, but nodded sharply. "I have a question..." the young man ventured. The woman nodded again, this time slower. What is the earth?

The woman's eyes flicked over his face, closely watching, analyzing, trying to understand. "Food," she said. And then she turned away. Still not understanding, the man stood and sought out the head of the caravan.

The man was tending to the horses, feeding them and patting them softly with his huge hands. What is the earth? The young man asked the question, hoping against hope for a proper response. The leader of the family laughed as he thought about it.

"She must be a mother," the caravan leader decided.

Frustrated and upset, the young man took his horse, Terra, from the caravan leader and rode off into the forests of the night.

Filled with the food, song, and laughter of the gypsy camp, the man rode for the rest of the month and another day toward the north and the east. When he finally reached the city of Mu, the sun was high in the sky and he was tired. But he was determined.

The city of Mu was the city of where all wise men lived. They had two great and ancient universities: The School of Questions and The School of Answers. Picking randomly, the young man went first to The School of Questions. He wandered among students and learned men until he found the deep green robe of the Question Master.

When the great teacher saw him he whistled low under his breath. He was an old and dignified man, who had seen many students and taught many questions. But never had he seen a student who needed an answer as badly as this student did. So when the young man asked his question, What is the earth, the teacher thought long and hard before responding.

"What indeed?" And then he walked away, silent as stone.

The young man, infuriated now, went to the other school and sought out the deep brown robe of the Answer Master. She was a tall, straight-backed woman with long, tumbling raven hair. He ran up to her, and, before even explaining himself, asked: What is the earth?

She did not think long before answering, "It is below the sky."

So the young man, still feeling helpless, left Mu on the back of Terra and rode many long days toward the south. He now had six answers to his question, but no peace in his heart. He rode for moons and moons, until he reached a great mountain. The crags on either side were too dangerous for traveling around and the mountain was steep and high. But the young man rode his horse up the mountain pass anyway.

At the very top of the heighest peak, he found a man sitting in the center of the road. His legs were crossed beneath him. The old, odd little man swayed in a cloud of sweet-smelling smoke and hummed with all the sweetness of roses and sound of bees. The young man was so surprised by the mountain man that he forgot, for a moment, to ask his question. Instead, he asked, "Are you a sage of this peak?"

The little man did not respond.

What is the earth? Something in the young man's voice was so pleading that the sage opened his eyes. "It is the living and the dying and everything in-between," he said. Then the odd, little sage stood and let the young man pass by the road, patting Terra's back as the horse passed.

With seven answers and no peace, the young man continued down the mountain and into a long, open field entirely devoid of people. The swaying grasses were peppered with the occassional tree. The young man, at this point, was half-starved, thirsty, and delirious. So that when he came to the first tree he mistook it for a man and he asked: What is the earth?

The tree did not respond. But the piping of a small bird in its branches and the low, musical whistle of wind through its leaves should have been answer enough. Still, the young man moved on.

When he reached the second tree he asked his question. It sat still for a moment until the wind caught its branches, at which point it twirled and jumped and swayed in the late evening breeze.

By the time he reached the third tree he was desperate for an answer. What is the earth? But the tree simply dropped an apple on his head, which he ate ravenously.

His hunger spelled, weariness took the young man at the fourth tree. He lay at the tree's base and the great roots cradled him, like the arms of a mother do her child.

When he awoke, he walked to the fifth tree. What is the earth? But the tree just stared back quizically. The man walked away muttering, "What indeed? ... What indeed?"

The sixth tree stood perfectly below the sky. It did not answer the question, save with the answer inherent in its being.

The seventh and final tree stretched flowering limbs up to the setting sun. It was ringed with roses and hummed with the business of bees. Upon asking his question, the young man noticed that the life grew out of an old, long dead tree trunk. He moved on.

He came, finally to a stump. He climbed upon it and saw that, at the base of the stump, there lay a great pool. What is the earth! He yelled his question to the stump, to the field, to the pool, to the very earth itself.

And leaning in to hear the answer in the lapping of the water, the young man saw his own, haunted face gazing back at him.

Finally, he knew. For the earth is all things and of all things. The earth is a song, a dance, food, a mother, a question, an answer, and life (which is also death).

So the young man, who was of the earth, smiled and drank of the water.

And he slept long while Terra grazed on the swaying grass.



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