27 February 2013

Taking Fire

Winter light of lapis and polished sterling flooded the room through the paired windows. The stone around the openings flared outward into the room, magnifying the illumination to make the infirmary cell much brighter than Rāhula would have imagined. He was grateful, prayers of thanks going up every morning when the sun slipped into his room.

The old monk lay still, his eyes tracking the progress of snow finches across the flagstone patio outside the window. His bed had been pushed close to the window to afford a view out. The weight of the blankets and bandages served as warm anchors. But it was the pain in his skin that acted as biggest shackle. Rāhula's eyes twitched in time with the hopping birds, his racing mind considering that the pain was simply another attachment. The task, he thought, was to consume the horrible ache before it consumed him.

The smell of gasoline lingered as a phantom haunt in his nostrils. Blinding sunlight and the horrified screams of passers-by kaleidoscoped across his memory. He gritted his teeth. Tears surged, searing his dry eyes. Rapid blinks cleared his vision. The snow finches snapped into sharp focus.

Rāhula smiled, a reflex action at odds with his will, but felt good. Watching the finches peck at the black scatterings of nyjer seeds on the snow, Rāhula decided then that he would never again set himself afire for anyone. Not the government, not the news, not even himself.

06 February 2013

Traveller's Blues

...Blue, blue, electric blue...that's the colour of my room...

...Off we go into the wild blue yonder...

...Remember watching while your lightning blue eyes reflected sunrise...

Blues. Blues. I got the blues. Not a 'down-in-the-dumps' sort of blues. No, no, this is more a hankering, yearning kind of blues. Traveling blues, you might say. And it is not my fault. The precipitation of this state of mind I can lay squarely on the (digital) shoulders of the illustrious Braja...and for good reason. Because of something she did, I find I want to travel the world.

Travel the world and take pictures, that is. All because of a picture she posted, that shows the color blue. Not just any blue. A vibrant blue that made me ache to want to lay eyes on it in person. I don't have a link to it here, because the picture was taken by another person and posted on Facebook, and for some reason I did not feel right to copy paste it from another person's media feed. Silly, perhaps, but there you have it.

Anyway, the picture shows a blue she christened India blue, and I can believe it. Blue is my favorite color, hands down, so it is no surprise I found the image attractive. Yet, this picture transcended something in my mind, some threshold I knew was there but had not often noticed. This blue made me want to hop on a plane or a ship and go where I could see the color in morning light and sunset light and maybe that twilight shade as the sun slips below the horizon with the moon on the way up. I want to touch it.

I sat entranced by that color and wanted to touch all colors. I want to see the orange in a Siberian tiger's fur lit by the morning light. I want to see the the blue morpho butterfly in its natural habitat. I want to see the moon shine on the Grand Canyon, the color of old freighter's hull as it passes through the Bosporus, and the green sod of Ireland. It has become imperative that I see the opalescence of Lake Louise in Canada, and the saffron colored robes of monks in Tibet. I need to know the color of the Pacific while watching a sunset in Tierra Del Fuego.

I want to know the color of moss in the garden of a Buddhist shrine, somewhere in Japan. And I cannot clearly tell you why. I just know I need to know. I feel this need to travel the world and take pictures of these colors that inhabit my mind, fill my heart, exalt my soul.

I want to know blue. All the blues in the world, and the people who know those shades the best. Someday, if I am fortunate, I'll do just that. Until then, I'll continue to plot and dream of the day my rainbow heart can scatter itself into the world, and return home with some stories to tell of the colors I have seen. Join me, perhaps?

(And many thanks to Braja, and her opening of the window for me...)

04 February 2013

Magpie Tales 154: We Are Made of Books

Central Library, Manchester, U.K., by Robin Gosnall via Magpie Tales

Cleverness fled, I think, when I saw the prompt image for the week. It is not fair for others to know of a weakness of mine. A weakness not only for books, but for the structures that house them. Buildings are what I mean. Edifices. Repositories built of wood, brick and stone, concrete and steel. Not the soulless silicon hearts of server banks and tablet computers. Such barbarities are convenient, even necessary, but they do not hold my imagination or reverence.

The first thought in my head was of the "Library of Babel", the interlocking, infinite hexagonal halls described by Jorge Luis Borges in his short story of the same name. His exploration of the idea of a Library I find by turns to be fascinating and disturbing. Fascinating and disturbing also being apt descriptors for the universe, which Borges aptly equates to the library in the opening sentence of the story. I do not recall ever having been so startled by the "shock of the familiar" upon reading such a statement. The universe as library, ah, how did he know?

The second thought was of the main library in the city where I grew up. The library was downtown, a short drive for us and one we visited often until a branch opened up much closer to our house. I spent many a sojourn there as a lad, in tow to my mother, happy to browse amongst the books that fired my imagination and captivated me. Little did I know then that it was the universe itself writ small, and somewhat like that described by Senor Borges.

I drove past that old building multiple times on a recent visit to my hometown. It has been decades since I last was in it, and I am not sure that it is still a library. I think the institution moved elsewhere.The memories, however, are still there. I felt them stir in my mind and heart. I longed to go back there to sit on the floor and pull slices of the universe off the shelves, losing my self in the infinite. I know this is not possible, exactly. But like the narrator of the story, I feel I will forever wander those halls while searching for that single volume of infinite pages...which is really, quite possibly, my heart.