Follow the Light!
canÕt begin to describe the thrill and joy I derive from my adventures around the world. I donÕt know if itÕs the danger, the cultures, or the traveling itself, but whatever it is, it stimulates the very core of my being. ThatÕs why IÕm so excited about climbing Mount Everest next week; not only is it the tallest mountain in the world but itÕs also very remote and mysterious. It peaks at an altitude of 8,800 meters above sea level. The challenges of the climb are many, from high altitude sickness, whose symptoms range from headaches, trouble breathing, and Pulmonary Edema – which is when thereÕs water in the lungs – to inclement weather, primitive living conditions, and extremely rugged terrain. IÕm not a climber, per se, but the lure of such an exotic journey is very appealing to me, which is why I decided to join an expedition. IÕve been training for months and IÕm readyÉ
ŌQuick, get on the radio! Call a helicopter!Ķ
I canÕt believe it happened to me. I can barely feel my arms, let alone move them. My legs are already dead. TheyÕre stiff, frozen, emaciated, and pale. The morbid and painful state in which they exist scares everyone, especially me. My disfigurement aggravates matters. The skin on my face is tight, stretched, and torn. My jaw is pulled to one side and my upper lip to the other, and the jawbone cracks every time I try to move it, and itÕs pure, unadulterated agony each time I do. When it manages to break free from its chains, it slips and wedges again into another throbbing groove of grief. My tongue is a lifeless piece of meat. ItÕs dry and knotted like a dying vine. My nose, like most everything else, is also dead to me. I think IÕm breathing through it, but I canÕt tell whatÕs what these days.
I wish this would all end now. Watching my wretched limbs, unable to move or feel them, kills me a thousand and one times and seeing mom suffer prolongs each excruciating death. DadÕs as ill and depressed as mom. His eyes water and his lips tremble when heÕs near me. TheyÕve both become old and senile overnight. TheyÕre no longer able to hold out a steady hand or keep a coherent conversation. MomÕs hands always shake now. They announce fear, frailty, and death in the dissonant tones of piercing cries.
ŌWhat did I do to deserve this? Have I been such a dreadful soul? Is it not enough I die slowly that you also force me to witness the torment in my motherÕs eyes?Ķ
IÕm trapped in this useless shell of a body. IÕm helpless, distraught, and in pain, and whatÕs worse, I can see its doom and remember its former life.
How glorious it is to fly, to fly away and anywhere in sight, and here I am doing it in glory, with the moon overhead and the wind on my back. The grayish pillows through which I fly slowly drift in space like dancing seaweed on a stormy night, and the stars twinkle in delight. TheyÕre bright and distant, and yet theyÕre still within my grasp. They feel close enough to touch, amaze, and enchant. Wind is not only my friend but also my fuel, consolation, escape, and spark. It cuddles me and cushions my flight. It caresses my wings and embraces my heart. Raindrops are friends too. They trickle down my side and wash me bare with enchanting grace and uplifting life. The ominous shower they bring refreshes me. It rejuvenates and liberates me from the bars of want.
As I fly over the crescent-moon bay under the lights of the northern sky, I hear the sound of waves crashing against the shore and shaking the stillness of night. Palm trees twist and squirm as sand smoke twirls in plain sight. I glide down to the soft turf and land beside a pink and white seashell. ItÕs full of black dots and half-buried in sand. White bubbly saltwater then streams through my netted toes; it dampens the roots of my feet and bathes them whole.
ŌIsnÕt it time for a swim and for a dashing dive?Ķ
I shake my wings a little, extend them out for a second or two, air them, and start waving them again like mad. I fly up fifteen feet above the water and dive straight down and plunge into the clear blue sea like an arrow headed for its target, certain of its path. Once submerged, I kick and rudder myself through the underworld. I gain speed and build momentum until I look up, thrust myself out, and head straight to the moon without a hint of hesitation or fright.
Emily sees me from afar and quickly joins me in a flash. SheÕs perfectly white with a soft, delicate gray patch on her breast – itÕs her mark. She doesnÕt just go; she floats and glides with the poise and charm of angels at rest and about to dine. My feathers tingle just to watch her soar, just to see her fly to the heavens and back. This is the first time sheÕs away from the pack and alone with me, at last. I never realized how sweet life could be, with minutes to spare and a lifetime to last. IÕm trying not to flirt too much (I don't want to scare her off), but I canÕt help but dance. SheÕs disarming and enchanting, all right. We both fly up together for a final dive, but without uttering a word or skipping a line, we end up gliding down slowly, and synchronize the beating tune of our hearts to the divine harmony of our lives. Her warm back is against my chest and our wings flutter in perfect unison. When we finally break through the surface of the water, I embrace her with abandon, delicately, firmly pressing every inch of my longing body against her loving life.
ŌThe ugly light of another day? Another deathÉAnother lifeÉĶ
I remember when I used to be able to walk, live, and function like a man. Back then (it seems so long ago), I lived a joyful existence with family and friends. I was full of faith and packed with hope. I managed a shop and had an established clientele – consistent, tolerant, and smart. I was a success by every metric known to man. I thought I needed adventure, but who was I to know that?
My girlfriendÉwhat an angel she was. I donÕt know what she ever saw in me. Her beauty, intelligence, and glee far exceeded anything I deservedÉbut I canÕt think of that now. My chest tenses, my breathing stalls, and my spirits sink when I see her smile in the album of my past.
ŌHow stupid of me to lose it all for the senseless glory of that mountain in the sky!Ķ
Sunday mornings were so peaceful and perfect then. NowÉsummer, spring, and fall died four hundred and fifty-two Wednesdays ago. They perished, and so did music, poetry, and games. The world died, the idea of heaven vanished, and hell reigned. The pain of death is clear and certain of its aim. Nightmares rule the evening plight with ugly thoughts of what is, painful memories of what was, and implausible, torturous voyages of what could never be.
ŌJump. Jump. JumpÉJump on that blazing field and leap, leap over to the next turning orbit! IÕll follow youÉdonÕt worry!Ķ
ItÕs amazing to see how everything functions here. ItÕs full of love, fraternal ties, and the spark of life. Everybody works together with unmitigated vigor and enthusiasm. They maintain a distinctive identity, which is independent from the whole and different from mine. The energy fueling our existence is vast and inexhaustible, enough for all of us to hover, hop, and skip as much as we please until the end of the universe or the beginning of time. Life is never dull. The forces that govern our world change constantly. We can never predict their intensity or direction. They seem to reject the grid-like patterns of light.
ŌItÕs chaotic order!Ķ
No one really knows the true nature of our existence or the laws ruling our universe, but we have faith in its sustenance and pride ourselves on knowing how to use and harness its energy to fly and discover new sites, new fields, and new lands. Every location is always different. Maybe itÕs a little denser at times or more populated, or a bit more energized – itÕs a roll of the dice. Its erratic nature fulfills our insatiable taste for adventure, discovery, and, yes, even for plight.
Every lot is a family. They always welcome and adopt a visiting stranger with warm, open arms. Its nucleus, around whom everybody circles, is mom, without a doubt. There are times when two families share an outsider in their respective households and that only happens when the stranger lands in a space occupied by two different orbits, each revolving around its respective nuclei. ItÕs fun when that happens; itÕs a true delight. All of us from the two families play complicated games of tag, and sprint and race about mom in concentric circles until simultaneously tagging a sibling from each clan. IÕm still not great at this game, but I have a lot of fun playing it and savoring its charm.
Mom usually watches us play and we see her derive poetic pleasure from our game, from all activities of the kind. I think she manipulates the field around us for amusement and recreation, to see us move and react. In truth, I donÕt really understand her or know the origins of her life. All I know is that sheÕs different from us kids; sheÕs also merciful, loving, generous, and kind. I often wonder, though, whatÕs inside her impermeable shellÉprobably a whole other game, probably a miniaturized version of our own life. Whatever it is, it doesnÕt really matter, not enough to spend time in counting another star in the sky.
ŌLetÕs jumpÉCome on, Sis! Come on, and see the universe with new eyes.Ķ
The only parts of my body that are still alive pull me apart in an agonizing game of Tug of War. My dry, scaly skin stretches endlessly and tingles all the time. Even my legs quiver and they've been dead for over a year now. ItÕs as though my body slowly wakes up from an eternal nap, numb and weak yet painfully alive. But no, the feeling comes and goes like a fly circling its prey, afraid of its poison but in need of its wine. The tingling sensation fades and everything falls asleep again, devoid of motion and emotion, cold, absent, and dry. ItÕs fuzzy now. Colors drift randomly in front of my eyes, green, blue, gray, and red. Noises echo with resounding force. TheyÕre just gargles of gibberish like a soup of letters mixed in a bowl of rice. I think I can distinguish something white, a robe perhaps. It has two thick stripes, one on either side, maybe purple in color. Maybe itÕs a person in disguise.
ŌWait! My priest? Waaait!!! WhatÕs this?Ķ
My body convulsesÉand my breathing faltersÉeverything is a blur nowÉI can see the semblance of a priest, distant and near at the same time. I keep fadingÉdrifting into emptiness in absolute silence with nothing but a lingering lineÉ
ŌWhy did I climb that mountain in the skyÉ?Ķ