A Sliver of Truth

Once there was a girl who knew every nook and cranny from which to spy on her folk.  And she spied on everyone. She spied so much that she rarely spoke because she felt she knew too much about everyone else and it made it difficult to speak without accidentally spilling the beans.  

One day she spied on a girl who she hadn’t seen before because all she did was stay in her room and talk to herself.  She looked so lonely that it made her really sad. She might as well have stayed in her room too since she’s always hiding to eavesdrop on people.  She tried to stop spying but she couldn’t resist knowing a sliver of the truth about anyone she tried to befriend.  

Eventually, the whole village knew about her habit and didn’t care about what she heard for they were good people and felt they had nothing to hide, so they decided to play a trick on her.  They told each other tall tales and stretched the truth as far as it would go. And one villager told another that the girl was going to have both her eyes poked out for peeping and her ears plugged up for good but they weren’t going to cut out her tongue because she needed to start spilling her own beans.

She peeped through a hole in her imagination and saw herself wandering through the village blind and deaf and spilling beans everywhere.  This was not just a sliver of truth. It felt more like a spear straight through her ears. How could they want to do such a thing to someone as innocent as her?  Off to the rival village she went and told them everything she knew about her village in exchange for a place in theirs.

While she told stories about her folk, they heard what it said about her.  The slivers of truth had gathered into a jagged mass of exaggerations and loose connections. In fact, to their ears, it was difficult to distinguish even a grain of truth in what she had to say let alone a sliver.  The rival village quickly told her that they would rather she go back and stay in her village and not live with them.  

With nowhere else to go, she returned home and begged that they show mercy for what she had tried to do.  And they told her that they were never going to harm her, but they were trying to scare her into doing something better with herself than spying on them. 

Finally, this sliver of truth struck into her heart. They actually cared about her. She saw how she had taken what she thought was a sliver of truth and ran with it when it was not the truth at all.  And this thought reverberated through all the other times she spied on them. The slivers of truth appeared differently to her now. Less about them and more about her fantasies. From then on, she stopped spying and began to understand more about her folk by interacting directly with them.

Hard Foam

Somewhere in Yellowstone

What appears as foam from a breaking wave is a hard crust of geyserite. The appearance is soft and the material hard. When I look at this, I alternate between feeling like I’m on a strange beach and at a geyser in Yellowstone. The seascape comes in and out with the tide of the landscape. The experience and the reality clash instead of their usual interlacing. A metamorphosis suspended. Bouncing between two places without ever totally arriving.

The King's Stone

Once there was an old storyteller who became one of the most powerful people in the kingdom.  He had found a way to tell stories so that anyone who listened could accept them as the absolute truth.  Except those who the stories were intended to harm, of course.

The old man never forgot anything. That is partially why he was such a convincing storyteller. But it was also why he was so spiteful about any offense he suffered, like a village he visited once. In his eye, the people were not polite enough to him by the way they served him food and put him up for the night in an uncomfortable bed. All of which he thought was done on purpose. So he told a story many decades later and the king increased their taxes, and when they rebelled, their village was burned to the ground.

One day, the king’s spy overheard the storyteller boasting about his power. He found it amazing that people took his words as if they were written in stone and were so willing to act upon something as fleeting as a hot wind. But his real mistake was when he boasted that if he wished, he could spill into the king’s ear at the perfect moment the right combination of words about a hidden betrayal of his trust that would send the queen to her doom.

That night, the old storyteller awoke from a frantic nightmare – running from village to village with no clothes on while people hurled rocks and mud at him – to a wet bed.  He got mad at himself for pissing in his bed again until he heard the voice of the king sitting in a chair across the room.

As the king told him why his wife would never betray him for she had sacrificed her own traitorous brother, the storyteller realized that it was not his urine that soiled the sheets; he was bleeding from a mortal neck wound. When he tried to utter a word, liquid sounds sputtered out.

The old storyteller’s mind wandered in his last fleeting moments.

He remembered a fountain from his youth where the folk used to throw stones into it for good luck. And it was there that his storytelling began at a single question: what was the story of each stone? And he pulled them out one by one. Followed their stories wherever they led him. Afterward, the heft of each stone seemed to increase in weight with its story.

At that time, he used to say that everybody had a heavy stone in their heart. A stone so heavy that it settled in the fountain of their chest. But he had forgotten that sentiment. And lost himself in the power of stories to influence others. He had taken all the stones out and learned how to rearrange them to convince by spectacle instead of seeing their worth and unlocking their heft.

And so the king’s heaviest stone, the story of his wife’s sacrifice for his sake, sank deeply in the king’s chest. Something never to be pulled out. Sacred to him.

River Path

I’m a child again.  The car seems like a cavern on wheels.  Mom and dad are yelling at each other. I slink to the back row and slump down to look up and out the window.  I brace myself for each violent bend in the road by the river. The gravity pulls me with a force greater than my entire being.  I fear we may slide off the road.

My sweaty little hands hold on to the seat as I press myself into it with my feet. The momentum hurls forward as the brakes squeal.  Dad bites his fist then punches the ceiling rapidly. Mom screams bloody murder.

We take another turn and I feel that dread of being on a rollercoaster beyond my threshold.  I stare up at the trees pirouetting away, as my body is jostled at the whim of this death car. Gushing downstream, they are heading for their abyss, and I, unseen and forgotten, am along for another ride.  

Decades later, I return to the river roads of Colorado.  I sit on the rocks at the bank of the river. It’s movement is as big to me now as that car was when I was a kid.  The turbulent water mimics the chaos of my parents. The domineering boulders loom over me and cast blue shadows on the whitewash.  My eyes catch momentum with the tortuous river. Its roar drowns out the distant screams of memories.  

And the flow carries me to another river.  A smoother river with gentle turns and a wider pathway.  An ancient river who has the most curious objects floating down it.  On the banks, I wait and collect whatever comes my way. The water has particles in it that sparkle with the warmest light.  It washes over the rocks in a cleansing way. The soft sand molds itself to my foot. If I swim in it, it’s as wide or narrow as I want it to be. 

This is an ancient place of sustenance for people of cultures formed along rivers all across the world and ever since we’ve been a species. There are currents of this water that flow from the oldest rivers of consciousness.  It’s where Charon waits with his ferry.  

My familiarity with this deep river feels etched into my biological self.  The habitual patterns of ancient people gleaming along my nervous system like the golden light slipping over the surface of the river. 

And the feeling of being in a vessel far bigger than me returns. Only this time, the car has transformed into a ship who forms to whatever shape the river takes.  

And so I play River Man by Nick Drake.  And his melancholic tone twists and turns into the most delicate sentiment.  The beauty of sorrow transformed by the flow of guitar playing. There is an immensity of courage in this kind of work. 

Where tragedy becomes art. Where trauma and loss are whitewash, more process than cause for resentment. Where everyone must navigate a path within this overwhelming flow of shared consciousness.