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Archive for February, 2013

In a sun-scorched clearing somewhere, on paths stretched out for miles marked by gathered dust and fallen orange leaves, a lion and a dog walked side-by-side.

Now, you must know that Lion was not often seen with Dog; polished gold brown did not often walk together with mud-brown, soiled coats. But Lion was to speak tomorrow, on the tip of the land’s largest and highest boulder, as he was chosen to clear up rumors going around about a strange creature the animals had been whispering about. And Dog, his paper skin stretched over long bones, was always scavenging for something. He was as hungry for good food as he was attractive news.

Lion had been surprised to see him soon as the yellow-white light soaked his skin, tail between his legs, long tongue dropped over his teeth, head lowered but eyes high in defiance of his weary neck.

Mother Bird had been the first to speak, singing up in one of the colored trees.

“Well, Dog, good morning! What a surprise!”

She eyed her three babies, mouths open and watering from their mother’s delay.

“Good morning…”

“Good morning…”

“Good morning…” they sighed, until Mother Bird nodded her head in approval, and dropped breakfast into their stomachs.

When Lion was face-to-face with Dog, they began to walk as if they had awoken every morning to walk together. The sound of crisp leaves flattened under paws was the morning’s only melody, until Dog began to pant.

“I forget your strides aren’t as great as mine,” Lion said as he slowed.

“Yes. Not even my strides can match yours,” said Dog.

There was a break in the crunching of the leaves.

“Dog?”

“Yes?”

“I suppose you’re here to ask me about the creature.” You always had to be the first to know, Lion did not add. You are desperate for something, anything to feed your decaying insides. But aren’t we all?

            “Yes.” You know you are more powerful than me with or without this information, Dog did not add. You are desperate to keep your status and your power by spilling your knowledge only in spurts, and only when you see fit.

            “Dog?”

“Yes?”

“I cannot wait to die.”

The words were casual, quick. Lion spoke as if he commented on how colorful the leaves were this time of year, how the spiders crawling along the paths matched them.

“What?”

“Well, Dog. I believe that I deserve to die.”

“What do you mean by ‘deserve’?”

I deserve, Lion thought but dared not speak, to be in a place finer than this. Where everyone’s coats are golden, as mine is. Where creatures do not beg and hunt for their meals. Where bones are not seen underneath skin, and where I might eternally lie in the sun.

“Dog. I will tell you the story that Fox told me. About the Creature. But you must promise not to tell anyone until I tell them.”

Dog’s stomach grumbled. If he was not fed with this knowledge, he might die.

“I won’t.”

“A creature,” Lion began to tell, “was spotted only seven days ago by Fox.”

“Only seven days ago, Fox was out and about near some meadow, doing his usual business—taunting the little butterflies and poking his nose into beds of flowers. He always took a route that was rather far from where he lived when he went on his morning strolls, but one that was simple enough to get him back very easily; a straight trail with no option to turn. But it seemed as though his eyes deceived him this particular morning, as when he turned around to head back home, there was now a path sprouting out from the original. Distinct, yes, but worn; as if it had always been an option.

Naturally, he began to walk down the new path, and after miles of what looked like the same beds of baby pastel flowers, he came to a spot unlike any he’d seen before. There were vines, rows after rows of them, colored in greens and yellows and oranges and reds, dripping with clusters of grapes, purple and bittersweet. There was a sign by the fence, asking passerby’s to please not eat them, but Fox told me that he knew he had stumbled upon this place not by chance, but because the grapes were meant to be consumed by him. He was ravenous, and the grapes were filled with juice to quiet his groaning gut. He continued this way for a while: plucking the grapes off with his pointy teeth, mashing and crunching them until their liquid ran down the sides of his jaws. When his stomach was halfway full, he said, he noticed suddenly that there were sheep nearby, not far off in the distance.

They had been calling to him, it seemed, but he could not hear them through his glorious crunching. They had been calling “Hey, please do not eat that! Stop eating that! It belongs to us! We were told it belongs to us!” But even when Fox understood what they were saying, he didn’t stop. Their voices were soft, and they were spread out in different directions, looking quite lost and defenseless. Some would yell but were not even facing him, as if they only yelled because they heard others doing it. He continued to eat until his insides made no noise, and then he ate some more. After lying on the soiled ground for minutes, listening to the sheep cry, he stood back on his feet and turned himself back toward the pathway home.

As soon as he stepped out of the mess of colored vines, as soon as he turned his head toward the pathway home, he saw it: the outline of the creature in front of the flat horizon. Fox could not help but let out a faint shriek at the mere sight of the creature, which overwhelmed him all at once with what he said was a sense of regret, and the most irrational of all fears. The creature was bigger than myself, bigger than a Lion, with paws of a Lion and the body of one, perhaps even larger than any regular lion, Fox noted. But, the strangest part was that the skin of the creature was glaringly white, its mane in soft curls much like what you might see on a lamb’s skin; its nose pink but its mouth black-lined, an appearance altogether soft as it was frighteningly powerful. Fox said it spoke to him from a great distance, but he heard it as if it were standing next to him. It asked him why he ate the grapes, why did he take what was not his to take. Fox had responded, he said, by informing the creature that ‘A creature has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry, right?’”

Lion cleared his throat, looked at Dog to see the look on his face, then continued:

“You see, the odd thing is, that when Fox was telling this story, I could sense his fear. I could feel it on my skin in chills, as if I were walking through the dead of winter. But when he began to tell me this part, I felt warm again. I was not afraid. And neither was Fox. He stopped looking at me when he told this part, and he did not seem afraid anymore. Rather, dare I say—he seemed as if he was suddenly aware he was speaking to me, and had to make himself seem stronger than we both had been feeling he was. He continued to tell me that he had a conversation with the creature, and that the creature told Him about a place where he wouldn’t need to fill up his body with juices from grapes, because there was something that was far more important than anything we taste or touch or even see here. Fox replied that he himself delivered back a practical and powerful speech about how one could not survive on this supposed sustenance, and that the practical thing would be to eat what was in front of him, and what there was plenty of; the practical thing is to drink the juice that you feel run down the sides of your jaw and to crunch the grapes between your teeth. If it is a wrong, it is but a minor wrong, and minor does not matter much. The Lamb-and-Lion creature came face-to-face with him. Fox did not go into detail when he told me this. He simply told me that He could see into his eyes, and that he did not feel comfortable. In fact, he felt that this creature would destroy many things that he loved very much, like eating forbidden grapes. The Lamb-and-Lion began to speak again, saying that He came to tell Fox that there would be life, abundant life. A life after life ceases. But, Fox says, he became overwhelmed with a sense of disruption, and began to run, run to me. To tell me that there was someone out there bigger than myself, and that this creature was going to take away everything that we know. He told me that a new path had opened in the road, and that it was my duty to inform everyone to be on the lookout for a creature coming to change the way we live. A creature coming to tell us that we could no longer do what we wanted, he said. Someone who would perhaps tear us apart for filling our hungry stomachs with grapes. In fact, the more Fox talked, the more monstrous the creature seemed to become.

            To be honest, I did not believe this story at first. We know how elaborate Fox can be with words; if he lies, you will believe the lie, if he speaks truth, you will feel as if you yourself have experienced it. But I think he was embarrassed to tell me this story. I sensed that he told me simply because he wanted to be the first to receive the glory for spotting the creature. No, I hardly believed him at first. Who could believe something as silly as a creature made up of a strong creature such as myself, and a soft-hearted creature so easily taken advantage of?”

Lion stopped.

Dog stopped.

“But, Dog, I saw the creature. Three nights ago for the first time. And I am not the only one. Since Fox saw Him, many others claim that they have seen Him, too. He has not only been appearing in dreams, but in streams where Fish lives, and in trees that Mother Bird nests in, and in coves where Bear sleeps. And he woke me up three nights ago, the sound of leaves outside my door, his silhouette in my window. I knew it was him. And, the oddest thing was, I wasn’t afraid as I had expected to be. Last night, he woke me up again. And I looked upon him more closely, and saw how much I resembled him. Only, Dog…. I don’t know. A strange thought passed my mind: perhaps I did not resemble Him, but He resembled me? With that thought, I looked back out the window, and he was gone. What would you make of that?”

Dog tried to answer, but yellow spiders, orange spiders, and brown spiders were crawling around his toes, up his thin bones. All spiders are notorious poets, and these began to whisper verses about birth and death and the middle of it all; Dog tried to shake them away, but the yellow one clung on. It whispered words about another world after death. Dog had never thought about what another world after death might look like. He wondered, Who can possibly know what will happen to me after I have lived my entire life toiling under the sun, knowing only the sun? Could there, perhaps, be a different kind of sun? Is life not futile? Certainly my thoughts, my words, are futile. But what of my being?

“I think, in this new place, every creature will not be big or small, we will just be,” Lion said. “I just know it. Size will not matter. Spiders will be lions, and lions will be spiders, and then perhaps they will switch. Perhaps spiders will dwell in palaces, too.”

            Oh, and there will be roads of gold; that’s what Mother Bird said after she spotted the Lion-Lamb. Roads of gold that gleam more than these yellow leaves under white sunshine. Yes, I deserve this place. Does not the powerful deserve such an evocative land? I have done nothing but rule with strength, with discipline, do I not deserve such a place? I am tired of the dirt, of the paths that lead to uncertainty, of the other creatures who do not understand the totality of my personal strength, my own beauty.

“Oh, I cannot wait to know,” Lion said. “I cannot……”

There, in the time it took to put one paw in front of the other, Lion died, falling on the left side of his stomach, dust escaping fast as it could from his sides. Flies sweltered to his face within seconds, as if they knew he was destined to go down at this exact minute.

Dog did not shout, did not jump. His paws remained crunched into the leaves they had pressed into when Lion said his final words. He stood more upright than he had before.

He walked toward Lion, expecting him to jump up playfully, though he had never seen Lion act playful. He pressed one of his paws into the beast’s side, and his paw begin to sink as if it were being pressed into a spot of mud; the flesh opened and began to bleed, running down and soaking the giant Lion. In the state of death this powerful creature bled with the touch of a meager mutt’s paw!

Dog yelped, horrified, shaking off the skin and blood from his paw, running in circles around the body of the beast.

          The spiders followed, scattering in circles with Dog, screaming in sync:

            Death is the destiny of all

            And so the great Lion has taken his fall

            Now the day of death is greater than the day of birth

            But did Lion truly live all his birth was worth?

            And the end of matter is better than the beginning

            But in the race of life was Lion drawn away from finishing?

            Oh!

            Woe!

            Why destroy yourself?

            Why die before your time?

            Oh, ease, no ease, for the little heart of mine!

 

Dog stopped running, as he was panting heavily, and would soon fall if he were not calmed. Again, he faced the body.

Who would believe that Lion so suddenly died? How would he explain his death to everyone else? But more importantly, who would tell the others about the Lion and the Lamb creature, if not Lion? Who would let them know they could not believe Fox’s account of terror? Who would let them know the creature was both strong and meek? How would he explain that this creature could be both feared and loved, all at once—Dog had never known such a concept in his own, personal life. He did not know whether the creature was bad or good.

And, certainly the most obvious question, who would believe it coming from Dog’s mouth? Dog, a creature hungry for news both good and bad, stealing scraps from homes that were not his, content with living life only to feed himself. He felt that if he had an eternal part inside him, it was as dirty as the coat of fur wrapped around his outsides.

How selfish, Lion! He thought. How selfish!

Woe, woe! Everything I did

I do not

Know.

If lions fall, how am I still to stand?

If the bravest is dead, how can I live without fear?

If the toughest skin is soiled soggy maroon, how am I to walk outside, even in the sunny noon?

            Then a voice spoke, near. Between his wails, a stranger had appeared next to Dog. It was Owl, old Owl, the night school teacher. A creature who had spent his time hiding from the sun, pleasuring the night. Teaching the animals who could not sleep, lessons of the stars.

The creature fluffed its feathers and collected a breath.

“Oh, Dog. I have been searching for you. I am old and slower than I used to be. But I have a message for you, and there was nothing that could be done to stop it. I was so determined to get it to you that I have not done anything but try to deliver it.”

Dog could not fit a “hello” in, before Owl went on:

“You see, Dog, I saw the creature that resembles both Lion and Lamb. It told me that today, around this exact time, you would be in great danger. I didn’t know what to think of it, but the creature—Dog, I can’t explain. I can only try to explain through telling you how I feel. But even that won’t suffice, Dog. Oh, he is one like no other! Oh, even the most poetic spiders and most glorious diction could not suffice! I have met him only once, yet I know everything and nothing about him. But he knows me, Dog. He told me everything about myself that I already knew, and He told me everything about myself that I did not know.

I was full of fear, Dog, when he spoke—but not a fear that Mother Bird might have when she hears someone rustle the leaves when it’s dark out, and her babies are sleeping. No, no, not a terror, but an excitement. A fear that everything as I know it will be gone soon, and replaced with a most challenging, engaging endeavor. For who could dream up such a creature as this?! Certainly not my mind, Dog. I admit, certainly not my intellect, nor my imagination.

You know me, friend, though it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. I have studied the greatest words one can study, I have occupied lands richest in fruit and water and trees, I have heard the most exquisite poems and delighted in wise company. But, Dog, oh Dog, how I have lived without this sense of knowing, and being known, that I do not know.

And I have a message for you, now, friend. Now, lean in and strain your ears to hear me, for I speak softly. Strain your soul to listen, for I speak truth. This comes from the Lion-and-the Lamb, and is meant for you to hear, and there is not a doubt about it.”

The dog unfolded its ears, and uncurled its tail.

“I am here to tell you that firstly, dear Dog, the Lion-Lamb has revealed to me something about you. You believe yourself to be the dirtiest, weakest, and lowliest. And perhaps to others, you seem this way, too.”

The dog’s head remained hung, low, low, nose to the ground.

The owl uncurled a wing, and gently pulled up the chin of his friend.

“But despite all that you have done, I am told that you are valuable. For it’s no secret that as long as you are able to feel the sun on your matted skin and are able to speak words and breathe air, there is life in you. And when there is life in you, no matter what you have done, I am told, and now fully believe, there is hope. You small, filthy animal—you are better than the strongest dead.”

Tears dripped from the dog, falling into the dirt, creating a new color.

“Now, Dog. I am old. I am slow. I’m afraid my time is coming, soon. But I am not afraid anymore. I have completed my mission now. You must run ahead, Dog. You must run ahead of me, as fast as you can, and tell the others that the Lion-Lamb is on His way. He will be coming, not far behind you. You must prepare the way, and you must let all the others know that he is good, Dog, he is good.”

Dog did not have to go. He did not have to run for miles under the boiling sun, panting all the while smiling. He could have stayed put and told owl that perhaps, like Fox had considered, he had been deceived. He could have told his friend that he would need a couple days to think it over. But before Reason, Reason that eagerly dictates our minds and causes us to wonder why the stars, why the soil, why life or death, why me, why you, why this body, and Reason that tells us don’t you do anything about anything before you fully understand… before Reason could take hold of his paws and tie them together and keep him within itself….he took off. And in doing so, he killed Old Reason and gave birth to New Reason.

Dog began to run, a newfound vibrancy in his small bones, a restoration he thought impossible. His friend the owl was far behind him now, but his voice echoed through the trees as if it were all around him; a voice composed of both command and question, as if it came not from his friend, but from —

“Go! Go while you are alive and capable of moving, and tell them that soon I am coming, to make the truth known!”

He heard Him. New Reason gently whispered yes, that was His voice. And though he had not yet seen him, he loved Him.

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A bird doesn’t …

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

-Maya Angelou

Say what is worth saying; not because you think you are supposed to, but because it is too overwhelming and beautiful to not be heard.

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