Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I Am Not Alone

The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda once said, "And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song--but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny."

What a profound quote, and seemingly apt for this journey I've embarked on, but...I can't help but be disagreeing in part with what he said. I mean, *stops to think in order to try and put the words in the way they'll make the most sense and convey what I mean in a clear, concise manner* figuratively and sometimes literally, life, if you like to think of it this way, is a tapestry of journeys. A journey of the mind or imagination. A journey of the soul, or self-discovery and awareness. A journey of choices with consequences of either rewards or mistakes. A warm, nostalgic journey of memories and "Remember Whens..." And a rocky, bleak journey of regrets and "What ifs..."

Each thread is a different journey; each one having a beginning and an end. Each one intercepting or connecting to others to form a larger, more complete and intricate picture, a whole that becomes a person's life. No tapestry is the exact same, for each life is different, unique. Though some are similar in size, texture and scene and some aren't, and some are more vibrant and rich in color and some are duller and more sedate, Neruda was correct in saying "we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence" to reach our journey's end or destiny. No one can live our lives for us but ourselves. No one can sit before our looms and weave our tapestries for us.

Our choices are our own and they affect our destiny, what colors, size, threads and design our individual tapestries will have at our lives' end. In this, we are alone on our journeys. And in order to grow and progress along any of them, we must needs have adversity. As my grandma was fond of saying, "Fire is the test of gold; adversity, the test of men."

But here it is where I disagree with the esteemed Señor Neruda. People cannot live my life for me, but they can touch it, for good or ill, sometimes leaving a lasting impression. And with an omnipotent God watching out for me, and with people coming and going along the way, I am never truly alone. And never will I be.

Take this journey I impetuously started, for instance. This morning I awoke to rain tap-tapping on my windows and thatched roof and was seized with the impossible and highly whimsical desire to see just what lay at the end of a double rainbow. It was so compelling I couldn't ignore it. Perhaps I am touched in the head a wee bit, or the luck of the Irish is with me, or I have a bit of the blarney about me, or just simply the magic found me and was kind...but however it came to pass this afternoon, I discovered my humble self to be standing before my whimsical idea. I had chased and found me a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, but a double rainbow!

It smelled fresh and clean as it only could, like rain. *laughs* But, of course! And when I finally regained presence of mind and gathered my courage to satisfy a child's and old woman's curiosity from so many years ago, I closed my eyes and reached out, holding my breath and stepping through the many hued magic gate.

It's a curious sensation, walking through a rainbow. Just like being enveloped in the lightest of gossamers, a gossamer so thin it seems to seep into the pores to flow through your veins somehow, filling you with its many colors and a sense of rejuvenation and well-being. And the sparkles one feels in the charged air standing before the rainbow continue to travel along the nerve endings, causing a pleasant energized, yet tingly feeling.

In fact, even now, several hours later in my new room in the Cave of the Enchantress, I still feel energized and tingly from head-to-toe because of them. I can't see them--unless I close my eyes, then they are winking in and out of existence in all their rainbow glory--but I sense them under my skin and all around me, like an aura.

Getting back to my journey and not being alone... From the start of it, I may have looked to be alone to anyone daft enough besides me to be out of doors in the dwindling rain, but I wasn't. I had my grandma's spirit to keep me company. It was she who instilled the magic of and love for rainbows in my young heart those many years ago. She's with me even now--I can feel her--as I lie on this comfortable bed on my stomach, writing this in one of the journals I brought with me on impulse. (There's no phone jack here in the Enchantress' cave. Any and all travelers who manage to find the secret gate to her grotto are simply told such modern conveniences, such as the phone and tv that link us to the outside world, aren't necessary here. "The travelers who come here are here for one purpose and one purpose only," she said. "Whether or not they know or understand it yet, they, like you, are here to start a magnificent journey that'll be a feast for the imagination and soul. It'll be a journey you'll never forget. Of that I'm confident enough to assure you.")

A feast for the imagination and soul. I knew this afternoon after stepping through the magic gate and seeing my surroundings and the cave 20 feet before me my day, my life, had taken an unexpected and magical turn.

"We're not in Ireland anymore, Grandma," I said to her.

The whole landscape had changed. The terrain was now mountainous and rocky in places, especially before me leading to the cave. The cave with an arched stout wooden door with iron hinges and handle.

How curious, I thought. I wonder who lives there?

Bemused and awed, I stood in a small clearing with trees to my back and a small stream to the northeast of the cave some yards away. It rippled and gurgled softly along its course to some unknown destination. Jammed into a small pile of good-sized rocks near its grassy bank was a wooden sign painted a pristine white. Neatly printed letters in turquoise pronounced this "Mnemosyne's Stream." I would have to check it out later, I determined.

Turning around, still wide-eyed and probably a wee bit slack-jawed, I noticed and was somewhat disappointed to see my rainbow was no more. It was like a friend had dropped me off at an unknown place and disappeared without so much as a fare-thee-well.

Ha! That's exactly what happened! I thought with some amusement and trepidation, which settled in the pit of my stomach.

I looked up and shaded my eyes with a hand. The sky was cloudless and an intense baby blue. If I hadn't known better I would have believed there hadn't been a storm today. The sun had traveled to the west aways and burned brightly, a yellow-white orb hanging low in the sky. Its rays were warm upon me as they fell to the Earth.

I lowered my hand and gaze to look about me more closely. Directly ahead of me, mixed with the deciduous trees I recognized but could not name at the moment, I noticed some trees I'd never seen before, and...what were those things on the branches? I squinted and took a few steps closer. "Olives? Where, by all that's holy in Ireland, are we Grandma?"

"Umbria, Italy. The Cave of the Enchantress."

I started and felt a hot blush creep up my neck and face, settling into my cheeks. I'm sure I jumped a foot before tightening my grip and readjusting my bag on my shoulder, spinning around again.

"Er...hi!" I said, striding forward to the now open cave's entrance and the woman standing there. My brow furrowed in consternation as what she'd said sunk in. "Umbria? Italy? But that's not possible!" I blinked at her. "I was in Ireland not more than...than 15 minutes ago!"

She looked back at me calmly, then quirked a brow. "As impossible as chasing a rainbow and passing through its gate?"

My blush burned fiercer and, chagrined, I realized she was right. My mouth opened and closed a few times without any words coming out and in the end I just swallowed. Stepping back inside the cave she waved for me to come in. "Come along and I'll show you to your room." she said, going deeper into the cavern. "I am Sybil, the Enchantress of this cave. And you, my dear Treasa, have a long and glorious trip ahead of you tomorrow. You'll need to get a good night's rest."

Curious, stunned and bewildered, I meekly followed her from the main cavern. She raised a long-fingered, graceful hand and the door swung shut with a soft click all on its own. Turning left we entered a long corridor. Here, elegant gold wall lanterns with spiraled bases hooked into the stone walls at intervals on either side. As we passed they lit up on their own as well, illuminating our way, then winked out once we'd moved on. The hem of the enchantress' peacock blue robe swished softly as it moved around her trim ankles, and her matching slippers made no sound on the stone ground. Her white hair, worn in a bun at the crown of her head with loose ringlets on either side of her cheeks, was lightly gilded in the lanternlight.

If you've ever been in a cave before then you know how dim, musty-smelling, dank and chilly they are. But this cave isn't like that. There're no stalactites or stalagmites barring the way. It's dry and warm and has a cozy feeling. And the air is fresh with an enigmatic scent I can't quite identify...roses, a hint of sandalwood and something...mysterious. Perhaps it's simply the magic of this place; perhaps that's the scent I detect. I dunno.

It was then that her words registered with my bemused brain and I stopped in my tracks. "Wait!" I called, hurrying to catch up with her as she rounded a right corner. "How did you know my name? And what d'you mean, I'm going on a trip tomorrow? What trip?"

Three people, a man and two women, were coming from the opposite direction. Each smiled and nodded in a friendly manner as they passed by. "Oh, how lovely!" one of the women declared, twisting aroud to wave at me. "Another fellow traveler! You'll love the Soulfood Silk Road, honey."

"The Soulfood Silk Road?" I echoed.

"Yes. The road you'll be traveling on for the next little while." The enchantress turned left again and walked several more paces down the newest corridor before stopping in front of a door similar to the one at the cave's entrance.

She waved her hand again and the door opened inwardly on well-oiled hinges. She looked at me briefly with a slightly amused smile on her youthful face, her emerald green eyes sparkling with a secret knowledge.

"I am an enchantress, remember?" she answered, then entering the room she spun around to face me as I followed her in. "I know most anything: past, present and the near future. I knew you were coming as of yesterday, before you even thought of chasing that rainbow.

"As for the journey, you've earned it. You are here because you're not afraid to attempt the impossible, you're not afraid to reach out and chase your dreams. There are very few like you left in this world, my dear, which is a pity. You are the ones, with the open minds and imaginations, that are needed to keep hopes and dreams alive, for without them the world would die. You and your grandmother have wanted to know what lies at the end of a double rainbow. Now is your chance, Treasa O'Leary, to find your answers."

I looked at her solemnly, overwhelmed with emotion. "This is all so...surreal!" My brow furrowed. "I honestly get to find out?" I was hesitant as I slid my overnighter to the bed.


And so here I am--well, we are, Grandma and I--in a room in the cave of an enchantress. Already, because of two women, my grandma and now the enchantress, my life has forever changed. I am, or rather my grandma's spirit and I, are embarking on a journey of a lifetime to follow a lil girl's and old woman's dream. So please, don't tell me, Señor Neruda, that I am traveling alone in isolation, solitude or silence, for I am not. I will reach that enchanted place with the help and company of others. I will dance or sing my song with the support and encouragement of others. I will recognize my humanity and reach for my destiny with others as they recognize their own and reach for the common end we all share. In the end, when my life is over, my tapestry will be richer for this experience.

I am not alone. I rather like knowing that.


At 12:00 AM, Blogger Traveller said...

wow Shiloh, what an entrance. I had tears in my eyes reading that. You are right, life is a tapestry of memories and each weaves his own.

At 2:53 AM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

Lovely and rich, all of it.

At 3:05 AM, Blogger faucon of Sakin'el said...

Very profound thoughts, many touching on my own distress over finding so many unwilling to make any journey -- complacent in some comfort zone of self-definition. Of course, there are others son intrenched in seeking 'solitude' that they never live -- interact with people; as the tapestry can only be made by passing the shuttle back and forth with others. Your opening quote will be of use.

many thanks.


At 4:10 AM, Blogger le Enchanteur said...

This really is the most exquisite piece Shiloh. You have quite taken my breath away and touched me very deeply. It seems that it is indeed, a very special, enchanted circle we work within. You most certainly will never be alone here.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Karen said...

This is really beautiful and lyrical, Shiloh. Welcome to the journey.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Shiloh said...

Thank you, all. Once again, I thought I overdid it, talking too much. But I am glad I was invited on this journey. Thank you, Enchantress, for remembering.


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