Monday, July 11, 2005

Flowing through

I'll bite. Here is a story whose impact
cannot be placed on the writer, the reader
or the muse ..
or so I have been told.

This is the only story my mother has never commented on.


Page of Uli

There was nothing special about Uli, except his name, perhaps. He was Samuel by birthright, but his early life had not followed any path described in scripture. When his sister had come along and had been christened Samantha, wiser minds intervened and contrived the nickname. Thus, he was not really even himself, and somehow forfeit for all that. His name was frequently called more in teasing than for assistance or youthful insight into life's mysteries, gifts of a fair haired boy. He even came to refer to himself in the third person as, "Uli thinks it is time to eat," or "Uli is tired of this game!" The officialdom of that time refused to play the game, however, and teachers, priests, sergeants and social workers called him 'Samuel'. He rarely responded. When he was eighteen, he legally changed his name. Samuel was dead. He held a wake. The drinking part anyway.

The very next day, Uli started keeping a journal. It was certainly not a diary, controlled by the flow of passing summer days. It wasn't even kept daily, so the name is perhaps inappropriate. It was a bound collection of thoughts and dreams and reflections. Some was scarcely legible flowing dialogue with a hidden, internal self. There were neatly scripted haikus and penciled sonnets and random colorful phrases that Uli called 'refractions'. Sometimes these found later life in a larger piece. Mostly they molded like last fall's leaves covered by new 'reflections' of the sun. Like Uli's life, there was no order, pattern or direction. A cynic's view might be that he was laughing at the world. His departed mother would have thought he was mostly crying. Taciturn male role models would have lectured on his avoidance of the 'real world'. For the poet, he was praying!

Uli liked to sail and his small sloop was often out early to savor the peace of the sunrise dance on the small waves. He fished some, and drank some and wrote some. The order did not matter as he was always alone. He read a lot of course -- one cannot write with any touch of soul if he does not also travel into the mind of others. He dreamed a lot, lulled by the rocking of the small boat; sail dropped, sea anchor out, rain bucket ready for the sudden downpour -- Spirit's hand at the tiller.

His dreams were not of historic animal hunts, or a western chase across the plains. He rescued no maidens nor flew beneath the clouds nor battled Titans between the stars. Nothing so dashing for Uli. He dreamed of the symphony that plucked at his heart, of the notes he could not sing. Uli gathered the stroke of the dragon fly's wings and the cry of the polishing stone. He measured the beat of the thistle puff as it shattered the sprinkled lawn, and listened to the acorn's falling -- down -- down. Birds were resplendent in their hidden trill, even miles from the shore, for he remembered every vibrant song -- they coursed throughout his veins. In the written journal there was nothing of this, perhaps a man is best known by what he does not say! Uli was thought simple -- he was not a simple man!

When Uli awoke from his erstwhile trip to nowhere, there was no land in sight! His nostrils flared to gather any clue of direction or safe passage, but nothing came. No sounds of life or oil slick or drifting wing above. The sky was a uniform slate of anonymity upon which nothing was inscribed. Featureless -- lacking in texture -- lacking in overt passion. It might have been a reflection of his soul! No silent breeze clutched at his sail and the rudder described a meaningless 5 degree circle on the shallow waves. He could row, of course, but where? Better to wait. A touch of dismay crossed his brow and he sat down to write, not from inspiration -- just something to do. When he found land, it was not home, nor happy, nor any help at all. It was worthless!

The forbidding rocks were uniformly black, but certainly not uniform in size or shape. Each was a sinister barrier to life and approach. Even the sea birds were not drawn here -- at least there were no white striations to break the monotony. No trees, no piles of leaves or jumble of driftwood -- nothing. He allowed the tiny boat to drift around the small island -- no choice actually, for the currents teased with a multidirectional, swirling force. He attempted to row ashore -- why he did not know, but was always pushed away by a tide that always seemed to be rushing out -- out. The jagged rocks made any venture foolish in any event. Yet the island called to him -- not in yearning song, but in whispers. These somber tones came not from fear or dread or worse, but from a bell that was never rung. He rowed away.

"If this island does not allow approach," Uli thought, "then it must point in contrast to another saving path. Any port in a storm, they say. There is no storm and no port!" Row, row. He began to sing.

The gigantic tanker neither saw Uli not felt the crushing blow that crunched the craft into ragged shards. The looming swell or spinning brass blades may have been at fault, but Uli was beyond caring with the shocked interruption of his joyful cry. The ship passed on leaving only flotsam behind, scraps of wood, a couple of pots and a reddish knapsack in a box. These all washed ashore on the bleak island, they not impeded by the sloop's buoyancy or fragile size or pilot's will. The planks caught amongst the sharp boulders to bleach in the eventual sun. The box hinges rusted away to spill the contents into a slight defile, but the pages of the journal were still abused by wind and salt water spray. The writing faded with no less of a song that Uli had ever been able to voice.

A small plane crashed on the tip of the island, far from its charted course. Isn't that always the way? Only the young mother and three children stood upon the rocks to watch the wreckage slide beneath the angry surf. Such despair cannot be retold! But even then, the youngest daughter was disposed to explore a bit and found the wood, drawn by the rustling of the journal pages. They assembled the pile as best they could and tore out pages, many that blew away. They waited. When a flicker of light appeared on the horizon they kindled the fire and watched the hopeful finger of smoke snake and undulate into the gloomy sky. Ashes of pages drifted upward too. Then everything was gone -- every trace of Uli had completely vanished.

Years later a teenage girl sat beneath a tree and spread out a crumpled, withered page. Blue lines were faint. Fainter still were the words she had traced in pencil over the years, lifted from slight indentations in the linen scrap.

"I am the squire of the morning mist, herald of each birthing day.
I am the champion of daily hour's command,
from chivalry's call for helping strong hand.

≈ ≠µ ℓ ю ……

I am the monk seeking peace in Mother Earth
where setting red sun will measure my worth.
But do not fear for God's claim on my soul,
for each day grants new life devoid of pain.

I will bring in the day to squire your birth, gentle gird your loins in mail,
And cap your brow with helm of pure delight,
and grant curved shield of Aegis' might.
Claim your sword my friend and never cry yield
for I will be watching, will never fail.

Where what 'was' joins 'what will be', there is proud eternal braid
that in our evening's death there will cycle new life, to conquer unafraid."


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