Raven’s Gift (part one)

Learning to Speak el Idioma del Cuervo (read PART ONE and PART TWO of this story)

I remember that Sunset. It was just after I started flying to you, well, rather when you started noticing me. Ever since, I have been leaving hints for you, a bit like in Anaya’s ‘Sonny Seasons Series’, when Rudy’s Raven always left four black feathers behind, as his signature. However, if I may, my signs were a bit more elaborate than those left by Sonny’s so-called archnemesis. Not all ravens function in the same way. I knew eventually you would get them all, or almost all! Problem is sometimes you did not even remember what YOUR own signs were! But your willingness to take the time to analyze events in so much depth both impressed and depressed me at times, alternately driving me to great hopes and sheer despair. But I have to admit that I was the one who took you down that road, a road paved with the love of learning, analyzing and then using what you had chosen to leave for me as silent signs… I commend your commitment to mine. Maybe you already started connecting the dots while you observed the beautiful sign at the Zuni Visitor Center. You never stopped since that day, even though at first you were not really aware of it yet. Now you know that nothing happens “by chance”. All is orchestrated by cosmic magic. That ‘Spyder Eclipse’ black convertible you drove held messages in its name and color, like the cemetery you stopped at, like my flight to you and the giant tarantula crossing the road, and how all those details somehow showed up in the literary creations you always refer to. Show me how you shine now, riding the Ferris Wheel of TimeI can’t wait for you to try my blitzkirsche pie!

The one talking is amongst shadows, but I clearly hear his voice. The memory of my feelings of frustration for getting only bits of the whole disturbs my sleep. I toss and turn and end up opening my eyes, thinking: “It took me nine years to kind of fully understand’s Raven’s language… It’s all good though, 9 is my life path number.” Still in the dream haze my pupils soon recognize details of my familiar surroundings, and I feel the urge to bring some items close to my homemade magic wand, which stands by the bed, like my dream journal. In a sleep walking mode I grab some of Rudy’s novels: Shaman Winter, Chupacabra Meets Billy the Kid and Randy López Goes Home, two Tintin albums related to Peru, and La Belle Histoire by Claude Lelouch. For me the French moviemaker is Rudy’s long-distance twin, since they were born exactly on the same day, an ocean away… Lelouch’s book cover displays faces at each seat of a Ferris Wheel, a vision that has literally haunted me ever since. Maybe that’s the Ferris Wheel My Raven was just hinting at… Finally, I grab my customized Barbie horse, named Espíritu del Rico Cielo Azul, ‘Rico’ for short.

I ask my stuffed jackalope to leave me some space on the pillow and I go back to sleep under the protection of my improvised talismans. Maybe I feel I need these items because of what I lost on the Path of the Sun, that necklace which mattered so much to me. Just before closing my eyes again I remember a detail from Tintin’s adventures in The Temple of the Sun: the Belgian reporter gives his young Kichwa guide the Sun medallion amulet he received before starting his perilous journey toward the secret temple. Only now am I realizing the similarity with Sonny and Raven’s fight for their Zia Sun medallion. Apparently many stories that struck my soul’s chords are acquainted with the sun, also very symbolically present in my life path. Tintin’s guide’s name, Zorrino, means skunk… Is this why I am ok with that Black and White ‘smelly’ four-legged who has chosen to live in my garden for the longest time? Is he a different kind of guide, ruling over the garden at night to help me wrap my dreams in a yin / yang fur? Tintin saw the light of his salvation through an eclipse. How fitting, thinking of the circular union of Yin and Yang. Up until now I had not paid attention to the slight shift in the title’s translation of that Tintin episode. The English version of his Peruvian adventures goes beyond the simple mention of the temple. It involves captivity: Prisoners of the Sun. Hmn… I was taught that all details matter on a soul search for the keys that open prison doors. Was the flat tire on the Paseo del Sol after leaving Puerto de Luna a coded message from the hidden dwellers of the Temple of the Sun? Was this where I would finally unlock or liberate what I once lost on my ‘sunny path’? My head is full of questions but my eyelids grow increasingly heavy, and I slip into unconsciousness again.

I am not really the best at directing the movie of my dreams, like Eliseo trains Sonny to do {“You dream your own dream”}. This is why I write, setting the stage of my life movie following the muse’s instructions. But this time I am really trying hard to do it the ‘fast’ way: I want to get back in dreams to the last image that arose in the rearview mirror of my car when we were coming back from Santa Rosa: Billy the Kid inviting me to “travel New Mexico and win…” Raven’s Gift…

In the dream prologue I pack my amulets in a big bag and then concentrate like I had on the Paseo del Sol, begging spirits when I needed help with that flat tire. I repeat like a mantra the destination I wish my dream to take me to: the vision in the mirror. “Billy’s rearview mirror in the sunset, Billy’s rearview mirror in the sunset, Billy’s rearview mirr…”

It is working! My dream self is now sitting at the driver’s seat, with my bag of amulets on the passenger’s seat, and I am gazing into the looking mirror. Soon Billy the Kid disappears from the mirror to yield to two pictures of Rudy as a child: one with sunburnt cheeks and wild hair, the other with fair skin and recently combed. The difference between these two pictures, divided by the image of a rose, makes them look like the “before & after” photographs of Native kids who attended Pratt’s Carlisle Industrial Indian School. Thankfully the expression of this “double” little boy’s face is not as sad as those children’s whose soul was so bruised, just a bit impressed maybe, serious too, or curious about the photographer’s purpose. As I ponder the little boy’s thoughts, a red rose and three drawings of Alice in Wonderland are falling from the sky outside the car, adhering to the rearview mirror / picture frame.

After a few seconds, the red rose moves again to gently poke the black and white photographs, and then the three illustrations from Alice in Wonderland. The flower must be some sort of magic wand: the little ‘twins’ are coming to life. The “two sides of the same coin” are now laughing and playing together. El moreno with wild hair has cut one of the roses from the Wonderland rosebush tended by the playing card gardeners, and el güerito bien peinado has borrowed the flamingo from Alice’s hands.

En garde! Hahaha!” The children laugh as they start playing duel with their newfound treasures, using them as swords. Soon the “twins” start floating outside their frame picture vessel, and I am sucked out of my gray ‘machine pony’ too, toward the heart of the mirror’s reflection. I just have time to grab my bag before disappearing in the black hole of the looking glass together with the three Wonderland cards. The children’s voices fade in the whirlwind formed in the center of the mirror / frame and I hear someone’s call in the distance: “I’m not Dorothy! There is no rabbit hole!” I remember reading those words in Rudy’s Chupacabra book devoted to Billy, in which Rosa Medina married Alice’s and Dorothy’s universes. Just after uttering those words Rosa was taken through the wormhole of the Pecos River, to ride alongside Billy the Kid into his own time. The whirlwind flight gets me landing in the desert again, like in another vivid dream. I know I am in the White Sands, and I remember that a waking-life trip here was saluted by several “dust devils” when I crossed La Jornada del Muerto. Was the photo frame whirlwind a replica of these? As I rub my eyes I see spotlights in the distance. They surround a gunman looking a bit goofy as he repeats the words of what sounds like an ad.  “Just look at this view! It’s like I’m in an hourglass. I could live here the rest of my life…

“What are you doing?” I catch myself scolding the ad boy, who does not seem to hear or see me. “Don’t you realize you are pronouncing a wish, a spell that is, which can keep you trapped forever in the hourglass?”

“Tell me about it,” agrees the ghost of Billy appearing behind his impersonator.

“I know a thing or two about being trapped,” sighs the one whose real name is Henry Mc Carty. “As if I didn’t have enough with those who are still staining my name, here’s this guy adding a layer to it all, thanks to a brilliant idea of Susana la Tejana. To commemorate the state’s centennial, here they are, months in advance, putting price on my head, AGAIN… But let’s mute this guy for now,” says Billy snapping the fingers of his left hand, freezing the ad guy who was showing a picture of the ‘most wanted man’. The real Billy starts to whistle and sing an old melody: Silver Threads among the Gold. Then he pauses and says: “You’re the one I was waiting for. The price on your head seems to be even higher than mine, heehee!” Billy says alluding to a fake mugshot flying through a sand cloud that soon swallows Billy’s impersonator.

“Oh, that!” I smile. “It was for fun; it’s only make-believe. They took that picture of me in 2009, in Tabernas, Spain, close to Almería, which means the mirror…”

“Something tells me you were very much into make-believe rides, at some point of your soul journey,” Billy says with a wink. “I thought ‘taberna’ was like a cantina?”

 “Correct, and Almería means the mirror in Arabic, well, a Spanish version of Arabic. But tell me Billy, when are we now?” I ask.

“Don’t you remember? August of 2011; you were here… Well, not in the ‘here’ of the White Sands yet, but in the state fo sho… Ha! ‘For shore’, like the ocean shores you love to straddle. You could have been a Mares girl…”

“You knew the Mares family!!” I exclaim. “Did you know Rafaelita, Rudy’s mom??”

“Geez, lady, you really need to work on your math skills, even in Rudy’s ‘aftermath’. I was gone from this earth already before Rudy’s mom was born,” he says, rubbing the sand we stand on with his ghost hand miraculously uncovering the grave of Rudy’s parents. “I knew Rafaelita’s papá, though… Liborio. Nice kiddo. He was born the same year old man Lucien Maxwell’s compadre died, el Kit… Ay,” he sighs pointing at a photo album that has just appeared by the grave, “I miss being alive only to see through human eyes.”

Billy goes on: “I remember Paulita telling me her papa and el Kit got married at the same time. The two men also loved to play poker together! Usually Lucien Bonaparte hated losing, but he made an exception with Carson…”

“Bonaparte!? ‘Interesting’ middle name…” I muse. “It’s strange. Now that you mention the card game, for the longest time I thought Rudy’s coyotes, in his Randy López story, were playing poker instead of domino. I wonder why…”

“Heehee! Coyotes come in many shapes, bone players, card players… And Ravens too, by the way…” the Kid adds as we hear a raven’s call in the distance. “Mentioning tricks, some photos have escaped the locked album… Look how pretty Paulita was.

She loved books so much! Through our conversations I aspired to something new. I wanted to settle down, get a proper education, go back to my momma’s teachings. My mother taught me to read, you know, and music too. I seriously thought of going in hiding to México. I would have taken my fiddle with me and played for food! However destiny dealt me another hand,” he says with sadness in his voice. But then after a pause he adds: “Of course, that is the official story…”

“What do you mean?” I ask. “There’s another story?”

“Why do you think I dig Rudy’s tales? I love how he always favors telling the story how he would have liked it to happen…”

“True,” I smile. “So what would that better story be in your case?”

Billy is beaming, like he was waiting to see if he could tell me this other version. “Well, in that other story… I did make it to México lindo, and I lived a happy married life at a stone throw from Pancho Villa’s old hacienda, in a town whose Spanish name has many meanings, but one of them is… hilo de bordar…”

“Hilo de bordar as in… the silver threads you were whistling about???”

“Heeheehee… I’m sure Rudy would have ACED that story, if he’d had time to write it!”

“Sí, la habría… bordado, con hilos plateados, haha! You love to speak in terms of poker. When I first heard the correct pronunciation of the card game in English, I could only think of that metal bar used to stir embers in a fireplace, like the one the Carson and Bent ladies used, managing to poke a hole in the adobe wall and escape Bent’s house during the Taos revolt…”

“Ah yes, that revolt… It scared the hell out of my mom. She was still terrified about it when I was born, twelve years after it happened. That’s why we never moved up there. I think I would have liked it though. How do you pronounce ‘poker’ in French?”

“Something like pock heir” I say.

“A poor soul inheriting pox. Gross… Like those darn blankets contaminated with the disease that wiped out so many tribes. Well, I guess our lifestyle was not the best thing to inherit either. When I was a kid, the Taos revolt fascinated me. Especially the story that mentions the Navajo servant, who sacrificed herself to save her ‘mistress’: Rumalda. We often talked about her with my dear Deluvina. She was Navajo too, and she took such good care of Paulita. It’s a pity there’s no picture of Deluvina when she was young. We were only one year apart. She was gorgeous… That’s the elderly lady you see coming out of the door on the third photograph. She was the first one to rush by my side after Garrett shot ‘the Kid’… She cursed him all right!”

“So sorry it had to end that way… well, in the official story,” I say with a wink. “And who’s the gentleman in the middle, wearing such an elegant bow tie?” I ask, seeing in the man’s necktie the one worn by Rudy’s little Ollie the owl.

“Ah, that one… That’s for you to guess, be my guest!” he says snapping his fingers, sending the pictures back into the sealed album. Taking from his vest’s pocket the picture frame that brought me in this desert landscape, he adds: “Thanks for finding this by the way”.

The ‘Rudy twins’ are still missing from the picture frame, and in lieu of their young faces, there’s a photograph that makes me shiver. This is the very last thing I sent to Rudy before his passing: Billy the Kid and another man playing croquet in New Mexico.

The emotion is still strong and a tear rolls down my cheek as I remember sending the email with that picture I had found in an article. Rudy didn’t answer. His silence left some gnawing concern in the back chamber of my heart… He was usually so prompt to answer, always so enthusiastic and eager to read what so many of us would send to him… I can’t even start to fathom how he’d find the time for all of us to feel (and be!) important to him. I think he no longer had the strength to check what Belinda filtered for him… He was probably lightening his body and mind for his soul journey. Soon he would no longer need email to communicate with us. Like Randy he was going back to the place of childhood, to the land of Santa Rosa and beyond, going home. In awe and wonder, he was rediscovering the home in the heavens, and like Alice, he was learning the strange rules of a croquet game in the limbo, maybe meeting Coyote instead of the Cheshire Cat.

“Be careful, chica Mares,” says Billy. “You don’t want to stain that nice card again, spilling your homemade sea water all over Rudy’s ink!”

The grave of Rudy’s parents has turned into some sort of screen that shows words Rudy sent me once, when I was away from my kitties and missed them a lot. The dream magic has changed a few words from his original message, in which he was speaking on behalf of my cats, to adapt it to my current feeling of loss for his passing.

“See, all is fine on this side!” says Billy. “Rudy’s so right. ‘Honor the memories by not being sad’, I could not have said it better. You used that beautiful leather pouch in which you kept your phone to hold the card open while you took that picture. Maybe because your soul knew Rudy would always find ways to talk to you, even though you hate phones, heehee!”

“How do you know so much about me, and about the current world?”

“Now, that was a rather stupid question.” As he rolls his ghost eyes, Billy flings the picture frame beyond the grave, aiming as though he were playing horseshoes. Then as raven caws again the Kid snaps his fingers one last time and is swallowed by the frame, landing back on that New Mexican croquet court. I rush and straddle the grave to squat by the frame, wondering what I should do next. From under the glass a shrunken black and white Billy is pointing at the grave with his croquet mallet and shouts: “Farewell, my dear, I hope you’ll fare as well as Alice, hahaha!” 

Still squatting, I spin on my axis and see on the “grave screen” a new image from the cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland. The little girl is struggling with her flamingo mallet, sending pink feathers all over the place.

As I observe the scene, giving my back to Billy, I ask him over my shoulder: “What do you mean I’ll fare as well as…”

BAM!!! I feel a harsh blow on my buttocks as Billy repeats “Fare-weeeell!” I guess he has mistaken me for the hedgehog ball of the Queen of Hearts’ croquet court. He must have used his mallet more like a golf club to send me flying through the air like this! Or like the giant rainbow dreamcatcher Eliseo made for Sonny in Shaman Winter. Sonny’s mentor had added a handle to his very special dreamcatcher, which made it look like a racket. I wonder how I can think with such clarity while “free flying” in the outer space because the ‘Kid’ thought I was a croquet hedgehog… Is it because Billy wants me to get rid of my remaining spikes or to force me to ponder why I would sometimes curl up like a shy hog? Right now I feel like a Looney Tunes character knocked down in a fight: I see stars spiraling around my head, and all sorts of memories are popping up from places I’ve been, people I’ve met or stories I’ve read. It’s as if I was propelled through the tube of a giant kaleidoscope, my particular rabbit (or jackalope) hole. There is a predominance of birds in the images I get a glimpse of, and several come from a land I love, the Camargue region where horses, flamingos and French cowboys live, also where the Wild Westers of another Billy, Buffalo Bill, sojourned for a while.

Finally the croquet flight is ending, and I land in Rudy’s property, my bag hitting my head, in case I missed some more stars for my kaleidoscopic show. “Caw caw caw,” laughs a raven nearby. I get up in the middle of the walkway between the entrance and the adobe arc above the turquoise gate. Now that I look at it from my free flight perspective, it does resemble a giant croquet wicket.

I walk to the house and knock. “Come in!” Rudy shouts. He is there, STANDING, motionless, frozen in time, like that old clock frozen at six in the Jewish quarter of Fez, Morocco, where I roamed cemeteries looking for (the wrong) ghost and where Última materialized for me in the traits of that old Moroccan lady who blessed me and disappeared.

“Frozen at six, like a mad hatter’s clock,” I think and smile. “I told you that you were a curandera in training….” says Rudy with a wink, still without moving. He is smiling with Teresa, who is holding that Rarámuri drum Rudy was so proud of.

I am a bit startled by the immobile presence in my dream of the two people I’ve always considered mi papá y mamá nuevomexicanos. For a second I think that if it was 2011 a while ago in the White Sands, maybe I am still around that date, which is why I see Rudy among the living… But then I start remembering details as I take a closer look at my motionless friends. Maybe they are smiling a frozen smile in the dream for me to pin down the exact time frame of the scene. Let’s see… On that day Teresa and I had showed up late, and Rudy wondered if we would ever make it for lunch. We did… It was cold, so it could not be August as a while ago.

Just like during my kaleidoscopic flight, images from that time period flood my memory. Teresa ‘and her twin’ are posing for me by ‘their’ black and white picture; I also appear in a twin image, facing myself on two black and white shots of my trip to Arizona, when many questions about my next move in life assailed me; on el día de la Candelaria (incidentally, the same day I went to the Sandía mountains with Rudy’s books, close to his Raven’s Cueva), a wonderful blessing of the seeds by Aztec dancers who became friends, with close ups of some of the details of that particular scene: Fidel and his Tonatiuh tattoos; Fernando blowing the quiquizoani to the four winds mirrored by a California elder inviting married women to stomp grapes in A Walk in the Clouds; a rattle basking in its shadow, wishing to shake my soul while rattling time. Finally, I see the haunting statues of Juan de Oñate and his spikey spur, spinning like a revolver barrel, gear teeth, or that Ferris Wheel My Raven talked about before the current dream.

The minute Oñate’s spur stops spinning, Rudy and Teresa start moving. “Welcome to our chapter in your dream! Let’s sit at the table.” says Rudy. “¿Cómo estás, Nathalie?” asks Teresa while she sits as well. “I have agreed to be in another of Rudy’s stories. If I showed up as my ‘real’ librarian self in Shaman Winter, now in this dream in common I will play Lorenza, only borrowing her name to keep the Sun close to you y para vigilar tu camino,” she says showing a Zuni sun face rattle she had bought for me in Chimayó.

“I am glad Teresa bought that rattle for you,” says Rudy. “The Sun has always accompanied you. Didn’t your Belgian parents call you ‘little sun’ when you were born? I also remember what you told me ten years ago about the sunny meaning of Lorenzo in Spain…”

This detail is the time confirmation I needed. I have landed in Rudy’s world back in 2014. Ten years earlier I had asked him if he called his young curandera ‘Lorenza’ for a symbolic reason, since in Spain ‘Lorenzo’ is the nickname for the Sun. Rudy wrote back adopting the name’s meaning: “May Lorenzo guide you on your Path of Light, discovery, understanding of the deep stratus we hardly ever call our own, and which is the root of our souls”… Talk about an amazing wording, and an even more amazing concept, whose deep meaning I am finally starting to grasp in all its magnitude.  I guess a writer called ‘RA’ who uses Kokopelli as a letterhead knows how to grow the tiniest seeds in the promising soil of unbeaten paths, especially on the Path of the Sun…

“I loved that you mentioned and used it,” I smile.

“Of course!” says Rudy. “You know I am fond of details and symbolism.”

“Maybe that golden angel candle I gave you was my way to unconsciously mirror a scene in the movie by your “long-distance twin” Lelouch: an old professor is given a Santa Claus candle and he revisits his theory on metempsychosis through the candle’s melting lens…”

 “And what do you melt for?” asks Rudy who always loves to provoke a little… “I believe you are on your way to get your gift, your Raven’s gift, so make sure to honor so-called opposites. Sunrise and sunset, light and shadow, angels and angles, Santa and Satan, heehee… That’s why I added those words in the last chapter of Jemez Springs, about the fifth season…”

“Yes, I remember that,” I say, reciting: “Make unity of light and shadow, unity of self. Perhaps there was another season. A fifth season, the call to understand the Tree of Life, the middle, unifying ground. Everyone should know by now that the tree is anchored in the soul.”

“Good, very good,” smiles Rudy.

“You know,” I add, “In my understanding of it, the fifth season is also ‘the fifth element’, ether, and most of all love, like in that sci-fi movie by Luc Besson…”

“Movies are part of the huge quarry I dig daily to create stories,” acknowledges Rudy. “Maybe the fifth season is when all can understand why the fire of the sun would be incomplete without the liquid flow of the river. Lorenzo, el Santo, is the name of a river too, ¿que no?”

“Verdad,” I nod. “I would always specify to my students back in Spain that Quebec city, on the shores of the St Lawrence / San Lorenzo River, took its name from Kebek, a word of the Algonquian language family which means ‘there where the river narrows’.

“Caw caw caw” we hear a call behind the glass door of the resolana. A raven is there watching us, perched on the turquoise railing. Rudy’s dachshund, Oso, darts down barking toward the bird visitor that flies away and lands atop the adobe horno in the garden.

“Stay warm in the heart,” I hear, and a new image appears in my mind’s eye, also from the 2014 time frame, in which I came back in dream. That day on the corner of Fontana and Marquette I felt so cold that I had opened the wood stove glass door to make the living room warmer, and at least 40 ravens started appearing out of nowhere, which made me instantly feel warmer. Then the owner of the place came back and scolded me because he did not want to let smoke out of the stove.

I silently stare at that memory within the dream, and for a second I feel I am in that living room, sitting on the couch, facing the ravens, and on the small table to my right the weird coyote sculpture suddenly appears as the caricature of the she-dog with a male name that Alex (Keanu Reeves) and Kate (Sandra Bullock) “simultaneously owned, two years apart”, in the amazing movie The Lake House. The beauty walk Alex had organized for Kate to show her his favorite Chicago houses had moved me to tears the first time I watched the movie. By then, I felt it was as if she spoke through my lips when she asked, in a letter left in their magic time-bender mailbox by the lake, why he was taking so much trouble for her.

This story is brilliant, and requires many views to grasp all its layers and intricacies, as is usually the case when time is bent enough as to make a tree grow overnight in front of a building that will only exist in two years, however exactly at the right time to give shelter to a tree-loving lady on a rainy night.

I understand that the four-legged friend shared both by Kate and Alex during their separation imposed by the Lord of Time had to be a dog because of its psychopomp status, like horses and maybe other beings too. “Jack…” I whisper, a tear rolling down my cheek at Rudy’s place.

“Who’s Jack? You’re seeing my Juan riding Jack the Jackalope?” wonders Rudy, who awakens me from my dream within the dream. “I don’t remember if I made them meet a raven on their cosmic flight. In my children’s books I like to give animals names that sound like their species name. Now I am wondering if we should have named the Jack-alope ‘Santi’, short for ‘Santiago’, in the Spanish version of the story… How do you say Jack in French?”

“In the Spanish version I would have switched to a she-Jackalope, una lebrílope llamada Lupe. Jack is Jacques in French,” I smile. “When I was a child I used to mix two nursery rhymes, one of which spoke about that ‘Jacques’, a friar who overslept, forgetting to ring his church bell for the ‘matins’. The other was about a miller who overslept too, letting his mill spin too fast.”

“We have the same bell-ringing nursery rhyme in English,” says Teresa. “Only that the religious man is named Brother John”.

“It seems that Rudy combined both versions in the names of the jackalope and its rider,” I answer. “How beautiful it is to wed cultures through children’s songs. In Arabic the ‘brother’ is named Hassan,” I smile, remembering my Spanish mountains. “You know, only very recently in my soul search journey have I understood why I would always ‘bother’ my students with the particular detail of the indigenous name of the St Lawrence River. I just had to. ‘There where the river narrows’ is an Embudo. A beautiful place for births, and actually a metaphor for the narrowness of the birth canal too…”

“It sure is narrow, and how painful can births be…” sighs Teresa / Lorenza.

“But that’s why going into labor is called ‘dar a luz’,” argues Rudy. “Giving the gift of light is a painful process, not only for flesh and blood babies being born, but for all in-depth works to finally come to fruition after a long time spent at it. The embudo or funnel image is also like the narrow neck that connects the two bulbs of the hourglass…”

“Ha! This is where I’ve landed from,” I say. “I’ve just spent time with Billy the Kid in ‘the New Mexican hourglass’, a description of the White Sands by Billy’s impersonator.”

“Billy sure showed up many times in my writings,” continues Rudy. “Often I didn’t know why, but just like you with ‘where the river narrows’, I HAD TO write about him in my books… Apparently those ‘random’ needs speak for our souls, begging to be heard. Remember what I told you when you mentioned your helium balloon that traveled from Belgium to Mexico. Everyone’s spirit has powerful ways to speak to the soul about what really matters. El Río Lorenzo, and maybe those who tasted its waters, must be happy that their special message for you was finally delivered. I wonder if you have to pay a toll to cross bridges on that river… What do you think?” he asks with a wink.

“All I can think of right now is of a catenary bridge as wide as a Cheshire cat’s smile, which I never crossed in this life, in a state where cows got zapped by stray voltage…”

“Huh? What cows?” Teresa and Rudy ask.

“Cows in Michigan or Wisconsin.” I say, “They didn’t appear in the movie script, but Meg Ryan aka ‘Annie Reed’ mentions them to describe how the man she likes had fallen in love with his wife, now deceased… I have always loved romantic movies, and Sleepless in Seattle is one of my favorites. The city mentioned in the title made me forget that the story started in Chicago. The bridge I am talking about straddles ‘a kiss’ between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.”

Sleepless in Seattle… That alliteration sounds too easy a literary device, a bit cheesy, like the movie…” says Teresa with contempt.

“No!” I protest. “The movie is great, and the alliteration works. It may be easy to create, but that literary device serves memory purposes. It’s what Rudy does with the names of his animal characters. And I’ve noticed that a children’s author I like, Mary Pope Osborne, also uses similar ‘head rhymes’ in the titles of her famous Magic Tree House series. ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ is how a radio host —a ‘shrinkette’— calls the male protagonist of the movie. Other people on the radio show were called ‘Marooned in Miami’ or ‘Disappointed in Denver’.”

“We are far from Chicago, Seattle or Miami,” says Rudy. “A bit closer to Denver, true, but since we’re in Burque, how would you call yourself after your stay here?”

“Awakening in Alburquerque,” I say.

“But you’re dreaming!” Rudy feigns to object.

“Yes, that’s why,” I smile. He laughs.

In my mind’s eye I see an illustration by El Moisés, adorning a story Rudy would tell in 2017 about a little owl playing with his buddies Raven and Crow instead of learning how to read, and being fooled by a clever lady fox. Maybe it came to my mind because that other bridge I mentioned to Rudy is not too far from the “Fox River”…

Little Ollie the owl ditched school so much he can’t read a thing, so now he pays a toll to cross a free bridge over a ditch. Funny how the word ‘ditch’ exists in a twin sequence. Between the two different meanings, I’ll choose the water channel over abandonment! Las acequias son un don divino, ditches are god-given, and there’s joy in sharing one’s gifts…

“You know, Rudy,” I say. “One day you’ll answer that toll question writing a cute children’s book, with a sequel that implies crossing the rainbow bridge, like Dorothy… In your universe, the rainbow bridge is where jackalopes live…

‘Free’ also refers to liberty. And before knowing about your tecolote sequel with the rainbow bridge, I had created my own rainbow bridge in the latest episode of my Dreamtime Cats, a series that I write under the pen name of Nannie, my anglicized childhood nickname. You will come to love the story.

I changed the real name of a collapsed bridge I want to rebuild: instead of calling it the Bridge of the Judge or Checkerboard Bridge, as Granada inhabitants know it, I named it Qantarat al Hurría; in Arabic it means Freedom Bridge. My “cat-racter” Sam erected it on the ruins of the old. I used to live by that bridge… Sam was aided by a mysterious helper clad in white who owned a key that opened many doors… I had not realized it while writing the story, but now I see that the rainbow bridge straddling the Darro River in Granada followed the correct North-South axis. At least all the weddings of sun and light I’ve observed since then build their ‘bow’ from North to South… It took me a while to pay attention to those things. I was the one illiterate in that department. Your little Ollie the owl will need to attend Wisdom School and leave his amiguitos Raven and Crow to become educated, but in my case it is thanks to leaving school and letting Raven be my teacher that I learned those important things I ignored. Well, I shouldn’t tell you more about your future story, I don’t want to spoil your own findings!”

 “I can’t wait to write that story, then!” exclaims Rudy. “I like your observation regarding Raven. I’ve always felt that I should have developed his character more in depth. In the Sonny Baca series I hint at the bond uniting luminous Sonny and shadowy Raven, but I didn’t expand much on it. Maybe the fifth season is filled with rainbows! Rainbows, as you have just put it, represent the wedding of water and fire, rain and sun, in a powerful love song. Are you ready to be the one crossing your personal rainbow bridge instead of only sending your ‘cat-racters’ treading it?”

“I am,” I beam.

“In Shaman Winter Eliseo makes a rainbow dreamcatcher for Sonny, which will be used as a shield, but it seems to me I don’t need to build anything new for you. You have found a way to make your own rainbow.”

“Creo que sí,” I confirm. “The other day I witnessed the power of what we call ‘manifestation’. As I pondered, from my heart, the deep meaning of the rainbow bridge, it appeared ‘for real’ over the piece of land I consider my Oz on Earth, all clad in gold. And I shouldn’t need a shield anymore… My heart is strong enough to melt my own demons with its light!”

“El poder del corazón,” whispers Rudy. “Vamos, Teresa, let’s rattle mijita’s time again, for her to make her soul’s ends meet. Shake Father Sun, I’ll grab the drum.”

“Espera, Rudy,” I say, feeling it’s the last time I really have a chance to properly say goodbye, and to thank him for what his work and his human presence meant in my life. “Antes de que me vaya, I wanted to tell you and Teresa how grateful I am for you. You mean a lot to me. And coming to your world has opened so many avenues I did not even know existed! I feel so much wiser than when I was trapped in Academia. Teresa, Rudy never added the ‘Ph.D.’ letters behind his name, but he’s one of the wisest men I know. When I gave it all up to come here, I was silly enough to worry about disappointing both my dad and Rudy after telling them my 1111-page study would never see the light in a dissertation form. Today I know that all is good as long as I don’t disappoint myself on my path. I have tons of ideas to use the fruit of so many years of hard work in better ways, reaching out to more people for true life-changing realizations. This feels so much more important than adding to my name three letters that mean absolutely nothing to me. The path a certain education is taking nowadays is not for me; that kind of education no longer holds any resonance, meaning or value in my life. However I am grateful for the window that was opened when I started the academic work that enabled me to meet you, Teresa, and to discover your work and universe, Rudy. In doing so, I was unwittingly starting to really peek into my soul, in order to meet myself in words coined by brujos’ quills. For years I’ve analyzed and compared literary odes to ‘two of my homes’, and it opened the door to my soul houses through the magic of words.

Yes, now I am convinced that writers shape reality in a way that’s both eerie and wonderful, but it was difficult to be ‘taken seriously’ when I tried to convey that message at the University. I will no longer be anything that is not truly me. It feels so liberating to not have to fit into what others could agree or understand. Doing things my way was the most important gift to myself. Following one’s heart song is what truly matters, and for this, I will be eternally happy to have listened to my instincts and rejected what did not ring true… Don’t worry for me. I am more serene than ever, in all four rooms of my being. That’s it, I think I’m ready now!”

My friends hug me as I walk to the door; Rudy gives me his blessing while Teresa starts rattling the Zuni Sunface. Rudy follows playing the Rarámuri drum.

Soon my two friends fade from the dream realm in a dense mist surrounding the room. I shed a few tears as I open the door to exit Rudy’s physical universe for the very last time. The drum beat turns into a heartbeat, both mine and that of a winged being. I step outside and close the door of Rudy’s house, taking a last look at the cute entrance of his beautiful casita, where he welcomed visitors with a trickster-twisted saying on a tile: “Mi casa es MI casa”. To my left, the merry-go-round pink horse by the pathway is still headed toward the sunrise in its immobile southeastern ride. Its sight mirrors another wooden horse I saw, lost among flesh and blood steeds across the big eastern water, on a Spanish Wild West movie set of Almería, the mirror of the sea.

Instinctively, I take my Barbie horse Espíritu del Rico Cielo Azul out of my bag and put him facing his merry-go-round pink buddy by the adobe wall. I touch both horses with my homemade magic wand that also traveled with me in the dream, remembering that the trick is really to believe in one’s magic…

And it works! Rico grows to reach the height of Rudy’s merry-go-round pink horse, which is also coming to life, freed from the pole that pierced its body. The pink horse snorts, nose-kisses Rico and starts galloping toward the sun, turning around just once as if to silently thank us. I am thinking that maybe the “merry-go-south” pony is flying to the Temple of the Sun whose Belgian version of the story I carry in my big bag… Rico smiles a horse smile and lets me know with a whinny and a snuggle that it’s time for us to gallop too.

TO BE CONTINUED (here)

One thought on “Raven’s Gift (part one)

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