Raven’s Gift (Part four)

Message in a Bottle

My flying horse is struggling to get away from the twister which is about to hit us. I hold on extremely tight to Rico’s neck, telling him that everything will be all right in the end, shouting to his ear: “Don’t worry, Rico. Whatever happens is meant to happen. Remember what we were saying about the whirlwind that would unshackle The Wizard’s captive balloon. I think the time has COOOAAAAAAAAAHHH…..

I am unable to finish my sentence. The two of us are swallowed by the powerful whirlwind. All I can do is hug Rico with all my strength and close my eyes, praying for the best. The sound is terrifying, as though we were circled by freight trains coming at us from the four cardinal directions. After landing on the iron horse, now it’s as if Rico had mated with the train, anglerfish-style, turning into one of those hybrid jigsaw puzzle creations by Tim Klein…

My ears are popping constantly because of the sudden changes in the air pressure. Now I understand what it feels like to be in a washer that’s centrifuging… Retrospectively and if laundry were to feel, I am glad I wash my clothes by hand, not only my delicates,  and that I always let them dry floating in the gentle breeze. To me they always look like little people having a tea party on invisible porch swings… Instead of a breeze though, Rico and I are currently being shaken off our DNA by a spiraling downpour of air fury.

Sounds soon start to fade in the distance, and visions appear, seemingly random although making perfect, profound, and really intuitive sense as I experience them. It’s the same feeling of deep understanding I often receive when I am about to wake up, taking back from the Dreamtime visions and words, all the important fibers Spirit wants me to keep weaving in my story threads. The visions that arise seem to be stemming from the past energies of the region the twister is hitting, as well as from cartoon strips and movie stills I have stored in the sea of my psyche.  

I hear words and partial sentences acting as ‘subtitles’ for the ‘twister slideshow’, my guidelines from the soul:

Stay grounded while riding your train of thoughts / Almería is Walt’s world over the rainbow / Coal, gold, ruby and diamond of self were to be mined and polished to build el castillo interior in the alchemy of time / Even angels mix deserts and genders / You are ready to honor Piasa’s teachings today, because you know the big bird only eats our former selves / Your soul flowed down the river of your past name to slumber in the lake, now dry the black-feather robe to let your quetzaltzin shine as it flies over a Cheshire bridge and a Limbo cat / Dead body by the river, your soul paddling to the sea was pulled like an arrow to come back to your love / Unicorns are real / Banishment from the balloon cluster was meant to stir memories and also teach collaboration and reverence to the Earth / Journey through the magical tunnel anytime you want; it won’t explode in your face / We are a thousand ghosts / Soul is your time machine / Quiet the black tongues / Let the snake fly / Grow bright new scales / Fuse your darkness and light / You are the captain of your shift surfing the oceans of time  / Soon you’ll be in the now / Soon we’ll be in the we / The shadow of the watcher in the wall was crushed into corn pollen to be sprinkled on the gum road built for the Emerald City show only, but the promises of new shores are real / Go search for the lighthouse to bring back the nahual that created the tonal / The xayakatl was needed for you to become the chaquira, the redeemed pearl of your soul, Chronosphere of old bathing in the new rays of the sixth rising sun / Love is our Empire, dear Little Sun knocking on the door of the moon’s halo dwellers…

The visions are ceasing, the words are fading. As fast as it reached its maximum power, the tornado soon loses velocity and starts to abate. Rico and I are blown down to the bottom of it, ending up being ‘spat’ on the ground of a large patio with a stone well. The sculpture of a naked lady is the silent, blindfolded witness of our fall.

Shaken, disoriented and bruised, lying face up on Rico’s shoulder, I open my eyes to see the tornado now “watching us from above”, ready to turn back to its innocent cloud self.

Gradually my sight is adjusting as I recover from the fall, and I see a frieze depicting the God of Wind surrounded by his faithful flute players and other beings that look like mermaids to me.

“Deja el Friso Atrás y Viaja al Arrecife de las Sirenas…” I hear myself thinking.

As I mean to watch the sky opening again, I notice Latin inscriptions on higher friezes.

Domine ante te omne desiderium meum  et gemitus meus a te non sit absconditus / Fiat misericordia tua super nos quemadmodum spera vemus in te / Magnificata est enim usque ad celos et veritas tua in eternum

“Oh my God, that’s it! We’re in Heaven Rico!” I exclaim in a sudden panic.

“I spent hours cloud cantering and I can assure you this hard ground ‘bed’ is made of good ole’ Mother Earth stones…” says my horse. “Now would you please get off me for a sec? I’d like to check if I still have all my limbs here…”

“Oops, I’m so sorry…” I say, getting up, brushing my jacket and pulling my jeans to see what I feel pulsing over my right knee. Nothing unusual, my four beauty marks in a square are still there, reassuring presence confirming the conservation of my four limbs. What I still don’t realize is that the beauty marks also mirror the structure of the four towers framing the castle we have landed in…

After bucking a few times to make sure none of his limbs are broken again, my considerate horse asks: “What made you think we were in Heaven?”

“Well, the first thing I saw was the sky, then the God of Wind and flute players, then those Latin inscriptions whose sight freaked me out…” I explain.

“Why don’t you decipher them for us? Maybe they hold a message. Cause you know how to read Latin, right?”

“Well, ahem, I should… But then I kind of buried it because my last Latin teacher totally put me off with her attitude and wonderful(ly wrong, classist and colonialist) adage ‘Know what you want: ending up sweeping streets or discovering America; Latin is the key’. Whatever… Anyway, I guess I still have some remnants of it. Let me see… ‘Lord, all my desire is before you. (Well, maybe I should say ‘thee’ to sound more biblical); and my (hmn, not sure…) ¿whining / longing? is not hidden from you-thee (you see, heehee… Yeah, thí). Have mercy upon us and show us how to Trust. (OK, I see where this goes… Got it. Now I am not really getting the first part, but I’d say it is something like this:) from the ¿magnified / magnifying (like a glass, haha) / almighty? Heavens you assure me that the Truth is Forever’ (now THAT sounds good…)”

“How does it make you feel?” asks Rico.

“Great, perfect, my legs are itching for action. My heart is racing. My mermaids are calling… Let’s get out of here, sweetest thing! You ok to fly out?”

“Sure am. Yippeeee!!!” he joyfully whinnies.

“Go where I go, Rico, go, go, go!” I recite as I hop on his back, grateful to notice that my bag of treasures is still miraculously tied to his mighty mane, and I use an expression that always made me smile: “Giddy up!!!”

In my never-resting mind Annie Reed pops up from Sleepless in Seattle to once again sing along to a Christmas remix playing on the car radio before experiencing her love epiphany through the voice of Sam Baldwin (who takes his last name from a river in Chicago…). She has tuned in to Marcia Fieldstone’s Christmas edition ‘Wishes and Dreams’ of her show ‘You and Your Emotions’, broadcasting from the Sears Towers (in Chicago again…)

On our own one-horse open ride to exit the patio, Rico’s take-off will be vertical, helicopter-mode.

As we are getting ready to leave the delicate sandstone arches and Carrara marble balconies of the castle’s interior, more associations come to mind. The ‘interior castle’, El Castillo Interior, is the title of the famous mystical work by the saint who gave her name to the ‘mirador’ where Rico and I lived in Spain. The saint described the soul as a diamond in the shape of a castle containing seven mansions. I see a close connection with the seven directions in the Native American teachings of the Medicine Wheel: North, West, South and East, Above, Below AND WITHIN, which will eventually radiate all around, once we have spent a more than reasonable amount of time getting to really know —and then polish— ourselves. In my twister vision, Walt Disney rode a miniature iron horse with its last car loaded with diamonds… Maybe this was the deeper meaning of the image, and the association with Almería must have come from the ‘rumor’ of Walt’s Spanish birth. Some say he did actually contact people in Mojácar, Almería (Al-Mariyat / the mirror), searching for the man many believed was his true father. He was a doctor who had built a mini, extravagant castle in the village. I don’t know how many mansions this castle we’re in has, but it displays many arches, which once again remind me of croquet wickets… And then it dawns on me… The croquet course is organized in the shape of two diamonds in mirror! Only after smoothing our rough edges may we unite our dark and light, and then shine…

This castle’s cold marble comes from Carrara, hometown of Myriam in Lelouch’s Chance or Coincidence. The worst tragedy of her life strikes when she spends a weekend in her true love’s lighthouse. From there she sets on a journey, the journey they had planned together with her son and soulmate… She must embark the train of her pain on her own, and only once she’s done with all she needed to do, with them in her heart, will she be ready to go back to the quarry where her family lives. They are confident that she will make it, when she is ready.

When Rico and I ascend in the air I see another arch, opening to… a wall, under which another Latin inscription I think reads: “until here are you allowed to enter”, basically a more positive way to negate something from you… “Don’t enter beyond this point”. Only after spending enough time studying the motives of the one who carved that inscription long ago will we get the whole picture of this castle’s story and signs…

As Rico flies beyond the castle walls, I finally recognize it for what it is. Its characteristic silhouette is a familiar sight I greeted many times on the road from Granada to Almería. How different does the fortress look from the inside! Its most precious gems are hidden behind thick walls, like many Muslim buildings are, like many humans as well?

“We landed in the Calahorra castle of Emerald City’s ‘Mistress of the Eastern Wood’, Rico! We came through ITS tornado in the story!”

“So we made it, we’ve crossed the ocean!” says Rico, happy to realize he does not have to fly as long as he thought. “Well that was a nice gesture from Mister Twister in the end! He spared me tons of work out! I am a bit rusty after all those years frozen in snow…” he adds, insisting on his last words to remind me of what I did for / to him.

I giggle. “My bad! But hey, what if through this experiment we have verified the long-awaited miracles of cryogenics? You seem to have healed during those snow years! I have no idea how we traveled such a long distance, but then again we’re dreaming… Everything is possible in the dream realm.”

“Right,” Rico reluctantly mutters.

“Emerald City…” I repeat out loud, and then one more time, tweaking the expression a bit, leaving out the two ‘E’s of Ego Energy, which leads to another A-ha moment: ‘Mr. Ald, See Tee…’ HEY! ME TOO!!!”

“You C T too, ‘two for tea and tea for two, and you for me, and me for you’… What do you mean again?” asks Rico, a ‘tad bit’ resentful for my lack of verbal acknowledgement of his most recent flying prowess.          

“I too have seen ‘T’ in Emerald Ci-ty, and only now am I noticing. In all the summaries of the show they say Lucas was crucified at Nimbo, but it was not a cross he was tied to with barbed wire, it was a ‘T’-shaped pole! A ‘T’ with the name of the hamlet, Nimbo, carved on it; a ‘T’ Dorothy will Tear down to set Lucas free; a ‘T’ the Mistress of the Eastern Wood sits on when she Tortures them, controlling their mind and therefore retaining them in the gloomy slime of the Prison of the Abject! Only through brainpower and strong will shall they break free from their particular Alcatraz in a dead sea of mud.”

I go on sharing my realizations with my patient Rico: “Lucas was covered in tar and straw, à la black adobe, which also reminded me of the tarring and feathering of the Wild West, and of the local celebration of the Cascamorras. You remember that festival, ¿verdad?”

“Not sure…”

“It is 530 years old, and a contemporary man who plays the historic character of Juan Pedernal tries to take away the Virgin statue that Juan found in Baza when he was part of a crew that built a church among Muslim ruins. The man reenacts Juan’s wish to take the virgin from Baza to his home town, Guadix, but the condition is for him to enter the church being ‘clean’. Therefore all the inhabitants of Baza cover themselves in black paint to stain him and prevent him from taking the Virgin away. ‘Disappointed’ by his (yearly and expected) failure, the inhabitants of Guadix cover themselves in red clay from the surrounding ‘badlands’ and stain him again, three days later, when he comes back empty-handed.”

“Black and Red, the colors of playing cards… So if I get this, the man symbolically becomes the in-between scapegoat, pretty much like Raven in the old stories,” concludes Rico.

“Well Nowadays el Cascamorras is a folk celebration aimed at uniting both towns rather than separating them. It is a mock battle.”

“But what about Juan Pedernal? He pays for both sides if they all dump their own dirty deeds onto him…” adds Rico.

“Not anymore. Well, not really. Nowadays if you attend the festival you’ll realize that the Cascamorras is the real hero. The crowd is crazy about him. ‘Staining’ him is more the need to touch him for a fleeting moment. And since you mentioned Raven’s image in the old stories, I like to see how many new stories are portraying much more nuanced versions of their old narratives, revisiting the archetype of ‘the villain’.”

“So, el Cascamorras is more like a joker figure?”

“Yes!!!!! That is exactly what he represents! When he’s done running and getting all covered in black paint, they will cleanse him so that he can sport again his fancy attire decorated with suns, moons and stars, all in yellow-red-and-green tones, very similar to what the playing cards joker looks like!!!! Wow, Rico, you always help me see what is right in front of me but I fail to grasp at first sight… Sometimes it’s like a Halloween costume whose deep meaning I will only get only a few weeks before the next Halloween is upon us…”

“Más vale tarde que nunca… Yellow, like the brick road, Red like the floating dress of the Mistress of the Eastern Woods, and Green like Emerald City… and like chile, heehee!” adds my amazingly brilliant horse.

“Perfect, so perfect, everything is connected to everything else. Chile, sí, para tener un poco de picante en nuestra vida… Green is at the heart of the New Mexican red and yellow… The Green of the heart chakra I was desperately looking for in that color maze years ago when I failed to understand it was all around me but that I had to cultivate some for myself first… And regarding the bad guys / good guys outdated scenario, we can all be villains to someone else at some point in our lives, or heroes at some other, and neither figure defines us or sets things in stone. There was some controversy when Disney (not the man, the company that survived him) told a bigger, broader, more complex and subtle story of Maleficent and her shapeshifter raven. I immediately loved the movie, and I had enriching conversations with some people who had a hard time accepting to revise their traditional ‘classification’ of the “good guys and bad guys” paradigm. I guess it works for good land and badlands too! By the way, a real ‘theft’ of a goddess occurred in these badlands: Now exhibited in Madrid, the famous Dama de Baza, the Iberian Lady of Baza (sometimes related to Tanit or even an Atlantis Goddess), was found in 1971. Despite the protests of the locals, she was finally removed from this area and taken first to Barcelona. Strange that Barcelona is the other Spanish region where Emerald City was shot, don’t you think, Rico?”

“Strangerer and strangerer…” agrees the horse.

…In the night ~ exchanging glances” I add, singing. “Well yes, I think la Dama de Baza (the ‘baza’ (trump card) I keep in my trunk of kisses) should have been given a role in the show, under the name ‘Goddess of the Badlands’, ‘la Diosa del Malpaís…’ Hey! Maybe SHE is the Witch of the South, Mother of all Witches, who never appears in the show! We don’t really know though, because NBC cancelled Emerald City after the first season. In a world that sells stories, stupid money is the Queen of Fake Hearts, and an average audience of three million people is ‘not enough’, so ‘off with their dreamworld’s head’… Of course we can’t really compare, but in my dreamworld, one single reader —or no reader at all, just me expressing myself through stories— is worth writing such stories; they are my medicine. Maybe the disappearance of the TV show was a trick from Spirit to encourage the viewers to write their own stories, to imagine the scenario in which the Mother of all Witches, la Diosa del Malpaís, would defeat the ‘Beast Forever’ through other means than war… Malpaís… like Mr. Ald. (Ald.ous Huxley)’s ‘fictitious’ rez. What if Huxley did some Time Traveling while Tripping through his Doors of PercepTion and dreamed this latest version of Emerald City ahead of Time, huh!?? After all, one of his first stories was titled Limbo, which he also chose as one of his cats’ name… How sweet.

“Right now YOU sound like the one who’s tripping but well, I’ve known you for such a long time… I still love you and trust your weird logic, weirdo!”

“Takes one to know one,” I ‘T’ as in tease. “I still love you too…”

The two of us are laughing as we fly over a threshing plot where a villager is ‘surfing’ behind his mules to separate the grain from the chaff before winnowing.

“Look how amazing, Rico! The farmer still uses mules to thresh his grain like old timers. Could you imagine yourself pulling me while I surf ‘en la era’?”

“And being tied to a repetitive job like the merry-go-round horse we freed in Rudy’s entrance? Or walking in eternal circles like the ponies you ‘rode’ on the fairgrounds of your childhood? Nope, grathias, I prefer a walk in the clouds…”

“Oh but it would not last long. Just to get a taste of the old ways. It should be fun…” I answer, disappointed.

Down below a loud voice is heard calling, that puts a momentary end to our conversation.

“¡Peeepeee! Tiempo de tomar una pausita, te traemos boladitos. Los chiquillos nos han quitado unas cuantas calabazas para cavarles caras de miedo, porque copian esa americanada de JA-LO-GÜÍN, pero aún hemos podido hacer un buen puñao de tu dulce favorito. ‘Enga, a probarlos, ¡que te encantan!” Two ladies in their sixties have come to offer ‘Pepe’ the threshing man his favorite sweet: pumpkin fritters, made from the ones they could salvage from the kids’ Jack-o-lantern frenzy, which the village women consider a pointless copy of a US tradition. I smile, because I remember how I would insist on the European origin of that tradition with my Andalusian students. It has been a while that I haven’t heard Andalusian Spanish. Rico and I leave the trio to their sweet break and we are now flying over a flowery patio where six ladies are sitting at a big table covered with colorful yarn balls. They are working on their refajos for a future fandango. Refajos are skirts embroidered with woolen floral motives, which take many months to be completed. While sewing las señoras sing a song I love by Niña Pastori.

♫ Dame un delantal / y una aguja y un hilo y un dedal / y un remiendo de cariño / con mis labios voy a bordar

I hum along and finish the song by myself when their voices fade away.

♫ Soy la costurera de tus sueños / y quiero darte / un amanecer de rosas blancas / y un mar abierto de espuma y nácar

Further south, a gentleman opens the gate of his house decorated with a wrought-iron green giant planting his sword in a red bleeding heart with torn blue wings. Apparently he is the only villager able to see us, since he is waving as we fly above his home. He thanks us for inspiring him: “¡Gracias por esta nueva idea para el forjador de sueños!” he shouts. “¡Buen viaje!

“¡Gracias!” I wave back. “Dios le bendiga…”

“It feels good to finally interact with someone else again,” says Rico.

“It sure does. I guess he sees us in this dream of ours because he never gave up his own dreams? Forjador de sueños,” I repeat. “Dreamsmith… This is a beautiful name. I hope this man finds ways to refill the broken wings of his heart once it stops bleeding. Have you noticed the name above his entrance gate? ‘Prison’. I think we all are our own locksmiths… When was the last time I heard that by the way? It was ‘a while’ ago, and I’m not too sure of the when, but I sure remember the who. Time flies, as we do, caballito. Now the locksmith saying makes total sense. After locking doors and throwing the keys, there’s always the possibility to make new ones… Oh, here’s Aldeire! I remember this place fondly.”

“Is this where you had that vision you told me about, by the chestnut tree along the Benéjar river?”

“Yes, where three faces became one, when the Native and Spanish worlds were one and the same, when genders were dancing along blurred lines and where New Mexico floated in the words of an old Spanish lady, when home was already calling… Recently I’ve heard of a legend related to that castle whose ruins we see on that hill on the left. It has to do with a young woman from the 8th century, still an enigma to me. Once I owned a she-bird named after her… She sometimes comes knocking at the door of my soul, dragging her guilt and trauma around, wanting me to reexamine some certainties, but she will have to wait a little more. For now, let’s finish what we came to do here so we can go home soon, mi lindo caballo.”

Rico is now galloping towards the sea. On our southeastern route we fly over Sierra Nevada and I silently make peace with all the big and small wars that were waged in its shadow. With all my heart I hope the King buried in the once eternal snows, mi rey, will no longer feel cold if he gets to enjoy and learn from Rico’s story. But mermaids are calling, a light is waiting. This is all that matters now. I take the pinwheel out of my bag once again and softly blow on it as I whisper to the heart of the rainbow compass: “Arrecife de las Sirenas”…

I doze off a bit, letting Rico in charge, and I lose track of time. A sudden WHOOSH wakes me up as a pink vessel flies by, dangerously close to us… It’s a “croquet mallet”, aka pink flamingo!

“Oh Rico!” I exclaim. “You have taken us to the salt lakes of Cabo de Gata! I’m so excited!”

We hear the flamingo happily flapping its wings before landing on the shiny shallow surface of the salt lake by the sea to be reunited with its flamboyance. What an amazing name for the gathering of those elegant birds…

“How beautiful,” I whisper, tears welling up in my eyes. “Oops, I will add more salt to the salina if I cry… Like Alice swimming in the pool of her giant tears in Wonderland…” I say wiping the mini acequia furrowing its way down my cheek. “Look! They are celebrating a wedding en la Iglesia de las Salinas! Es una señal de buen augurio,” I say, watching how it rains rice on a couple exiting the temple by the sea. We are facing the sun that is slowly going down over the horizon, painting the whitewashed church and the bride’s ethereal gown in golden warm, peach color.

“May white clouds come sailing to make our wedding gown, and then go trailing to the valley where the evening sun goes down…” Judy Garland’s song gently forces its way back to my lips.

On the beach by the church a man in jeans and a loose white shirt is taking a picture of the sun with his I-pad, and suddenly my tears are no longer furrows but cascades, as if the shirt floating in the wind carried the ebb and flow of memories that need attention… I just let the tears flow, like a dam finally spilling the excess water that threatened to collapse the whole structure.

My tears are falling on Rico’s mane and I tell my horse: “The lighthouse must be only a few cloud strides away now…” and my stallion takes a left, cantering parallel to the seashore.

Below the long shadow of his hooves the sand vanishes into the ocher tones of a rocky shore that becomes cliff. The waves that seconds ago were soft fingers gently caressing the sand have turned into furious white foam fists banging on a stone wall. Once passed this harsh contour of the shore, a new beach is born, at the end of which stands the white lighthouse of Cabo de Gata on its rocky promontory. In this dream realm everything is deserted, except for a silhouette behind the window atop the lighthouse tower.

“Riquito mío, ricura de mi alma,” I ask, “Could you hover in front of that window, like a hummingbird in stationary flight?”

“Sure, like I do that every day…” teases Rico, still managing to accomplish the complex thing I ask him to do.

By an open window a man is whipping himself with what looks like a juniper branch.

“What are you doing!?!?!” I shout, managing to lean over Rico’s shoulder to grab the branch off the man’s hand. “In my great-grandmother’s world this plant is transformed into a spirit, and like her famous balm, it is meant for healing, not hurting!” I scold him.

“Wanting to help this guy out his happy scourging habit is cool and all,” says Rico, “but I have no intention of spending one more second suffering in silence while mimicking the hummingbird flight for you, or for him! Ea, he dicho. Now you are getting off me to do all the talk you want and I will land on this platform below, ok?? Jesús, qué mujer…” he says and kicks me off his back and over his head with a record-breaking bucking that sends me rolling inside the lighthouse through the open window, as I hold on to… the juniper twig. Then he quietly lands a few feet down from me, snorting his victory.

“I, well, I… just can’t stand seeing people hurting, that’s all,” I awkwardly say to the bewildered man on whose lighthouse floor I’ve just landed. He is looking at me with his mouth wide open. “So what’s your name?” I ask just like that, getting up and brushing the dust off my jeans with the juniper branch I stole from him.

“John…” answers the man who does not seem to be mad at me despite my unorthodox intrusion in his world. “How are you even seeing me? Nobody can…” he says.

“Well there’s obviously a glitch in the matrix of your world, then, cause I do see you, and I can talk to you…”

“How did you find me here?” he asks. “All those who looked for me ended up in the wrong country…”

“Well, your lighthouse stands in this place called the mirror in Arabic… And I have a feeling you ARE a mirror. And I just… I just had to come here. Something was calling me back to this beautiful Mediterranean reef where I experienced such deep and mixed emotions… John.” I say.

“Then I guess there’s a reason why this is called Mermaid Reef, que no?” he smiles. “And how should I call you, mermaid listener…??” John asks.

“My name is Nathalie… Nathalie Christine Elisabeth,” I precise.

“Nice to… receive you, Nathalie Christine Elisabeth. We should find a shorter name though…”

“Ha! Yes… Don’t mind my laughing, I’m just experiencing a déjà vu here… I love ‘Mermaid Listener’ but it’s a bit too long as well. You’ll pick the name, and I’m sure I will like it.”

“OK. And you can call me Johnny…” he answers, inviting me to sit down at a table where some pictures are scattered.

“¡Qué linda!” I say, spotting a fascinating black and white picture of a little girl in a long gown holding a mirror. I grab the picture and ask: “Who is this?”

“Linda…” The man repeats the word with a frozen expression on his face. After a few seconds that feel like centuries to me, he adds: “The name written behind the picture says ‘Julia’ though… For the longest time I thought of her as my foster grandmother, but now I guess she somehow is my mother too…” he says, apparently taken by a strong epiphany.

“What do you mean?” I dare to ask.

“You are the only one seeing me, but I’m not… real…” he says lowering his eyes.

“Of course you are real, Johnny! What makes you think you are not?”

I’m a shadow, I am a ‘char-actOr’, what you see is a projection, I only exist in a book!” he shouts.

“May I ask which book you’re talking about?” I ask, starting to get a hint at what novel that might be…

“My biological father thought it was an abomination to be a father, my Native stepfather brought an outdated book that made me think in terms of jealousy and clan rivalries, and my… and my…”

“…and your literary father channeled his frustrations and guilt through you, unwillingly creating a curse in your life…” I help Johnny out, finishing his sentence for him.

YES!!!!” he cries, bursting into tears.

I rush to hold him in my arms and comfort him. “It’s ok, Johnny. It’s over now, you’re not alone anymore. I understand you. I’m here with and for you. Your waiting years are over. You will come with me. Rico (when he’s done pouting) and I will take you back home, to New Mexico…”

“Will you, will you really?” he sobs.

“Of course…” I answer, running my hand on his cheek to wipe away his tears.

“You knew…” he smiles.

“Well, it took me a while to consciously know, but I guess my soul trusted I would finally connect the dots…” I answer. “Why don’t you offer me, US, a glass of water and a bite?” I suggest. “It seems we always forget to eat or drink in stories, man!”

“Haha! It’s true,” says Johnny with a smile still a bit drowned in tears. “Food for thought is good, but it can starve you if you don’t take care of basic needs first… All I have is peanut butter, popcorn and tap water…”

“It’s all good,” I smile. “I’m not too picky… but let’s just leave the peanut butter to roll seeds in it to feed the birds, will we? Dreams are like movies, so popcorn is perfect! And as long as you don’t intend to quench my thirst with waves, I’m happy. I’m kind of done with salt water for a while…”

As Johnny and I are having a bite he starts to show me other pictures scattered on the table, still related to ‘Julia’. 

“Look,” Johnny says. “This picture here shows the school where Julia taught. It is still functioning today! Here’s Julia as a little girl, with her sister Ethel. The man who took the picture would become a famous author himself, just like Julia’s son, seen here on her back. Funny shoes he has, but I would have loved to be carried like that by Linda… She was always passed out because of whatever drug she took…” he sighs.

“You know, I say, “I think the one who wrote your story was so desperately sad to have lost Julia when he was still a young boy, that he could only think of a mother as someone lost to him, lying there, waiting to die…”

“Oh so you know about Julia’s cancer…” Johnny says.

“I do. What is this crumpled note?”

“It’s from Julia to Aldous before she died…” answers Johnny, lost in his thoughts.

Judge not so much and Love More is great advice… I think we have to be reminded daily,” I say.

“Yes, now I try to apply it every day. It’s not always easy, I must say.”

“I agree, but it’s worth the try, even though it sometimes takes time to reconnect with that space… You know, the more I write, the more I need it, as my therapy… Sometimes though, writers fail to understand that their characters do come to life, and we have to be very careful to craft a story that won’t hurt them too much, while still getting our message delivered… Try not to blame Aldous for the situations he put you through. He did the best he could, he used his medicine or his medicine used him, and his book is such a powerful warning to where our present world might go adrift…”

“I know that, but why does he choose that terrible ending for me???” asks Johnny, still full of anger.

“Later on in his life he said that it was not the wisest choice, and he regretted it. Retrospectively he would have liked to find an alternative for you, but the story was already out there, with no way to take it back… There’s another story I would like to tell you. It’s from a movie I love, titled Chance or Coincidence. We’ve been talking about it with my horse Rico on our way here…”

“Rico is a talking horse…” inquires Johnny. “Yes, didn’t you hear how he scolded me before bucking me in here? Anyway, back to the movie. In the time I’m coming from we still don’t have feelies, but I have this strange ‘feeling’ that the filmmaker somehow tapped into Aldous’s regrets, therefore somehow recreating your universe when he dreamed his movie into being. That’s what he does, literally. He goes to sleep and then the story comes. He loves to use flashbacks so people who need basic structures are lost, and therefore dislike his style and criticize it. I say they just don’t understand. But well. In the first minutes of this movie, we see excerpts from a Belgian actor’s amazing vignettes of ‘cinema-theater’.”

“Aldous’s first wife was from Belgium!” says Johnny, suddenly more interested in where I’m going with that story.

“See, and it’s not the only ‘coincidence’… The actor shows how cinema and real life are actually intermingled through a character walking in and out of the screen. One of his tributes is to a classic from 1917: The Immigrant, with Charlie Chaplin.

“A good friend of Aldous!” adds Johnny, more and more excited.

“Exactly!” I smile. “In one of the Belgian comedian’s vignette, a man struggles to get a lady off screen, into real life, with him.

“I bet it’s not easily done,” sighs Johnny. “Let’s say it’s just a matter of time, plus look at us! It is proof that it can actually be done! I don’t know if Lauren MacMullan, a Disney filmmaker, saw that work by Hollogne, but she used a similar device in her very special take on Mickey and Minnie’s adventures: Get a Horse. It is both a  tribute to those characters of the past still entertaining us in the present, and a powerful visual that breaks not only the ‘fourth wall’ between actors and spectators, but also the fifth screen wall between actors themselves… like the fifth season and the fifth element,” I add…

“Half of my life I’ve built walls, and now I work at tearing them down…” muses Johnny.

“We have all been there, one time or another…” I answer. “As for me, I got a horse, heehee… Wise choice, because it’s Mickey’s horse who finds a new way to shake off the screen separation, so to speak… But back to your sad ending in Brave New World and the connection with Chance or Coincidence: just after the cinema-theater sequence, the movie shows very disturbing images of feet. Just feet: of a ballerina, who hanged herself.”

Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west; then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east…” Johnny recites.

“Yes, that’s what your story says. In the movie though, it’s a story within the story, because we understand that the ballerina only plays a role. She is alive and well! Like you and I are alive and well too! The heroin will have to go through heartbreak and then, while spending a weekend in a lighthouse that reminds me of yours, she will have to deal with excruciating grief, but, after choosing her own way to heal and love life again, she makes it. She crosses the veil of her pain, she will be happy again. I would like to show you (and ask you) something. Wait a sec… RICO, Phwwwwwuuuuweeeet!” I whistle.

“Could you please show some manners when you call me?” protests Rico from the platform below. “You don’t whistle, you don’t snap your fingers, you just politely ask me if I would mind coming to you! And then I will decide IF I want to do it…”

“Right… My deepest apologies, Señor Rico,” I smile, recognizing Rico’s ‘subtle’ ways to remind me of my own silliness, when I get upset about things that don’t really matter. All is a learning process in life…

“So what do you want?” my horse asks.

“Would you kindly fly to us?”

“To do the hummingbird move again?”

“Let the horse in!” says Johnny. “The windows are big enough, this should be fun to have a talking horse at home!”

“Did you hear that, Rico? Come on in!”

Once Rico is inside and Johnny invites him to partake of our popcorn ‘dinner’, I get the pinwheel out of my bag once again.

“Look, Johnny,” I say. “This has been our particular compass on this journey. It shows the seven colors of the rainbow, representing our chakras, the energetic wheels inside us that need to be worked on to acquire balance. When I acquired this pinwheel, I started gently blowing on it when movement was needed, and I felt that the blocks inside of me were slowly being lifted, so that the wheels could spin again, both this object and the wheels within myself. It took me A LONG time to reach balance, and coming here to write this story. This is what I needed to complete the shifting process of my thoughts and feelings. Throughout this dream journey I have been gradually reaching the state I needed to reach, mentally and emotionally. There’s still something I need to shift before I can write ‘the end’ of this story to start a new one, but first I wanted to propose a collaboration. You’re a character in a story, and I have turned myself in a character too. Would you like me to play the role of someone in Aldous’s story, if you struggle reaching out to them?”

“I know nobody has asked ME, but I think it’s a great idea!” says Rico. “I miss our true home. It’s getting late already. Home is no longer here…”

“I miss home too, Rico,” I say. “But I needed to be here one more time. This place of the mirror always calls me back when I am facing big changes, and seeing its setting sun is what invites the new rising sun. Now I understand why it is important to see the sunset here, and why failing to see it may delay things… Once I came here on a Christmas vacation because I needed to process a disruption I still did not fully understand, and to say goodbye to part of my life and to people dear to my heart. The next (and last) time I was here I buried a part of me under a rusty structure. That’s why I need to get my heart sherd back and take it home. Finding Johnny in the process was a blessing…”

“Thank you,” Johnny says, with tears in his eyes. “I want to go back home too… And yes, there are people I would like to talk to in Aldous’s story. It would be awesome if you could play their role…”

“It will be an honor, Johnny. Who would you want me to be first?”

“Linda… My mother…”

“So be it,” I say, taking a deep breath and letting Linda’s spirit speak her truth through me. After a while, she is ready. “It’s me, Johnny. I’m Linda, I’m your mother and I am so proud of having given birth to you. You are such an amazing person. I was lost in that SOMA world, but after I’ve crossed the veil, I woke up and saw what I would do differently… I have seen in my dream that you will take care of the reservation and they will be happy to have you back. Now they will share their wisdom with no more blocks. You will find ways of warning them, my love, so all can see how wrong the World State is, how lost we were. If I were to write a new version of my story there I would like to learn from them and help in one way or another… For you and all those who’d like, it would be fantastic to rebuild the ideal world of Aldous’s mother, so that her legacy could be passed down, but collaborating with the elders of your birthplace, those who still keep the ancient knowledge. You will all improve your world through stories and other endeavors focused on well-being and mutual education. Anytime you want, we can converse through this new system of communication, I would love to learn more from what you’ve gathered throughout those lonely years, asking the pictures of your literary father to reveal their secrets to you, one by one. There’s still time to follow Julia Huxley’s example. I saw her, you know… She has taken another earth costume now, and is doing so well… She told me how amazing it is to learn and teach, teach and learn…”

“Oh mother!” says Johnny. “I was so lost too, tumbling around in both worlds, I felt I was an outcast everywhere. I felt nobody really loved me, and sometimes I blamed you for this, both loving and hating you… But I know all was due to SOMA, and your “upbringing”, or rather indoctrination. You were not able to shift because of those methods they were so proud of: ectogenesis, neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopædia, and of course the heavy drug… Now I know that, anywhere, there’s hope, to prevent the World State to take over, despite the prophetic views of my literary father. We can always dream another world into being. We must believe, trust and act accordingly. I love you, mother, please forgive me, as I forgave you too…”

Johnny and “Linda” embrace each other and I sob as if I still was her, so grateful to have been the conduct for a long-awaited reunion.

“Is there anybody else?” I ask, wiping my tears.

“Yes, Lenina…” answers Johnny.

“My name, Nathalie, is related to ‘Natasha’ in Russia, and it seems clear that Aldous looked for Lenina’s name over there, so it’s a start,” I smile. “Before I slip into another’s skin again, even though it’s a paper skin, I wanted to share part of a song’s story, to prove that words can change the world. My parents gave me my name because of a song they liked about a Russian guide named Nathalie. To build the stage of his song’s story the singer imagined a Moscow café named Pushkin. It was just ‘for fun or for the rhyme’, but now this café has come to life in the Russian capital as a tribute to the song! That’s the power of stories. Maybe we will visit that café someday…”

“Maybe…” Rico and Johnny answer in concert.

I smile at the idea and concentrate to take on Lenina’s role for a while.

Johnny is the first one to talk. “Lenina, if you’re here and you can hear me, I wanted to say how sorry I was. It was so difficult for me to find balance between the extremes of Shakespeare’s books, the Reservation ways and your estranged, cold, mechanic and materialistic world. I felt that you were a bit different from the rest though, but still so indoctrinated… The second I saw you I ‘melted’, but I did not know how to manage my attraction to you. I was never taught how, in a balanced way…”

“Don’t feel bad anymore, John. I hope this conversation can set you free. You did me a favor, or Aldous did, making you act violently for a while. I had to be knocked off the haze. Next time you try, maybe act more gently though. You have a precious mind, tell Aldous I said so when you see him again… Deep inside I felt increasingly uncomfortable with the values we were taught in the World State, but it took me some time to understand it, and then process it. I was not too sure of what to do with it. You were starting to show me a completely new world. At first I was repulsed, then afraid, then I wanted to learn more, but in our story book, we really were too far apart for our paths to merge. You will make a good teacher of the good ways, John. Savage should be a compliment. Let’s call you ‘wild’, and if just one kiss can ease your pain, let’s share it here and now.”

John closes his eyes, draws a heart with his lips, and waits… letting ‘Lenina’ come to him. She kisses him a sweet goodbye, whispering to his ear “You will be happy back home. You’re free now, live your best life, and share your feelings openly with the lucky one who’ll be with you…”

“Wow, that was easier than I thought,” says Johnny, visibly happy.

“Ahem, guys, what was that, huh?!” Rico teases us.

I blush as I laugh, and ask Johnny if there’s still someone else he’d need to reach out to.

“Now I would like to help you express your unspoken words,” he says.

“Thank you. There’s this spot near the lighthouse, I need to do it there… You won’t have to impersonate anybody, I just need to reconnect with the spot, and tell SOMEONE about it, and that someone happens to be you… Are you ready to leave the lighthouse to take the journey back home with us?”

“YES!” he exclaims. “Just give me a few minutes to gather the photographs in this leather-bound magazine of Aldous’s father…” They are my treasure. I can’t wait to share their stories with you when we get home…

“I can’t wait to hear them, at home… Pictures are a great treasure,” I smile. “Cornhill…” I say, reading the title of the magazine. “A middle field… did they actually meet there? I will have to investigate this further,” I think to myself, for some reason imagining possible ‘Savage’ encounters in Shakespearian times, and associating this magazine’s title with those of my father’s school magazine and of this, my virtual ‘milpa’…

When Johnny is done gathering the few belongings that matter to him, he and I hop on Rico and leave the lighthouse through the window, flying a bit further East. I am looking for boat rails on the rocky shore.

“Here!” I exclaim. “Can you land near that spot where iron rails enter the sea, Rico?”

“OK boss,” agrees the horse. “Ladies and gentlemen, after his incredible Kansas prowess, landing on a racing iron horse, now Rico ~the equine Pinocchio~ will meet his wooden counterparts on their way down the tracks that take them flying on the mother of all clouds… Please encourage him with a big round of applause!!!” he says imitating a circus Ring Master.

“Your horse cracks me up,” laughs Johnny, who by the way has mysteriously upgraded his vocabulary to our present-time slang.

Rico brilliantly lands a few feet behind the boats, and after hugging him with an ‘oleeee’ and a thank you, I hop off his back and lead us three to a rusty structure I remembered for the strange shapes its torn roof drew.

“There it is!” I exclaim. “The place of the hushing devil…”

I was so impressed by that figure that it’s the only shape I remembered from the torn metallic roof, also knowing it was my particular obstacle to overcome if I wanted to regain total balance, the devil within…

“Do you see the hushing devil in the shapes of this torn roof, guys?”

“Yes, on the right,” says Johnny.

“I also see its mirror in the shape of a hushing horse head, facing it on the left,” says Rico. “And you know we horses are beings of the in-between … How do you call us again? ‘Psychos’ pumps?’ Heehee…”

“Oh Rico, you’re so funny. Your puns always nail it… whatever it is we need to nail,” I smile.

“Aquí para servirle,” he winks.

“I am seeing it too,” says Johnny, “and then the devil and horse’s hands somehow shape Mickey and Minnie’s ears, and between the two hushing characters, below the devil’s mouth, I see a startled face that reminds me a bit of petroglyphs on the boulders surrounding Malpaís.”

“But the stars of the shadow contest should definitely be the cute hearts under the horse’s head!” Rico beams, which triggers in my mind’s eye a cartoon vision of Mickey and Minnie finally reunited on the right side of the screen, kissing the horse who saved their day, as the iris shot surrounds them on screen while the villain crawls away.

“I see them too!” smiles Johnny. “And you, Natalie?”

“I do,” I simply say.

A sea of repressed feelings is willing to come to life again, pulsing to the beat of the hearts carved in the torn, rusty iron. I am so overwhelmed by ancient bubbling tears that I cannot utter a single word for a minute. All I can do is nod, and my throat burns as if I had swallowed flowing lava.

“What’s wrong, then? Hearts are always great promises,” says Johnny, putting his arm around my shoulders.

Finally words are coming. They may not make much sense to those who are listening but I need to get them out of my system no matter what, even after a considerable delay. “There was a time I was so shocked, so sad, that I had gone completely numb. I felt the pain of the one who traveled with me but it was so well wrapped under a thick sheet of ice that it felt unreachable. There was such a huge gap between the two beings we were by then that I just chose to switch on my survival mode for the remaining time of that journey… both symbolic and physical. When I told the ‘ice cube’ what I saw in this rusty figure, the hushing devil shape, I got a dark, silent look that said ‘well maybe that’s your problem: you don’t talk.” How could I have talked? I was holding on, with all my dwindling strength, to the one and only burning nail that still held my emotional sanity, I was trying to wrap my head around the surreal feel of it all. About the only time the ‘ice cube’ opened up to me, with something very personal and traumatizing, was the worst moment for me. I was driving along this coast, lost, with no idea of where I was or where my life was going, having to focus on traffic as all I could do was trying not to collapse behind the wheel. There was nowhere for me to stop the vehicle, so even though that’s what I wanted to do, I could not look into the melting ice cube’s eyes for that conversation, I could not hold him and take time to let the feelings flow. I had lost all capacity to react, and I felt I was going down a never-ending cascade of sorrow. The awkward attempts the two of us made later on to try to come back to the surface of the sea of hurt were drowning again the minute they emerged. The few heart-spoken words that came from me on that trip were met with a frozen ‘is that all?’ Of course it was not ‘all’, but it was huge too, and pushing down a drowning person’s head won’t make them breathe better or come to the surface again…”

After a short pause, I add: “Earlier today when the tornado ‘spat’ Rico and I in the Calahorra castle and I checked on my limbs, my four beauty spots in a square told me I had finally come full circle, around that pain, both mine and that of the melting ice cube, which actually hurt more than my own. I felt that those four spots on my skin were the former ice cube’s imprint. To see this, your own thawing was necessary too, Rico. Now the four realms of my being are aligning to confirm that it is now time for a new cycle. I needed to be here to regain my lost speech, to take it back from the rusty hushing devil, and seeing these hearts in the torn structure confirms what I’ve known since day one but needed to fully understand through unraveling its mechanism: love was always there, all was made for love, in the weirdest but also deepest way… AND I’m thinking, after our little psychodrama back at the lighthouse, Johnny, maybe all, in the end, was one of your literary dad’s curses replaying itself!!! Anyway… Could you take the pinwheel that’s in my bag?”

“Sure,” Johnny says, relieved to be asked to do something concrete to feel he is being helpful.

“Can you stick it in the eye of the scared ‘petroglyph face’ by the hushing devil’s mouth? I’ll do the same in the other eye, with the dried juniper twig I took away from you…”

“Sure,” he says again, not really knowing why we have to do this but still doing it, his hand shaking a bit when he places the rainbow pinwheel in the ‘eye’ of the creature while I ‘plant’ the juniper branch next to the pinwheel.

Then, honoring the name of the place, Cabo de Gata, the She-cat’s Cape, I say: “Gata escaldada del agua fría huye, pero a caballo regalado no se le mira el diente”.

The literal translation of the first proverb would be ‘a scalded she-cat is afraid of cold water’. But the union of the two proverbs through their English equivalent comes to say: “Once bitten twice shy, but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. Rico is neighing his approval, softly nibbling on my hair to illustrate my 2-in-1 proverb, and mostly to show me he cares.

Then I solemnly proclaim: “From rocky headland cape to Cat Woman’s cape, de Cabo a Capa, I am regaining the faith, trust and strength I once lost. Love has found a way…”

“…to erase doubt, numbness and cloudy thoughts.” Johnny completes my sentence.

As I blow one last time on the pinwheel in the devil’s eye to let go off the burden of silence, a spark arises that transforms the pinwheel in a Fiery Eye, a spinning firework that soon engulfs the whole structure in furious flames and sizzling sound.

“Finally!” exclaims my Rico, licking his turquoise chest. “My Thunderbird no longer itches!”

The flaming pinwheel / fiery eye is drawing in my mind’s eye the spark spirals I had painted on a turquoise chest of drawers I once left in this land… An angry and frustrated face that wanted the spirals to tell me their secrets right away has now turned into a relieved, happy, older and wiser face, at last receiving the confirmation that all those years were not in vain. “Love has found a way” I hear anew in the back of my head as the rusty, torn roof collapses on the ground with a screeching CRASH.

From Cabo de Gata’s mainland, there where stone windmills spin their wings to the rhythm of heart and mind, a black silhouette streaks the blue sky.

“Caw, caw, caw” calls the raven that found us back. Hovering over us for a while, the black bird grows and grows to turn into a gigantic ‘cape’, which I may have summoned as I turned Cabo into Capa, the ‘Mirror’ headland into Cat Woman’s cape. Two big black wings embrace Rico, Johnny and I, and lift us to take us away in a black-feather bubble.

Acting as a counterpart, an aging Tonatiuh, the white shiny ball in the sky, painting a river of light on the surface of its favorite mirror, watches us leave the lighthouse realm, confident that soon we will shine our own dazzling light, ready to embrace the rising Sixth Sun.

The black-feather bubble is headed to our destination like a black hole floating in Galaxy. After a while Raven’s voice warns: “Be prepared to break on through to the other side…”

Johnny and I rush to ride Rico again, instinctively knowing the three of us need to be as one for the next scene shift. ‘Sandwiched’ between Rico’s neck and Johnny’s chest, I relax and trust.

¡¡¡¡CLING CLANG CLASH CRASH!!!!

Our riding party has been propelled through the mirror we have just broken.

Rico —thankfully— lands on all four again. Panting but in one piece, Johnny and I hop off his back to assess the damage. Apart from the broken mirror, nothing seems to have suffered from this new rough landing. The only thing that feels off is that everything seems to exist IN MIRROR, since all I see are doubles or twins. The mirror that we broke is next to another one, identical but intact, and my fake Wild West mugshot hangs on the wall by Billy the Kid’s own ‘Se Busca’.

“The biggest Reward is to find back one’s Wanted self…” I whisper.

Through the left side of the window of the empty room where we have landed I see the façade of a saloon across the sand ‘street’, but as I look through the right side of the same window the façade appears in reverse, ‘undulating’ under the sun like a forgotten flag in the warm, breezy, late afternoon.

“Let’s get out,” suggests Johnny, holding Rico by the ‘mane bridle’.

Once passed the batwing doors of this empty ‘House of Wanted Mirrors’ we are greeted by two black and white cats, a male and a female.

“You’re Ace of Spades!” I stop and squat to pet the adorable female with a black spear on her nose. I had baptized her with a playing card name when I first saw her. “I remember you from years ago, maybe the second time I was here, in ‘Western Leone’, or was it ‘Texas Hollywood’, or then ‘Mini Hollywood / Oasys’… Maybe we are in the three Wild West theme parks altogether, since everything seems to merge in this realm of the dream…”

“He’s waiting for you,” simply says the she-cat.

“Yes, like I’ve been waiting to,” I answer.

As I hear horse hooves walking in the middle of the street, I turn to tell Rico and John that I’m coming. To my surprise they are still by my side and the horse I’ve heard is a mare named Torda Chica, ridden by… MYSELF!

The vision makes me stagger and I lean on Rico’s shoulder to regain my balance.

“Now, this is quite the sight,” says Rico. “Cute mare, if I may!”

“I know that mare,” says Johnny. “She’s the one I rode many times in dreams … And here is where we rode, with a shadow rider by our side that always struggled to cross the veil.”

“Things are different now,” I say. “I’m sure the shadow rider has found a way…”

“Are you going to stare at me forever?” the other “me” on Torda Chica asks. “You guys have spent years searching for yourselves. Now that you know what real gold is, go get your gift and then go home! Follow me!”

“Come on, guys, hop on, quick! I sure don’t want to lose track of that mare!” says Rico, impatiently pawing the ground.

We follow “me” in the deserted Wild West village and on a fake hotel porch I get a glimpse of the wooden horse that had come to mind when I left Rudy’s home in the dream.

“Fake and real, real and fake, house of mirrors and its teachings,” I think to myself.

We are about to cross under the last “croquet wickets” in this dream. The place announces the way to Wisdom School and is decorated with giant screenshots of a children’s show I loved.

I sing the title song… “Aaah, aaaah, aaah, aaah, aaah, Esteban et Zia, Tao, les Cités d’Or…” while Johnny listens carefully, trying to grasp a few words here and there.

Who would have told me back in the day that those innocent lyrics would have so much resonance in my life search, years after the show… I am convinced that all creation stems from a togetherness we feel without being conscious of it, all tapping into the same ‘inspiration mine’ when immersed in creative endeavors, the only ‘dig’ that does not hurt the Earth and is sure to bring the biggest riches of all if we take time to track and then pop open some veins… Yes, life is beautiful, always. Even when we feel we are stuck and lost, there is a purpose to all…

On our way to wherever my double wants to take us, I spot a sepia photography that announces the photographer’s shop under the slogan “Get Immortalized in a Wild Wester’s Skin!” I remember the shop is replete with ‘costumes’ for visitors to take a picture of themselves as they are portrayed in the guise of Wild Westers’ ghosts. On the publicity I’ve spotted, someone has added a comic ‘speech bubble’ over the mouth of one of the two women posing for posterity. The cowgirl tells the other one in buckskin, with long boots on, about to shoot an arrow: “Wearing my boots won’t let you know how it feels to walk in my shoes… Don’t lecture me on how to ‘act’.

“That’s a good punchline,” I think. “I should remember it…” My double has led us around a fountain by ominous gallows. Both Johnny and I feel a shiver as we see the hanging rope, so we hold hands to erase the bad vibe and feel stronger together, thinking of more pleasant uses of cords… Knowing the setting of this place and remembering where the school is, I wonder why “she/me” takes us away from Main Street, but I understand when she tells us to turn around after passing through a tall ‘coyote fence’ opening.

Just as by the arches stood a welcoming committee decorated with images close to my heart, and reminders of my long-term interests, here is a special decoration aimed at properly greeting Johnny before going home to the place Aldous chose for him, mixing some of the settings, just as this dream stage has mixed many others. A cut-out figure of a black and white Huxley faces us in front of the main entrance gate of the Wild West theme park, although the cut-out figure’s shadow strangely faces the opposite direction. Behind him two huge posters hint at Huxley’s connection to the real Alice and the creator of her novel persona, Lewis Carroll.

“Aldous too is waiting for you, over there back home,” the other me tells Johnny. “He has so much to share with you, things he wants to fix, because he did not think his writings would create those ripples for you. Then there are things he just wants to elaborate on, like the wonderful person his mother was and how he feels now about getting his inner child’s “revenge” in his writings, turning his mother’s death into Linda’s SOMA stupor. Today he is convinced his mother was the true Alice who went through Carroll’s Looking Glass, and he wanted to say that he is proud of you both for holding on as you went down the dream’s funnel hole others call Limbo… It’s not an ‘R’ as in Rabbit that you followed though, but an ‘R’ as in Raven, who has been waiting for you, forever. Go, go to school one last time in this dream!” ‘she’ urges us before vanishing in a stardust cloud.

“My mare!!!!” screams a frustrated, enamored Rico.

“Day Mare, Night Mare, Dream Mares will always be there for you as you walk in the clouds, at the tip of your mighty hooves!” we hear from the sky.

“Oh I’m so sorry, mi querido Rico…” I say. “But trust her, I mean me, I mean trust the mare, she will find her way back to you… Just like mares always do, like I have found my way back to… the other me,” I smile at Johnny, who smiles back at me as we are headed to the ‘Primary School’ on Main Street.

Rico stops at the hitching post in front of the old school and John and I get off the horse, ready to enter the old-looking building.

“Don’t step into the water trench that surrounds the building” Johnny warns me as I am about to straddle the porch step to go knock the door.

“It’s like a small castle’s moat,” I observe, “but nothing we can’t ford…”

“My Ford!” winks Johnny, reminiscing expressions from the World State.

“MY FORD indeed!” I exclaim. “Fording the T, initial of T-A-O-…M, ‘moat’ in reverse… We’ve just found the mirror meaning of what that strange universe of the Brave New World worshipped!”

“But what would ‘Taom’ mean?” asks Johnny, still a bit perplexed.

“Tao (name of the second boy character of that children’s show, a young man from Lemuria), is first and foremost the oriental principle underlying the universe, ruling over yin and yang and meaning ‘the way’, in harmony with the natural order…”

“but there’s still an M you haven’t deciphered,” argues Johnny.

“The M is… Me! Actually all the ‘ME’s of those willing to face their Shadows!!!!!! Oh thank you, Johnny, I am remembering a dream I jotted down, whose new layer of profound meaning has just been revealed…”

After a pause I ask: “Tell me, Johnny, how did people in the World State make the ‘sign of the T’ again?”

“When I saw my fath… the ‘Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning’ make the sign of the T, he crossed his navel, if I remember correctly,” Johnny says, sighing.

“That is what I thought I remembered but I was not sure. Did you know that in the ancient Toltec tradition, the navel is considered the part of your body where the dream comes from? The energetic body that surrounds our navel while awake is our nahual, our shadow self, ruled by the moon, whereas our tonal, ruled by the sun, surrounds our head. When we fall asleep, they usually switch positions… BUT, if we manage to embrace the shadow, and to master both nahual and tonal at the same time, we walk in-between worlds in a perfect balance, both in the waking and sleeping dreams. Ancient knowledge was transmitted in that way among Toltec people. They trained you to force your tonal to see the dream, starting with facing a mirror with a mask on, called xayakatl.If we can see ourselves in those different forms while awake, it not only reconciles us with what we perceive as opposites or opponents, but it also makes it easier to enter the dream realm at will. We shape our reality, we are masters of the dream! The Day-Mare, D-Mare is not afraid of the Night-Mare, they work together, assessing their light and shadow, dreaming into being the best possible outcome!!!!”

“Did Aldous know all that????” Johnny wonders.

“Aldous knew a great deal of things, and he learned to walk through veils too when he ingested psychoactive drugs, so who knows what he saw… Plus, as a writer, I think it does not really matter if he conciously ‘knew’ all this or not, since writing makes you tap into the other world… It’s obvious that Aldous WARNED us against the World State, so he disagreed with those ‘values’, and yet the way he creates that world turns it into ‘the norm’, what is expected by society. This in and of itself is what I would call a heyoka literary ceremony… A brilliant exercise of reverse or contrary writing…

“I can’t wait to be home to see him…” says Johnny in an admiring tone.

“Same here,” I smile. And after a pause… “Oh but we are here because I am supposed to go through this door,” I laugh. “I can easily get carried away… KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK”

“Come on in,” a voice is heard inside.

My heart is racing, I’ve been waiting so long for this moment to happen, then I got lost, then I got locked out, then I got sad, then I got mad, then I went nuts, then I went numb, then I grew up, then I made up, and now I am back…

The door, of course, is double, and as I open the first one I find a second door with a poster in mirror. The very first time this poster that honors Chicano detective stories started to come to life in a different light was on a Halloween night, when all of a sudden that image on my Spanish wall spoke to me about past, present and future, in no particular order. It has been guiding me ever since, gradually telling me bits and parts of my journey in the mirror.

So I tell Johnny: “You know, it’s funny, the first time this image started speaking to me the car was ‘blinking’ white and blue.”

“I blink and blink and all I see is pomegranate red,” Johnny says, standing in between the two doors revealing another poster of the movie Blueberry that was shot in this theme park in Almería, ‘the mirror’.

“True,” I say in awe after checking the ‘Chicano detective’ poster again. “After all everything is possible in Hollywood, I guess even more so if we are in a fake Hollywood, haha… So you see this color as pomegranate? I would have said cherry, but I like pomegranate too.  There is such a tree that would conceal my door, like the thick bush prevented Princess Ozma from escaping the curse that kept her locked in a young boy’s body… they shot that Emerald City scene near here too, in Guadix.

“I like Guadix… When I landed here I treaded that moon-like world. It reminded me a bit of Malpaís,” Johnny says.

“You know,” I add, “the pomegranate tree reminds me the return from a trip. There was a nice ‘bed’ prepared for me on the back seat of a car parked by that tree. I was exhausted but I did not want to sleep. My heart was in pain, and my mouth shut by it, so I wanted to at least be a shotgun rider to try to feel back ‘something’. Then I understood the ‘bed’ was the driver’s way to compensate for the pain, to take care of me, to let me know that if I would only let time, dreams, poetry and magic be in charge, eventually I would see the importance of the journey back to self. So maybe cherries, for their earring shapes, better define the color of this new car, because they speak of togetherness.”

“When you’re done revisiting your fruit list, maybe you can finally greet me…”

Raven is the one talking and pouting a little, but mostly to conceal he’s as happy as I am that I’ve finally made it. He is sitting at the end of the classroom, by a movie screen instead of a blackboard, and he talks to us from behind the schoolmaster’s desk, which looks more like a Day of the Dead altar. I would call it a lacy shrine because of the Spanish mantón de manila used as a table cloth and the ribbons that ornate the sides of the table… Together with those items the table is decorated with flowers and pictures, and it has several food offerings.

“Oh a Raven at a Writing Desk is a thing!” I tease…

“Oh and since when do fingers replace vocal cords?” he teases back. “Because you and I know I am talking to your nahual, while your tonal is silently writing this story.”

“About that,” I say. “Writing is my way to better find the words that I need to convey. It does not mean I am mute when in a familiar environment. I would appreciate it if you respected my way of expression in the waking dream, because it is an intrinsic part of me. I will not be bullied into feeling that this is ‘not enough’ or a ‘wrong’ way to express myself. I speak when words do come easily, and I write when I need to say certain things differently. After all I did learn your particular language too, through silent signs and symbols, and it’s all good. If you were to ask me what was the most difficult part of your teachings, by the way, I would pick ‘unwillingly mimicking your excruciating silence’, which almost became a ‘forever acquired’ mechanism. ¿De acuerdo?”

“De acuerdo,” simply says Raven.

“Oh wow,” I say, looking at Johnny, “just like earlier between you and ‘Lenina’, I did not think it would be that easy!”

Raven giggles and asks us to come closer. “Look,” he says. “I was just getting impatient to finally be able to hand you your gift. You did make it, I heard your latest a-ha moment regarding fording the ‘T’, and me and my helpers are proud of you. You navigated through the Ferris Wheel of your own life’s aliases, and you learned to embrace your shadow. This is what we all need to do. This is why I took you on that long journey. You inspired me too, while awakening your artistic side (you will admit I was a big part in that awakening too), so I have adopted your doll-making habit. What do you think of them?”

He shows us dolls similar to the ones I like to make out of bottles, only that his doll style has jumped from human representations to animals, quite logically for a Raven…

“They are really beautiful,” I say. “I particularly appreciate how expressive they are!”

“Me too! Which is your favorite?” Johnny asks.

“I could never choose, I have no preference, they all have a different look, and I’m sure a different personality too, and it’s what makes them beautiful!”

“I must admit I’m quite proud of them,” says Raven.

One of the dolls is a beautiful beaver holding a corn cob in a wicker basket with an inscription made of yellow leaves that says ‘let’s build a better world for the children to come’. Another one is a momma bear whose human-like hair is decorated with a crown of yellow flowers, holding a jar of rosemary honey in one paw and a spoon in the other to have its guests taste from that powerful medicine. The third one is a beautiful rattler with big eyes and even bigger earrings made of birch bark; it holds (yes, in its snake doll’s hands) a baby rattler clad in earth-tone clothes that smiles a precious baby smile.

“May I have a closer look at them?” I ask.

Raven plays with the bottles leaning each one of them forward, mimicking a ‘yes’.

I smile, make a little curtsey and admire the delicacy of the work, noticing something Raven did differently.

“Oh you took the bottom out!” I say. “I would not know how to do that without breaking the glass- I guess you need special tools.”

“True, and no fear during the opening process,” Raven adds.

“Maybe you can teach me one day…” I suggest.

“I’d like to try too!” Johnny adds.

“It sounds that we will be having a workshop soon, then!” says Raven. “In fact, this was also thought as a playing device, so that we could use the dolls instead of playing cards to have a session of Three-Card Monte, or Find-the-Lady. You know, we move them back and forth and you have to find the ‘treasure’ bottle,” explains Raven. “I have hidden the gift waiting for you under one of the bottles…”

“Oh, I know what you mean! Yes, I’d love to play,” I smile.

“OK, and to show you how magnanimous we are, Johnny will play too so that you, my guests, have two chances instead of one, and I myself will point at the third doll.”

“Sounds fair enough, I say!”

Raven starts moving the bottles around, and after a few changes from their initial position, he shouts ‘TIME’! and the three of us each point at a doll.

I am pointing at the Beaver, Johnny at the Rattler and Raven at the Bear. I find this game exciting, and can’t wait to discover if there is something underneath my bottle…

“OK, at the count of three, we will all lift our bottle to see who’s the lucky one!” says Raven. “So, ready, 1, 2, 3!”

The light goes out in the room, and the movie screen is lit up with credits that say “CONGRATULATIONS FOR FINDING YOURSELF!” The light comes back and we can see if there is something beneath the respective bottles that we have lifted. The three of them hid a prize!!!!

I have a hard time holding my tears when I see what the prizes are. Raven took advantage of our tours and detours on the Wild West set to make mosaic hearts out of the sherds of the mirror that we broke when we landed here.

“Oh and there’s something written on the hearts’ bottoms too,” says Raven. He turns his first, which reads ‘we’, Johnny does the same with his, which reads ‘love’, and I finally turn mine, which reads ‘you’.

WE LOVE YOU,” Raven repeats. “Never ever doubt it again, just remember that first you needed to know and love yourself unconditionally to freely receive our love… And now let’s all go home, there is so much I want to share with you…”

“I have missed you more than words could ever say, and I love you to the moon and beyond,” I say in a downpour of tears.

“AND CUT! THAT’S A WRAP!” we hear outside the schoolhouse, where a movie crew was gathered, filming us through the window. A man with a megaphone adds in a loud tone: “THAT’S ALL, FOLKS! TIME TO WRITE YOUR OWN DREAMS, AND ALWAYS LOVE ONE ANOTHER!!!”

How Johnny, Rico, myself, Raven and the bottle dolls left ‘the mirror of the sea’ and made it home to Malpaís is left to your imagination, the mother of all magic, but if you want a hint, I’d say it implied taking the ultimate leap of faith in the endless love pool of my Raven’s Mirror.

~THE END, AND A NEW BEGINNING~

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