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Ghost River

At the time I would wander the throughways, walk beneath the domes
and over the passes. I would look into faces and see blankness. All I
understood was a sea of bodies. These bodies hurried to some place I did
not understand: some world invisible to me. What was once a pleasure, a
self-confirmation had become empty. I was a shadow among dense trees.
Brittle, I felt I could be broken on buildings, on pavements, on the glance
of a stranger. And I was that too: a stranger where once I was known.

Often I left the city. I put Eratruën behind me. I felt like a refugee
fleeing his refuge. I would purchase a cheap pass on the railroad and
travel along the western shore. I would watch the domes and towers, the
harbours slip away through a window. Sighing with relief that I was
temporarily unburdened of my vulnerability. Moving my eyes to the
lakeside, now rough and steep, banks of pine and juniper clinging to
hillsides, I would look on the rail line. It ran a dark thread in and
through my heart.

There are many small towns along the coast. They are within distance
of Eratreün yet sufficiently removed. There I could be unknown. I could
be as I felt: a stranger looking in on the world. I was someone who has
lost bearing; is adrift and unsure. Someone who though they have an
outer body, their inner body has gone. They have stumbled upon an
absence at their core.

Then I would walk through the streets of a strange town. Unbothered

by the need to be. Searching for myself in the waters of the Lake:
searching for myself on a rocky shoreline, in wind torn trees and sun
bleached pathways. In closed faces, inward driven lives. In an
indifference that gave me the freedom to disappear: dissolve. I could
question my very being and contemplate my position.

On one such occasion after being many mooncycles away I returned

to Eratreün. For the city never left me. It was a shadow friend. It was a
fire momentarily dimmed.
I went, as was my habit, to a Hall of Learning. I loved to sit among the
manuscripts, the calligraphy and soft-screens with their glowing colours.
There I felt my darkness was not a burden but a means. I was
surrounded by the work of those who searched and I supposed at least
in struggle there was purpose.

This time I stood beneath the great dome gazing onto a mezzanine.
Bodies moved, those who went about their life without knowing. They
were to the city the tributaries that strengthened the river. I stood and
though the sun fell between clouds it appeared to me the light was
ashen. The day held pain; on the air there was bitterness. It was a star
fallen to sea.

I stood and looked and saw him coming to me. His familiar robe and
manner appeared and then he was next to me: Sanya the wise-one.
“It has been long friend,” he said, “many mooncycles.”
“Indeed,” I answered. “I have been west and on the shore.”
“No. You have been in the river of ghosts,” he declared. “Let us walk.”

We walked and found a fountain beneath great cedar trees. Their

leaves splayed above our heads and gave us shelter. Cloud broke and the
sun was warm. The sky deepened: water from the fountain fell and
splashed. I heard children’s voices as they played.

“The river of ghosts?” I asked.

“Yes. The river of ghosts.”
I was silent.
“It is where we meet our pain,” added Sanya. “It is where the world
“Where the world begins?”
“It is where we drown.”
“To walk in the field of truth first we must cross the river of ghosts.
And we must drown there too and be carried to the world of the dead: the
dead who are not yet dead. Whose feelings live on in us. Their pain is our
pain. Ours is theirs.”
“I do not understand this,” I protested. “I am not dead.”
“Are we ever dead? Or alive? What you consider death may be a life.
This only you can tell.”
“Why can I only tell?”
“Until you have drowned in the river of ghosts you will never truly
know what you are. You cannot truly find yourself until you have found
death in life. It is dying in life that renews. Dying in life brings you to the
continuance of life. The secret is not in avoidance of death but in
learning of re-birth. Rising from the ashes of past selves.”
“You can tell no more?” I enquired.
“I can only speak of the experience of the ghost river. And then, but
with words.”
I felt a weight press on me. My pain was not to be alleviated. Even the
wise-one could not lift my heaviness.
“What am I to do?” I demanded.
“Ask and I will speak of what I know,” he answered. “I will say you
must show courage.”
“Speak then,” I said.
“The ghost-river is the place of beginnings. It is the dark centre. The
ghost river is the core of earth. It is the forgotten land. In the ghost river
we meet all we do not want to be. The ghost river is what we have ceased
to remember.
“When you come to the ghost-river first you sit at its bank. The
ground is sticky. The air is full of melancholy. You look and see. There is
a tree whose flowers are new moons and a tree shedding leaves that are
fiery suns. You watch and each sun falls into the river’s black flow. They
disappear. Then the moonflowers bloom. Their light spreads. A figure
comes to you. I am the guardian of unknown things, it says. You must
ask what you are doing there. It will answer you have come to find that
which is indestructible. And the trees? you wish to know. The
disappearing suns, the flourishing moons? The figure points. Take a
moonflower, it says. Its light will be with you. And the suns? Each sun is
a sun you will become, answers the guardian. Yet they have disappeared,
they have been swallowed by the torrent of black water, you protest. As
you will be, says the guardian. Each sun drowns in the river of ghosts.
They are carried far and washed up on the shores of strange and distant
lands. Then re-born: new suns for new worlds.
“The air keens now. You hear the wailing of the dead. They are not the
dead as normally understood but the dead in life. Pick your moonflower,
the figure persuades. Drown in the ghost-river and be washed up a new
sun in a new world. Then bury your moonflower so a new moon tree can
grow. One day another will need its light.”

I was silent. His words I could not define yet I understood. The
fountain splashed its water and the sound carried to my ears. The
children continued playing. I looked up. Sanya was gone. Walking in the
distance and into the crowd.

Copyright © Peter Minngton 2007

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